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Do "Illegal" Codecs Actually Scare Linux Users?

kdawson posted about 7 years ago | from the hardened-criminals-listening-to-music dept.

Software 510

jammag writes "In this article, Adrian Kingsley-Hughes points out why he keeps giving money to Microsoft and Apple despite the clear advantages of Linux: the scary legalese dialogs you have to click through to install codecs for common multimedia formats. Quoting: 'Despite strong points that go far beyond price, Linux falls short when it comes to legally supporting file formats such as MP3, WMA/WMV and DVDs.' He talks about using Ubuntu and booting up Totem Movie Player, only to be confronted with a burst of legalese about what a hardened criminal he'll be if he uses Totem without a license. This problem is 'a deal breaker' for him."

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Not just linux (4, Insightful)

Pyrrus (97830) | about 7 years ago | (#19915443)

Almost all software (especially proprietary) requires you to click through a EULA that threatens to assult you with lawyers if you don't play nice.

Re:Not just linux (5, Informative)

plague3106 (71849) | about 7 years ago | (#19915563)

This isn't the same; this is "by using this software you MAY in fact be breaking the law, and assume all responsibility." Not quite "copying this software is illegal."

Re:Not just linux (0, Flamebait)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 7 years ago | (#19915879)

This isn't the same; this is "by using this software you MAY in fact be breaking the law, and assume all responsibility." Not quite "copying this software is illegal."

Plain and simple, the author of this article is a pussy.

No one 'normal' takes that stuff with more than a grain of salt if they even consider it at all.

Re:Not just linux (1, Flamebait)

hal9000(jr) (316943) | about 7 years ago | (#19916109)

Since when are ad hominem [] arguments "Insightful"?

Inviduals may or may not be concerned with possible legalities, but companies are and the potential for a lawsuit is enough to be a deal killer. That is what drives the BSA tactics, no?

Re:Not just linux (4, Insightful)

Znork (31774) | about 7 years ago | (#19915993)

Of course, the proprietary software may very well be violating various patents as well, so technically they should pop up the same disclaimers. FLOSS just tends to be slightly more nitpicky about being excessively verbose and honest with these issues (not to mention that part of the intent is quite likely to make end users aware of the actual damage the patent system causes).

That said, I dont think I've even heard of any end-user of a product, ever, being successfully sued for any kind of patent infringement. With common licensing deals in the range of a few cents to a few percent per copy, lawsuits against end-users would be a massively unprofitable prospect.

Not just software (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19915575)

What about the little movie about how it's illegal to copy movies? Even where it may not be?

What about the FACT warning saying "you could be in lots of trouble"?

What about Ts&Cs saying "and you agree not to do anything illegal or you're breaking the agreement"?

Shit, this bloke just wants to piss on Linux.

In the US, there are patents on some codecs. In some countries there's none. In some countries decsss is illegal and in some it isn't. The only one who knows where you are and what law applies is the installer of the software. The program doesn't know if you're coming through a relay or anonymising proxy or really from the IP address stated.

So the user has to agree (as they do with the Ts&Cs) that they aren't going to use it if it is illegal.

And the shithead doesn't really want to stop paying Microsoft.

Maybe that is the answer (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 7 years ago | (#19915905)

ppl are used to EULA's everywhere. Almost all of them are long and tedious. How many ppl read them? Few if any. Why? because they are long and tedious. All of Linux's stuff is short and too the point. MANY ppl will read these. They do sound scary. Perhaps, what is needed is to make long convoluted EULA, or a very short one that says, we are not responsible.

Who to blame. (0)

jellomizer (103300) | about 7 years ago | (#19915923)

The difference is that Apple and Microsoft both registered C-Corps. So if they did something illegal and they get sued the company is getting sued. The problem with Open Source software is that is something illegal acedently happened then who is it to sue either the Programmer or the End User. So the programmer not wanting to be sued for more money then he will ever make in his life would rather push the blaim to the end users who will probably get a smaller portion of the suit spread out over all the users. So inconvience many to save the life of one. Or Sacrifice one to spare inconvienceing many. That is the problem with the legal systes with copywrites and pattents is that it is designed to protect the individual from the corporations (having the corporation pay a lot of money to the invidual when the corp wrongs the indidual) , but it more disasterious when the indivual wrongs the corporation, the indivual get perentage wise much more harsher punishment for the crime.

Microsoft Wrongs me I win the legal battle I get 3 million from it, Microsoft goes on as it did before (without wronging me) and I get a lot of money. But if I wronged microsoft and lost the Battle and I have to Pay them $500,000 I will be in Dept for a long time my quality of life will go way down. And Microsoft will get a small chunk of pocket change will not effect them in the least.

The legal system (with copywrites) assume that Corperations will normally be the wrong doers thus adjust the pnishment so. With Open Source tools made my individual used by many these laws now have the problem of being proportionally unfair to the indivual.

