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Old 11-30-2007, 11:35 PM
"Aaron Whitehouse"
 
Default Patent issues with automatic codec installation (was: Automatic installation of DVD CSS support)

> > I would like to draw attention to a proposal that I think is very
> > important for Ubuntu as a desktop deistribution: the possibility of
> > automatically enabling CSS decryption support for DVDs, like it is already
> > possible to retrieve support for certain audio/video endcodings automatically.

> Please read the comments in the bug you linked to for explanation as
> to why this will not happen.

As the comments in the bug state, the reason DeCSS is not included is
(I imagine) to avoid violating the DMCA.

The more that I think about the automatic codec installation of
Ubuntu, the more that I am concerned that the current approach places
the distribution in murky legal territory. Allowing (encouraging?) a
user to install patent-violating codecs may not infringe the DMCA or
copyright, but it still may not be the best idea. Think of Napster
being sued for allowing others to infringe copyright.

A large number of people respond to this by saying that they live in
Europe and that their country does not enforce software-only patents.
That doesn't matter much, considering that a patent-holder would bring
any proceedings in countries that did enforce their patents.

Fedora handles the situation with
http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Releases/FeatureCodecBuddy - which
allows users to purchase non-infringing codecs from Fluendo.
http://www.fluendo.com/press/releases/PR-2007-01.html

Perhaps a good compromise would be to default to Codec Buddy and have
a button for "Multiverse Codecs". When the user clicks the button,
they could be presented with a message *actively discouraging* them
from using the multiverse versions and highlighting that they are
likely to break the law if they do so.

In an attempt to disarm critics, I ask you to read:
http://www.linux.com/articles/59830
"On the patent question, Fluendo's official stance is that it opposes
software patents, but that in areas where they are the law, it has no
choice but to obey the statutes. Perhaps more importantly, customers
have no choice either. Some critics of Fluendo's plugin products are
quick to point out that there are freely available, often GPLed
libraries that decode the same formats. That is, however, irrelevant:
the non-free formats are non-free not because of the license on the
source code, but because of the patents on the format.

Wherever possible, Fluendo encourages its customers to use patent-free
formats. "In GStreamer we try to make sure Ogg and Dirac support
everything that is possible to do with the non-free formats. So at the
end of the day we feel that by moving people toward Linux and now
Solaris, and to using an open source framework like GStreamer which
has top-notch support for free codecs, we do more good than evil for
the goal of removing the plight of patented codecs, even if our way of
achieving that is by offering those non-free codecs for sale."
[...]
Non-free media formats are fundamentally at odds with free software,
not because of source code licensing but because of patents. Ignoring
that fact can mean taking a serious legal risk. As Dave Neary of Wengo
so concisely expressed it on his personal blog: "People should realise
that proprietary codecs are just that -- proprietary. And if they cost
money, that's a great way to realise.""

I am in no way associated with Fluendo (except for being a participant
in the codecs beta testing). I am simply concerned that Ubuntu makes
it too easy to infringe patents.

As I raised on the mailing list and in a bug report:
https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+bug/173161
users often end up infringing patents that they never even use because
the codecs are distributed in composite packages.

Regards,

Aaron

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Old 12-01-2007, 07:45 PM
"Fergal Daly"
 
Default Patent issues with automatic codec installation (was: Automatic installation of DVD CSS support)

On 01/12/2007, Greg K Nicholson <greg@gkn.me.uk> wrote:
>
> > Perhaps a good compromise would be to default to Codec Buddy and have
> > a button for "Multiverse Codecs". When the user clicks the button,
> > they could be presented with a message *actively discouraging* them
> > from using the multiverse versions and highlighting that they are
> > likely to break the law if they do so.
> They aren't *likely* to break the law; lots of people live in countries
> without software patent legislation.

I almost replied to Aaron earlier on but I decided to wait to see if
anyone else did. I think there are several things in the original mail
that are not correct or are true, false or undecided depending on the
location of the user and maybe other factors.

Basically I think a discussion by software people on what is and isn't
legal in various jurisdictions is a lot of fun if you like that sort
of thing but ultimately unproductive. If there's any debate over
whether a particular practice is legal (in which jurisdiction?) then
you should ask a lawyer. If the debate absolutely must take place then
every point should be backed up with references to written laws or
court decisions, so that people can see that something isn't merely
your idea of how a legal system would work if it made sense (they
frequently don't).

Otherwise you're doing the modern day equivalent of debating how
angels can dance on the head of a pin,

F

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Old 12-02-2007, 12:46 AM
"Aaron Whitehouse"
 
Default Patent issues with automatic codec installation (was: Automatic installation of DVD CSS support)

> If the debate absolutely must take place then

I originally drafted a reply addressing each of the points people have
raised. I don't agree with a lot of what has been said, but I think I
can state my ultimate point a lot more succinctly.

The implicit suggestion in the above comments is that we shouldn't
have this discussion. If we naively continue distributing software
that we know is unlikely to be legal for some users, Ubuntu may be
exposed to legal threats. If Ubuntu doesn't have a reliable risk
assessment from lawyers in each country, perhaps the default position
should be one that we know is legal.

Presumably there is a reason that Fedora encourages people to pay
money and use Codec Buddy. Unless all of the Ubuntu team is confident
that their current stance is legal, perhaps they should take a safer
one until they have that level of comfort.

Aaron

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