Media Files Licensing Query (eg: avi/mp3/mpg/divx)

James Wilkinson james at
Thu Mar 3 17:45:34 UTC 2005

Ow Mun Heng wrote:
> I'm just curious regarding the licenses of the media files such as
> avi/mpg/mpeg2/mp3/wmv/mov/divx/ etc..etc.
> I know that mp3 definately needs licensing from fraunhoffer if anyone
> wants to use/sell a product commercially. (which is why it's not
> included in Fedora)
> Is there any others?? I know for sure ogg is GPL.

Actually, Ogg (which includes FLAC: is
mostly BSD-style:

.avi is a container format (not too dissimilar to Ogg, come to that). 
It's status depends on the encoding being used. I *think* the same is
true for .wav.

There are three basic problems with the others you mention.

 * Patents. Not (allegedly) a problem everywhere yet. I suspect that the
   various media companies hold patents over practically everything

 * Open Source Codecs. There are "free except for patents" codecs for
   (most of?) the mp* codecs. WMV, Real, Quicktime (etc.) have not been
   documented or reverse engineered (to the best of my knowledge). If
   you're lucky, you'll get no-cost closed source codecs.

 * Lawyers. Many of these formats include something thoroughly offensive
   that it pleases the appropriate companies to call "Digital Rights
   Management". And with the current filesharing situation, those
   companies have become very trigger-happy with lawsuits. Anything that
   smells as though it might remotely help people get round DRM is
   branded as Contributory Infringement.

   And patent lawyers aren't professionally pleasant: their patents may
   or may not be invalid, but you'll never get them to admit that short
   of a very expensive court hearing.

This is why Red Hat won't let any of them near Fedora.


E-mail address: james | In the Royal Air Force a landing's OK,  | If the pilot gets out and can still walk away.
                      | But in the Fleet Air Arm the outlook is grim,
                      | If your landings are duff and you've not learnt to
                      | swim.

More information about the users mailing list