Re:Who to blame. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19916011)

AAC and MP4 (4, Interesting)

goombah99 (560566) | about 7 years ago | (#19915933)

So why do people think that Linux players and community shun AAC or H264? here on slashdot posters tend to tout MP3. I think it's the conflation of AAC and fairplay DRM. Or simply that AAC permits DRM at all. But shouldn't people really embrace AAC precisely because it lacks MP3's player royalties?

Yes (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19915483)

See My Name. Yes I'm scared of the Illegal Codecs (and the Bogey Man).

Can You Blame Him (4, Interesting)

Luscious868 (679143) | about 7 years ago | (#19915491)

With all the noise the RIAA and MPAA are making about copyright violations (and the subsequent lawsuits) can you blame him? If Linux ever starts making serious dents into Microsoft's market share, how long until they begin employing similar tactics?

Re:Can You Blame Him (2, Interesting)

sqldr (838964) | about 7 years ago | (#19915965)

Perhaps, but exactly how much by way of "damages" can they expect to get from you? If you download a file with bittorrent, you're enabling potentially hundreds of other people to pirate the same file while you download it. You could argue in court that that equates to lost revenue. Having a wmv codec though..?

Re:Can You Blame Him (1)

erroneus (253617) | about 7 years ago | (#19916017)

Some enterprising fellow really should capitalize on the opportunity really.

What I'm talking about is creating a package for more Linux distros to work with several apps, installing all the Codecs they can get resale licenses for and selling them to people who wish to "remain legal."

A slight profit might come of it and satisfy all the worried people out there. Additionally, these packages could be included with "commercial" (bought off the shelf) Linux distros and managed in the same way.

The point is, why not go ahead and find a way to sell the license? I'm pretty sure I wouldn't buy one myself, but as long as the opportunity to do it legally could be presented, it could open the door for a lot of potential "ease of use and installation." This could go a long way to creating an even more viable Linux desktop for end users to enjoy since finding a means to license the things that aren't usually installed (MP3 and other support) would solve all the annoying riddles that new users would ordinarily get faced with.

Re:Can You Blame Him (2, Insightful)

Etrias (1121031) | about 7 years ago | (#19916053)

Yeah I can blame him. This is a ludicrous argument.
Is it the fault of Linux that they have to click through a simple warning written in plain English to take care of their legally mandated duty because of the way that certain laws are written, particularly in America?
Have you seen a EULA? Most people don't read it but scroll to the bottom, click accept and then they're done, but they're signing away much more than what you agree to when you click on that codec acceptance. We don't notice a EULA because it's so filled with legalese, no one takes the time to read what you, as a consumer, are giving up.
But this guy is complaining that he has to make an agreement about not using the codec illegally? THAT scares him off from making the switch?
I am simply amazed that a EULA gets a free pass because no one bothers to read it but in Linux, choosing accept on the codecs because you actually can read the damn thing freaks out someone. All that proves to me is that he's an idiot that doesn't read what he's agreeing to unless it's under ten sentences.

Re:Can You Blame Him (1)

Tuoqui (1091447) | about 7 years ago | (#19916095)

You mean like coming up with an arbitrary number like say 235 Patents that Linux is Infringing upon []

Oh wait Microsoft already did that didnt they?

Do Linux users care about using "illegal" codecs? (2, Informative)

xXenXx (973576) | about 7 years ago | (#19915507)


Re:Do Linux users care about using "illegal" codec (5, Insightful)

BosstonesOwn (794949) | about 7 years ago | (#19915601)

I beg to differ. If I am thinking of using linux in an enterprise and I need my people to play with media , it does indeed scare the users to see a disclaimer like this. Unfortunately this is another blow that stops adoption.

Most people don't want to see stuff like this when they load up software , it does scare them.

Re:Do Linux users care about using "illegal" codec (1)

bdjacobson (1094909) | about 7 years ago | (#19915803)

There's nothing stopping you from licensing the codecs.

Re:Do Linux users care about using "illegal" codec (1)

xXenXx (973576) | about 7 years ago | (#19915873)

I was referring more to home users. I agree that a few people will be scared off upon reading a disclaimer like that, but in my experience most users don't bother to read disclaimers, and for the ones that do this codec disclaimer will be in the same boat as mattress tags.

Re:Do Linux users care about using "illegal" codec (1)

mhall119 (1035984) | about 7 years ago | (#19915977)

Then perhaps you should legally license the codecs. There are several Linux distros that contain legally licensed codecs, specifically Linspire and Xandros come to mind. Are they free? No, of course not, because those codec licenses aren't free.

Re:Do Linux users care about using "illegal" codec (1)

kc2keo (694222) | about 7 years ago | (#19915887)

nope do not care.

