MPEG-4 support? (licensing dragons).

Brad Fuller brad at
Tue Oct 31 16:10:34 UTC 2006

Jim Gettys wrote:
> Here be licensing dragons, folks, at a minimum when you go from one
> codec to N codecs.
> Be very careful on the selection of multimedia codec frameworks, as
> they get you into licensing hades more often than not, and many people
> don't see it coming.
> Here's the problem:
> You want to plug in a commercial licensed codec into a codec framework,
> to get at a patented algorithm (of which there are many in the media
> area, and software patents cannot, unfortunately, just be ignored,
> despite most of our beliefs the current system is badly broken)  
> But the license of the framework's codec interface has terms that
> conflict with the commercial codec's license terms (typically around
> patent issues).
> Net result: no legal combination.
> This may be ok from an end user's point of view when they put their
> system together out of pieces, as they usually ignore the legal
> problems, but it is a showstopper for re-distributors (e.g. Linux
> distributions, OLPC downstream consumers), who might like/need things to
> work "out of the box" for the end user.
> As an example of lack of care about this is the Xine player libraries,
> which would have been perfectly adequate several years before the
> gstreamer library was built.  Gstreamer was explicitly written and care
> taken in its licensing to allow for such combinations to be possible,
> and arguably would not have been necessary had the licensing issue been
> thought through in advance (it was infeasible to get Xine's libraries
> re-licensed, due to the number of contributors).
> I have no information about mplayer's licensing situation.
> Once burned (actually, free software has been burned multiple times on
> this topic), twice shy.  Please be *very* careful in this area so you
> (and we) don't get burned too.
>                                     Best regards,
>                                        - Jim
Thanks Jim. Do you have recommendations on what to do?


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