[linux-elitists] MP3 patents

Jack Moffitt jack@xiph.org
Sun Sep 2 12:25:32 PDT 2001

> Under patent law, a company is _not_ required to show a pattern of 
> enforcement to make the patent enforceable. They can just decide one day
> to enforce the patent, and can even sue for back damages. There is 
> some consideration for 'willful' or 'non-willful' infringement, but
> this doesn't remove liability.

Yes, I'm aware of this.  I never said that 'this pattern of not charging
is why you should feel free to ignore it'.  I said that the site used to
grant a non-commercial decoder license for $0.00 USD with no yearly
minimum. The site no longer says this.

> I know that this may be some comfort, but doesn't stop FH from one
> day demanding large sums of money from people, including back-damages.
> Assuming that the patent is enforceable (and at this time there is no
> real reason to believe that it isn't), they would have a good case
> to collect back-damages, and shut down future releases of the software.

Sigh.  I know this.  That's why I've dedicated the last years of my life
to Vorbis and such.  These are exactly the arguments I usually use.

> I'm not making the case that free software _will_ be held liable
> in the future, but rather saying that it is entirely possible, and
> the worst case scenario (which is triggered at the whim of the patent
> holder) is pretty damn bad.

It is entirely possible, but I think the non-commercial decoder license
still exists, but is not listed.  I think they just neglected to put it
there.  There certain is one listed under Broadcasting & Streaming for
non-commercial uses.

Of course, they are free to change these rules, and they've done so
several times.

That's been the hardest point to drive home to people considering
Vorbis.  These rules not only _might_ change, but they _do_ and _have_
changed, especially for broadcasters.  Since when is my _data_ subject
to your stinkin' royalties.

> Long live ogg and vorbis, and best of luck to the Xiph teams for
> any lawsuits brought there....

Their patents are luckily quite specific about filterbanks, which we
don't use.  We are fairly sure (because our lawyers are fairly sure)
we're not at great risk from Thompson.  


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