Shrug (4, Interesting)

Durrok (912509) | about 7 years ago | (#19915511)

If there is no legal (or affordable) way for me to obtain the software/video/etc I would likeI pirate it. I watch a fair share of anime and typically the only way to get certain series or to not have to wait a few years for it to come stateside is to download the fan subs and then watch them with my "illegal codes" on my linux box. I never lost any sleep about it, not sure why anyone else would even blink at it. It certainly does not solve the problem at hand but it is an effective workaround for the time being.

Re:Shrug (5, Insightful)

njfuzzy (734116) | about 7 years ago | (#19915597)

Summary: "The poster cares about running afoul of the law in these ways, but I don't have such compunctions."

Re:Shrug (0, Flamebait)

plague3106 (71849) | about 7 years ago | (#19915599)

If there is no legal (or affordable) way for me to obtain the software/video/etc I would likeI pirate it.

Hmm... kinda like this:

If there is no legal (or affordable) way for me to obtain [a PS3] I would likely [steal] it.

Its called rationalization and its not a good thing.

Re:Shrug (3, Insightful)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 7 years ago | (#19915759)

Its (sic) called rationalization and its (sic) not a good thing.

I find it to be a good thing. It can save money. Gotta think of my shareholders.

Re:Shrug (1)

jZnat (793348) | about 7 years ago | (#19915827)

No, it's more like:

If there is no legal (or affordable) way for me to obtain [a PS3] I would likely [build my own PS3, with blackjack, and hookers].

Re:Shrug (1)

Damastus the WizLiz (935648) | about 7 years ago | (#19915833)

while I agree that the statement is a rationalization your example is extreme and is likely to begin the long continuing argument over whether copying constitutes theft. Which is an arguement I dont wish to get into.

Re:Shrug (0, Troll)

plague3106 (71849) | about 7 years ago | (#19915913)

Well whether you want to get into or not is irrelevent, as it lies at the heart of this debate. That's why those legal notices are presented to the Linux users.

Re:Shrug (1)

Durrok (912509) | about 7 years ago | (#19916039)

I'm not going to get into the whole deal but:

hardware =! software/media

If I really want a device sold only in Japan I can have it imported and minus some electrical issues I can use it. If I want to watch a TV show that is only in Japan I can't buy the DVD and watch it unless it's region 0 or 1.

Re:Shrug (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19915939)

If there is no legal (or affordable) way for me to obtain the software/video/etc I would likeI pirate it.

In other words, if you can't get it for free, screw the owner, you'll steal it. How's that work for you at the local grocer?

That is only a problem for (4, Insightful)

vivaoporto (1064484) | about 7 years ago | (#19915529)

That is only a problem for countries that enforce software patents, that is, IIRC, the USA. If he admits that Linux is better than the alternative, but he feels somehow constrained by the warnings and restrictions, he can either vote with his money (that he does) and buy a software that doesn't "put him off", or vote with his feet and move from the country that imposes such restrictions on him. He can also join the choir and try to change this absurd legislation that allows people to patent algorithms instead of implementations, but I'm trying to keep it real, for once.

Re:That is only a problem for (1)

ricebowl (999467) | about 7 years ago | (#19915697)

That is only a problem for countries that enforce software patents, that is, IIRC, the USA. If he admits that Linux is better than the alternative, but he feels somehow constrained by the warnings and restrictions, he can either vote with his money (that he does) and buy a software that doesn't "put him off", or vote with his feet and move from the country that imposes such restrictions on him. He can also join the choir and try to change this absurd legislation that allows people to patent algorithms instead of implementations, but I'm trying to keep it real, for once.

While I'm happy to concur with your suggestion of voting with money, purchasing a non-scary/non-intimidating software, in general I'm not sure how well it applies to the Linux scene. I'm only slowly finding my feet with Linux (Ubuntu Edgy Eft and Gentoo) but, so far, I've not encountered a commercial vendor for a particular software with the relevant licenses to legally allow the playing of .wmv/.aacs/.mp4 etc.

Also I'm assuming you're not being entirely serious in suggesting that the submitter move to another country in order to listen to/watch media in these codecs? Even I'd rather bite the bullet and simply purchase another OEM for WinXP (I feel dirty saying it, here, but I actually quite like XP moderation).

Re:That is only a problem for (1)

unapersson (38207) | about 7 years ago | (#19915973)

You can buy them here: Fluendo [] . They do a lot of work based around GStreamer. If you don't want to buy any you can still get a legal MP3 codec for free.

Re:That is only a problem for (2, Insightful)

mhall119 (1035984) | about 7 years ago | (#19916107)

so far, I've not encountered a commercial vendor for a particular software with the relevant licenses to legally allow the playing of .wmv/.aacs/.mp4 etc.
I believe Linspire and Xandros have the relevant licenses for this. Additionally, Fluendo [] will be selling native linux codecs for these formats with the proper licensing.

Re:That is only a problem for (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19915741)

That is only a problem for countries that enforce software patents, that is, IIRC, the USA.

Many others do as well (Canada, most of Europe, etc).

