> So, in fact, even if someone does obtain a licence from the cartel, it
> isn't clear whether that licence covers the whole spectrum of
> distribution given that Free Software doesn't distinguish between
> "personal consumer use" and "providers".
And why should we care in the least? If such issues exist, they are between the MPEG-LA and its licensee. None of it affects the general public.
> > VLC, MPlayer and FFmpeg are not high-profile distributors? It seems
> > that Then we shall have to switch to low-profile distributors for
> > our free software then.
> As others have pointed out, the lack of interest in pursuing these
> projects is no guarantee that they will not be pursued in the future.
> And not only does the organisation producing a Web browser with 30% or
> so market share have to worry about this, but they also have to worry
> about the effects on those who redistribute their software under the
> much more high-profile brand that they maintain.
You seem to think that FFmpeg is some sort of fringe software product. The opposite is the case. YouTube uses it, Facebook uses it, it is used in Hollywood postproduction, it is the basis of VLC and most free and a lot of the proprietary transcoding solutions. So it touches most multimedia files that are consumed nowadays at some point of their existence. FFmpeg or VLC are not escaping the attention of the MPEG-LA due to living in some sort of small niche. There are many companies that use FFmpeg and are MPEG-LA licensees at the same time.
> A set-top box manufacturer selling products based directly on FFmpeg
> would need to be sniffed out by the cartel's enforcement department, but
> one selling products with Firefox branding would be very visible indeed.
Trust me, it's not hard to find out whether some program or set-top box uses FFmpeg. It's much easier to verify it uses MPEG-LA technology of some sort. Just perusing the feature list should be enough.
> > A patent license from the MPEG-LA does not in any way interact with
> > the LGPL. How would it? If Google has an MPEG-LA license and passes
> > along FFmpeg to you it can only do so under the full terms of the
> > LGPL. And this is what Google is doing: Distributing FFmpeg with
> > all the rights that we passed along to them attached, as specified
> > by the LGPL.
> Such a patent licence cannot interact with the LGPL for redistribution
> to be permissible under those terms. But given what I've read about
> segmenting the recipients of the software (from the summary, above),
> it's quite possible that Google claim that Chrome is for "personal
> consumer use" whilst anyone else who repackages Chrome (as Chromium,
> for example) is not their responsibility. Thus, the latter group are
> burdened with dealing with the cartel when they seek to distribute,
> rather than use, the software, particularly if it turns out that the
> software is intended for "personal computer use" or for "providers".
So? Such are the sad facts of life. They may also have to deal with the cartel if they get FFmpeg directly from us.
> You can claim that the patent licence is merely some kind of
> "insurance". No-one is being forced to buy such insurance, but in
> practical terms a set of extra obligations are being added to certain
> recipients of the software. Whether people manage to sneak around
> section 11 of LGPLv2.1 or not on this basis - and I am reminded of the
> whole Microsoft/Novell covenant scheme - the lasting impression is that
> various principles of Free Software have been undermined.
I think the main confusion stems from not differentiating between patent licensors and patent licensees. Google is just a licensee. A patent license is not theirs to hand out.
There are indeed free software licenses that have provisions about allowing to use your *own* patents as related to a specific piece of software. However, the LGPL v2.1 is not one of them and Google is not an MPEG-LA licensor.
> > Note that this is how both FFmpeg and the Software Freedom Law Center
> > see the issue. I never felt there was anything to clarify there, but
> > apparently people are willing to take random quotes from random
> > people as facts just because they are reprinted at lwn.net...
> Some more "random quotes" for you here. Of course, you can claim that
> it's merely a case of sour grapes that the GStreamer people are
> publishing advice from the FSF that conveniently supports their position.
This is completely in line with what I am saying. Where do you see anything that does not support my position?
The LGPL forbids extra restrictions, but Google is not placing any extra restrictions on FFmpeg. They are distributing exactly as required by the LGPL. Please point out the exact infringing action and the section of the LGPL it violates.
> Again, we can probably only take Google's word for it that their
> agreement with the cartel is compatible, but as I note above, even if
> our trust is well-placed - that Google have not technically done "evil"
> - the consequences may not be so benign.
Again, what do we care if Google is complying with their MPEG-LA contract? It's entirely between them to resolve any issues they might have.