[clug] What can't be distributed with Linux?

Chris Smart chris at kororaa.org
Wed Mar 21 22:45:39 GMT 2007

Thanks Doc,
It seems to get harder every day.


On Tue, 2007-03-20 at 00:05 +1100, James "Doc" Livingston wrote:
> On Mon, 2007-03-19 at 09:56 +1100, Sam Couter wrote:
> > > What about things like win32codecs? I know most distros don't include
> > > them by default, but I'm not sure whether they are distributable. If
> > > they aren't, then how can they be downloaded from mplayer off the net?
> > 
> > They're widely available all over the net. I don't know whether that's
> > strictly legal or not, or whether it's legal to put them on a CD. Either
> > way, Linux isn't a factor.
> In the case of w32codecs, they are dlls copied from a Windows
> installation. You *might* be allowed to copy them from your own Windows
> installation, you'd have to read the Windows EULA carefully to find out,
> but distributing them is certainly a copyright violation.
> As mentioned libdvdcss has problems in countries which have laws
> restricting the circumvention of copyright controls.
> As well as those, plenty of codecs have patent issues if you live in a
> country that has software patents (e.g. Australia). If you distribute
> the codecs without getting a patent licence, you could be sued by
> whoever holds the patent.
> If you do get a patent licence, they fun doesn't stop there - the
> licence of a reasonable amount of open-source software (notably anything
> GPL'd) is possibly incompatible with the terms of the patent licence. 
> For example Fluendo have a MP3 decoder plugin for GStreamer, whose
> binary version has a proper patent licence. The source of the plugins is
> MIT licenced, but that doesn't get you the patent licence, and the terms
> of distribution on the binary version (as required by the patent holder)
> and incompatible with the GPL. I've been told that several groups
> (including Fluendo and Red Hat) have received legal advice that shipping
> both the Fleundo MP3 plugin and any GPL'd software that uses it would be
> a violation of the GPL, and as such you could be sued by the copyright
> holders of the GPL'd software.
> Multimedia things tend to have the biggest mess of patents and
> licencing, but other things do too. 
> Cheers,
> James "Doc" Livingston
> -- 
> If at first you don't succeed, sky diving is not for you.

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