Re:That is only a problem for (1)

Crazy Taco (1083423) | about 7 years ago | (#19915909)

I don't see how patenting algorithms is absurd. Really, that's about the only kind of legitimate software patent I can think of. Patenting an algorithm is patenting a process of doing something... similar to patenting the process or recipe of creating a new drug, etc. What is absurd when someone patents something overly broad, like "One Click e-commerce" or, "Something we already do, but on teh InterWeb!!!" Or something blindingly obvious, like Verizon and "translating IP addresses into phone numbers." Algorithm patents are very reasonable compared to those issues.

The third option (1)

KingSkippus (799657) | about 7 years ago | (#19915969)

...he can either vote with his money (that he does) and buy a software that doesn't "put him off", or vote with his feet and move from the country that imposes such restrictions on him

Actually, there is a third option [] , the one that is actually most often used here, the one that the MPAA doesn't want anyone to acknowledge exists. Yes, it can have some dire consequences, but it doesn't change the fact that it's worked numerous times throughout history.

Here's the way I look at it. I've paid good money for a DVD and for the player that can play it, and some nice person has written software that they're giving away for free that will allow me to watch the movie that I've paid for. I'm sorry, but I'm not going to obey some stupid law that says that I can't watch the movie I paid for because I might make copies and share them with my friends (which, incidentally, I do not). If they want to come and get me for that, then so be it; let them come.

Re:That is only a problem for (1)

garett_spencley (193892) | about 7 years ago | (#19915975)

While I'm not saying that software patents are not an important issue at all, there are issues that affect the average citizen on a day to day basis FAR more than software patents. I think that abandoning your country and moving elsewhere is a little drastic for something that has such little bearing on the day to day lives of the average person.

I condemn laws allowing software to be patented and I support legislation to prohibit it. I would gladly write my MP (I'm Canadian) to express my concern if the issue arose here, but that issue is one of the last issues that would get me to leave my country and it's also an issue that probably wouldn't cross my mind while voting for a representative either. The only way that I could vote based on something as moot as software patents is if I had two competing representatives who both satisfied all of my concerns on issues like fundamental human rights (defined in the Canadian Charter), health care, employment opportunities, economics, education, taxes, property law and all other issues that actually have some kind of impact on my day to day life within this country, and software patents were the one thing that they were in disagreement over.

Scared? (4, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 7 years ago | (#19915531)

the scary legalese dialogs you have to click through [CC] to install codecs for common multimedia formats.

apt-get install w32codecs

Wow that was super scary. I'm so glad it's over...

Re:Scared? (1)

AvitarX (172628) | about 7 years ago | (#19915691)

Doesn't the same thing pop-up in an ncurses box?

Re:Scared? (1)

rickt (93968) | about 7 years ago | (#19915709)

While I understand your well made point of how easy and non-scary it is for we techies to download and install the necessary codecs, we can't possibly expect John Q. Public-type endusers to open up xterms and start entering 'scary' commands (yes they are scary to regular people). I think scary EULA dialogs are far more acceptable than scary shell interactions to most non-techie computer users. Besides, there are always "ways and means" that knowledgable users can download and install things like codecs, even if there isn't a "legitimate" way of doing so. Alas, for the regular users out there, they are doomed to keep clicking through the EULAs because our super duper corporate overlords, the ones who decide which "standards" our devices will use for the next decade CANNOT DECIDE ON A FRICKIN STANDARD!!! Ogg Vorbis is dead! Long live Ogg Vorbis!

Re:Scared? (2, Informative)

Corporate Troll (537873) | about 7 years ago | (#19915723)

Does that even work on a stock Debian install? I don't think so.... You first need to change your /etc/apt/sources.list to include "non-free" repositories.

Do we care? (0)

perlhacker14 (1056902) | about 7 years ago | (#19915537)

I use those supposed illegal codecs. I have nothing to hide. I am not gaining anything out of it, and therefore am not making or denying any profit to any organization, as on Windows these codecs are installed automatically. As I am not affecting anyone in any fathomable or relevant way, I do not care, and will continue to use it on my Slackware and Debian machines. Why should we agree to Digital Rights Management anyway? It is wrong and invasive, therefore the issue is moot. To end, I encourage all of you to go ahead and use the codecs, as what can they do to a Linux machine? How many feds know a thing about Linux anyway? Do we care?

Re:Do we care? (1)

plague3106 (71849) | about 7 years ago | (#19915623)

Yes, they are included with Windows as part of the software you purchased. Copying them from your Windows machine is pirating the software. If you want to legally use those codecs, you must pay for Windows (or a Mac).

Re:Do we care? (1) (1108067) | about 7 years ago | (#19916055)

"Copying them from your Windows machine is pirating the software." If he removes them from his Winbox to his linbox he's not pirating ... I'm sure a lot of us have legit copies of older versions of windows that we don't use any more, but that we can use the codecs, fonts, etc.

Re:Do we care? (2, Insightful)

Aladrin (926209) | about 7 years ago | (#19915733)

"I am not gaining anything out of it"

Then why are you doing it?

"am not making or denying any profit to any organization"

Except Microsoft. I guess they don't count because they are 'evil'.

"It is wrong and invasive, therefore the issue is moot."

Right, 2 wrongs always make a right.

"How many feds know a thing about Linux anyway?"

This matters because... ?

In the end, it doesn't matter whether you think it's 'right' or 'wrong', it's illegal and you take a risk by using the codecs in this fashion. I happen to think it's stupid as well, but it's still the law.

Has it ever actually stopped anyone from using them? There's probably someone, somewhere that's paranoid of the government and thinks it's a trap, so yeah... Maybe.

Don't try to rationalize that this activity is not illegal just because it's not immoral or unethical in your eyes (or anyone else's). The 2 are completely unrelated.

Re:Do we care? (1)

kerohazel (913211) | about 7 years ago | (#19915781)

Unfortunately, I don't believe the law will side with you. And when your case winds up in court (if you can afford to take it that far without being forced to settle with the MAFIAA), it won't be like in those movies where you can "put the system on trial". The IP holders have a lot of money to throw into the ring to protect their investments, and they'll brand you as some kind of loony pirate. Your message will not get through.

Taking a mature stance for the cause of free file formats and software is less egotistically satisfying than just saying "fuck 'em". It's full of hard work and tough battles, but I think it's the only way to make lasting gains for digital freedom.

Not a problem... (5, Funny)

Scooter's_dad (833628) | about 7 years ago | (#19915541)

If your entire collection of mp3s is illegal to begin with, who cares if the software you have to install to play them is illegal too?

Re:Not a problem... (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 7 years ago | (#19915981)

My entire collection is in MP3, and none of it is illegal. It is either ripped off CDs that I own, or purchased from eMusic. Before anybody asks me why I don't rip to ogg, or flac, well, all my music players (ipod, DVD player) play mp3 so anything else doesn't work well for me. Just because somebody has MP3 files, don't assume they are illegal. That's the kind of thinking I would expect from the RIAA.

With whom the fault lies (5, Insightful)

kerohazel (913211) | about 7 years ago | (#19915545)

From TFA: "'s a perfect example of what's wrong with Linux and the concept of free software. Free software is great in isolation, but as soon as you have a situation where you're trying to integrate it with modern proprietary file formats, the idea falls apart at the seams."

Maybe the problem is with all the modern proprietary formats? I think this is a pretty crap argument, similar to how a dearth of Linux drivers is somehow Linux's fault.

There might be a better solution out there. By all means we should try to find it. But a click-through warning is pretty damn good, if it enables free to play with non-free.

Re:With whom the fault lies (1)

BosstonesOwn (794949) | about 7 years ago | (#19915777)

No way , there is not any issues with proprietary formats. You spread FUD !

Look at WMV drm'ed files. They play on nothing but microsoft approved software or gear. Why do we need 20000 formats when The main 6 to 10 would do fine. Oh damn wait there is to much money in having individual formats.

A side note, it seems like we see this type of article coming all to often. You sort of have to wonder if they are being paid shills.

EULAs (5, Insightful)

drooling-dog (189103) | about 7 years ago | (#19915547)

He's apparently never read the EULAs for his Microsoft ware. Now that is scary stuff...

No. (1)

morari (1080535) | about 7 years ago | (#19915549)

Mot everything on my computer is illegal anyway. :P

The blame for this lies with Linux? How? (5, Insightful)

Omnifarious (11933) | about 7 years ago | (#19915561)

Perhaps the author of the article should instead complain about the way all these people make proprietary file formats and wonder how we got into the awful situation where we have to pay everybody and their brother in order to do a simple thing like listen to music on your computer. It seems to me that that's where the problem is. Patents and ridiculous companies who want their cake and eat it too by having their format be 'standard' while they still own all the rights to use it.

Re:The blame for this lies with Linux? How? (1)

dragonsomnolent (978815) | about 7 years ago | (#19916021)

And that's something I've never quite understood myself. If I purchase a DVD-ROM for my computer, and I run Linux, why don't I have the right to play DVDs that I purchased? Seriously, someone explain the logic to me (I understand the corporate greed thing), but could I not simply call the maker of the DVD-ROM, inform them that I run Linux and ask that they provide me with functional software? Can't there be some kind of recourse if they fail to do so, because the device (while functional), can't be legally used in the manner I paid for? Doesn't the software they sell with the DVD-ROM come with the codecs? Shouldn't I be able to use those codecs that I paid for? Just askin

Legal or not, who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19915605)

Who the hell cares about legal or not? It's the Internets man, everything is allowed here just make sure nobody sees you.

Bad title (4, Insightful)

Virak (897071) | about 7 years ago | (#19915611)

Should be "Do 'Illegal' Codecs Actually Scare Potential Linux Users?", because that's what the article's about. I don't think most actual Linux users (myself included, though I don't live in the US, so it's not even illegal for me) care about the legality of the codecs. They just want to listen to the music and watch the movies they paid for.

Sounds like a EULA to me (1)

OmegaBlac (752432) | about 7 years ago | (#19915625)

the scary legalese dialogs you have to click through
But he has no problems clicking through the EULA screens that come with Windows and other Microsoft software which I consider more scary then anything I have observed in the FOSS world.

Not nearly as much as... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19915627)

...talking to girls.

That guy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19915633)

is a pussy. Our founding fathers are rolling in their graves right now.

Re:That guy (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19915959)

My favorite founding father is Thomas Jefferson because he raped his slaves. Now THAT'S integrity!

way to blame the messenger (1)

EllynGeek (824747) | about 7 years ago | (#19915647)

Wow, has this ever been the Week of the Trolls. Mr Adrian Hyphenate, why don't you also study the typical Microsoft or Apple EULA. You'll find they are much scarier. Assuming you're even interested in a fact or two.

Licenses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19915675)

You mean people actually read licenses? Really? How quaint.

Codecs are about format not about content (2, Insightful)

Alain Williams (2972) | about 7 years ago | (#19915713)

All a codec is is a way of encoding some content, so as long as the codec decoding s/ware is legal (ie not ripped off someone's copyright) then I cannot see what the problem is. Oh, I suppose that if you live somewhere like the USA where people can patent a format then you may need to think about it.

What is important is the content - ie not ripping off someone's copyright for the piece of music, film, ... That I don't do. If I can't obtain it legally then I won't play it -- I might not like the copyright on music (being for so many years and all that) but I will respect it.

See what I mean about the different between format & content ?

Then pay for the Fluendo codecs (5, Informative)

GauteL (29207) | about 7 years ago | (#19915717)

Fluendo [] currently sells MPEG2, MPEG4, Dolby AC3 and Windows Media codecs legally. They also give you the MP3 codec free of charge.

If you want peace of mind and avoid being a criminal in countries with silly laws, then these may be something for you.

and for "legal" DVD viewing... (2, Informative)

IronyChef (518287) | about 7 years ago | (#19915881)

PowerDVD for Linux []

Re:Then pay for the Fluendo codecs (1)

cps42 (102752) | about 7 years ago | (#19916089)

I wish I had mod points for you my friend. I had no idea these existed.

I will gladly pay for this option.

You can take our software, but (1, Insightful)

TheDarkener (198348) | about 7 years ago | (#19915719)

You can never take....our freeeeeeeeeeeeeedooooooooooooooom!!!!


Re:You can take our software, but (1)

TheDarkener (198348) | about 7 years ago | (#19915775)

Tried to post this in caps, but encountered a Slashdot "Lameness Filter"???

"Reason: Don't use so many caps. It's like YELLING."

WTF??? I thought Slashdot was cared about freedom of speech/expression. Guess not!! Fucking nazis.

Since when (1)

teflaime (738532) | about 7 years ago | (#19915721)

is an MP3 proprietary? Isn't it an ansi standard? Can't anyone take that standard and write a codec for it?

Re:Since when (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | about 7 years ago | (#19915971)

Sure, as long as they pay the appropriate patent license fees to all the necessary parties.

This is why you hear complaints about software patents - they make it so that some standard file formats can only be legally implemented in software as payware.

Re:Since when (1)

RiffRafff (234408) | about 7 years ago | (#19915985)

It's owned by Thomson (well, not "owned" by them, but they enforce the owners' wishes). I believe they've been known to go after F/OSS authors that allow encoding (but I can't check, 'cause my employer blocks the phrase "MP3" from the interwebz... ). []

Re:Since when (1)

abigor (540274) | about 7 years ago | (#19916033)

MP3 is patented. If you want to write an encoder/decoder, you are supposed to buy a license from Thomson Consumer Electronics and Fraunhofer IIS.

can get license (1)

pruss (246395) | about 7 years ago | (#19915731)

I actually got an MPEG LA license to manufacture divx players/encoders. The license charge is $0 for the first 100,000 units. I then compile the codecs and players (with some local modifications), and give them away to myself . Every year I need to send in a report of how many I've sold.

This doesn't take care of mp3, but my understanding is that Thomson doesn't mind people using free mp3 decoders (they said something about that years ago) as long as they don't sell them (that's GPL incompatible, I know).

OK (1)

My name is Bucket (1020933) | about 7 years ago | (#19915737)

It's just ones and zeroes, MAN! *continues downloading everything*

A rare example! (1)

mano_k (588614) | about 7 years ago | (#19915745)

This guy is really one of a kind. I mean, most people I know who use windows don't give a damn about the legal status of the software they're using! I mean, talk about free software to the average windows user and they will tell you that all their software came free of charge anyway.

Even on a job (for a company which doesn't exist anymore anyway) when I was setting up a computer I was given a set of CD-Rs and the hint to google for office activation codes...

Ubuntu developers are fools (4, Insightful)

Locutus (9039) | about 7 years ago | (#19915763)

why would they put up such clear and understandable dialog boxes which just end up scaring the user. They should follow Microsoft's lead and put all that in 5-10 pages of legalese and call it an EULA. Then, their users will see that, maybe read one or two lines before hitting the [OK] button.

Shame on the Ubuntu developers for putting in such a simple and clearly understandable dialog box. ;-)


What is illegal about Linux "codecs"??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19915783)

Come one, mpg123 is GLPd software. Why using it (or other GPLd players) to play MP3s is illegal? There also exist tons of GPLd implementation of video codecs.

Re:What is illegal about Linux "codecs"??? (1)

jandrese (485) | about 7 years ago | (#19915979)

Because you didn't pay Fraunhoffer for the license to use their patented IP for decoding MP3 files. That's why it's illegal.

MP3 patent expires 2011 (3, Informative)

fractalVisionz (989785) | about 7 years ago | (#19915797)

Remember, you only have to wait 4 more years for the MP3 patent to become public:

The various patents claimed to cover MP3 by different patent-holders have many different expiration dates, ranging from 2007 to 2017 in the U.S. [9]. However, U.S. patents can only last up to 20 years, and MP3 was released as a specification in 1991, so if U.S. courts applied U.S. law, no patent could apply beyond 2011 to MP3 itself.[10] In the U.S., any patent claiming to cover the fundamentals of MP3 after 2012 should (by law) be struck down as an invalid patent, due to the existence of published prior art (the MP3 specification) more than a year before the patent's filing. If it had been published earlier (such as in public drafts), the latest date would be even earlier. However, it is unclear if U.S. courts would enforce this. The situation in other countries that permit software patents is similar.

--From []

Re:MP3 patent expires 2011 (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | about 7 years ago | (#19916069)

Sounds right. Software patents expire once the technique involved is blatantly obsolete. The only exception that I know if is the RSA patent - that just set back computer security by 20 years outright.

Illegal? (1)

z0M6 (1103593) | about 7 years ago | (#19915849)

I really don't get this. If I tell Ubuntu during the install process that I reside in a country where such codecs are not illegal, why does it need to bother me with legalese that does not apply to me? (I know, US based.) I would not mind if they made an "international" edition, although I guess it would only confuse some people.

Oh? (1)

kbolino (920292) | about 7 years ago | (#19915857)

Apparently, it's better to have your hands tied behind your back, having consented and become bound to legal agreements you've never read, than be presented with them up front.

distro dependant problem (1)

OmegaBlac (752432) | about 7 years ago | (#19915883)

Quoting: 'Despite strong points that go far beyond price, Linux falls short when it comes to legally supporting file formats such as MP3, WMA/WMV and DVDs.
This issue is actually a distro dependent problem. Linux cannot fall short as Linux is just a kernel, not a company or a distribution. Some distro's (such as Turbolinux) do pay the fees to legally distribute the proprietary codecs in question. These fees may be too high (overpriced) for many distributions to afford so many will find an alternative way to distribute the codecs to people in the United States.

Why is it "illegal"? (1)

WIAKywbfatw (307557) | about 7 years ago | (#19915889)

Why is it "illegal". Either it's legal or it's not.

If it's morally questionable then say that. If it's yet to be tested in the courts then say that.

But if it's illegal but you don't think it should be then don't muddy the issue by putting the world in speech marks and calling it "illegal" because that does nothing to move the discussion forward.

Say it's illegal but an example of a bad law (and one that's perhaps yet to be tested) and move on.

Yes, it would be nice if the DCMA, draconian licensing agreements and EULAs that leave you scratching your head didn't exist but they do.

Yes, For most people, clicking through one of these dialog boxes presents no major moral dilemmas. But for some, perhaps individuals and businesses who want or need to be whiter than white, they do, and that's where TFA has a point.

Long term, the ideal solution is to use 100 percent open formats all of the time. But, right now, that's a pipe dream because formats such as MP3 aren't going to disappear any time soon, so the most practical legal solution is to lobby for the right to use these formats, both with the parties that hold the relevant rights and legislators.

Girls scare Linux users (1)

Orig_Club_Soda (983823) | about 7 years ago | (#19915893)

I not sure how to expand on the title....

Wow, people read EULAs? (1)

maillemaker (924053) | about 7 years ago | (#19915919)

How can a EULA be scary? I never read them.

Basically, all EULAs are are non-binary DRM - a text file that tries to tell you what you can and can't do with the software.

I ignore them. It's in my possession, I'll do whatever I want with it, thank you very much.

Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19915927)

Thats like saying Snape kills Hagrid and Voldemort kills Hermione

17 years isn't forever (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19915937)

I take the long term view that patents don't last forever. Windows 3.0 was released in 1990 so anything it did out of patent or not long from being out of patent so the everyday basics of computing should be safe.

The MP3 patents [] where granted in the mid 1990's. The term of a patent varies between countrys, complicated by the change from 17 years from grant to 20 years from filing date for patents filed after 1994, but basically in another five to ten years the MP3 patents will expire. I can wait.

Also I figure that morally I got a patent license with my hardware mp3 player and I don't see why they should get paid twice when I never use it and my PC at the same time.

It doesn't scare me... (1)

gillbates (106458) | about 7 years ago | (#19915957)

But it does keep liability-conscious companies from adopting Linux.

If you're going to make inroads into the proprietary-license software world, you've got to do it legally. Granted, we might not like software patents and draconian copyright terms, etc... but for now it is the law, at least in the US. To make Linux compelling, it has to give back to the community, rather than just piggybacking on the hard work of others. Implementing a copy of a popular product isn't innovation; producing a better code (Ogg?!) is.

Why would we want to emulate the proprietary software model? Instead, let's do something original and better. I'm much more open to using Ogg than MP3, because I know the former was produced in the spirit of free software, and the latter wasn't. If open standards really are better than closed ones, why do we bother using closed, proprietary codecs? The only conclusion the outsider is apt to draw is that closed code is somehow better.

And who knows? Maybe it is. After all, it made it into a Linux distribution...

You're Right (1)

popejeremy (878903) | about 7 years ago | (#19915961)

You know, you're right. I have those codecs on my Ubuntu box. I should take them off. Mp3s be damned. I'll just have to do without them.

FUD machine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19915963)

How dumb do you have to be to find yourself frightened by this sort of thing, but not by Microsoft of Apple's ten mile long EULAs...

Oh wait... he's never actually read those EULAs... he just clicks accept.

Pure FUD, plain and simple.

No real established case law (1)

Random BedHead Ed (602081) | about 7 years ago | (#19915997)

As far as I know, using a codec for personal use to decode media is not easily (and certainly not routinely) punished, though I may be mistaken. Obviously commercial software has been pulled off the shelves for illegally using codecs, like the DVD backup software a few years back, but I don't recall ever hearing about end users of it being sued, let alone convicted. Decoding MP3s with LAME or installing the Win32 codecs on a Debian system is probably not going to land you in the slammer, and I've never been afraid to click Yes.

On the other hand, reading through a EULA for perfectly legitimate software and codecs (as some people have already pointed out in earlier comments) is downright scary. You know you're not breaking any law in using the software on the othr end of an MS EULA, but I'm much more hesitant to click Yes on those than on a simple legal warning suggesting that my country's patent and copyright laws might be a bit too severe.

codec bundle please (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19916005)

please someone bundle all these codecs up in a 3rd party .rpm with a small licence fee to make it legal o rat least shift the burden of responsibility. ;)

hell i'd pay $10 just for the convenience.

Ironic since Linux has fewer EULAs (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | about 7 years ago | (#19916013)

This is ironic because I consider the lack of click-through licenses to be one of the benefits of Linux. I forsee a day when people must sign a EULA to buy something at CompUSA and I'm fighting it as much as I can. You can't install anything on Windows without a 20-page EULA that denies people of things they take for granted. I my frustration I bought a Mac, only to find that they are just as bad.

Another option.. (1)

g0dsp33d (849253) | about 7 years ago | (#19916015)

Personally its just really annoying. With MSFT or Apple products you just click through it in the install without ever reading it. I remember having to go online and looking up how to install MP3 support the first time I used Fedora Core 3. I got it working but it took a lot of time. Let's face it, the typical non-standard install is easier or requires less know-how than on Linux still.

Some people can't handle taking that much time or needing to know that much about Linux.

What a bunch of crap (1)

colourmyeyes (1028804) | about 7 years ago | (#19916045)

I don't listen to anyone who talks about "integrat[ing] [Linux] into my existing ecosystem of PCs."

Ecosystem of computers? Jackass.

here's what I sent them as feedback (1)

billhedrick (958463) | about 7 years ago | (#19916061)

You know, reading your article about Ubuntu and Linux in general, I couldn't help wondering if you expected everything in Linux to be free. MP3 players are bundled with most distros, so music playing isn't an issue. So the only problem I have had, and the one you note is DVD playing. There are US legal DVD players available. They simply aren't free. I find it quite odd that since you can't legally get a free DVD player in Linux, you are consoling people to buy a non-free OS to play DVDs. Occam's razor would suggest that if you like Linux, pony up the small fee to buy the software you need that isn't free. I'm not going to do your research for you here, after all you are getting paid to do that and I wouldn't want to give you something free.

Not in most of the universe (1)

Framboise (521772) | about 7 years ago | (#19916125)

Most of these restrictions apply in the tiny patch called U.S.A. on the tiny planet Earth revolving around a dwarf star in a minuscule part of a very common galaxy, billions of them are known to exist. Conclusion: the topic is irrelevant for the rest of the Universe, free of the software patent non-sense.
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