> Our reading of the GPL and LGPL, which are licenses governing the
> distribution of software, you need to give the same rights to your
> recipients as you have, and they need to be able to redistribute with
> the same rights as well.
False. You need to give recipients the same rights that you received when getting the software. You received FFmpeg as (L)GPL from us, you have to pass it along as (L)GPL again. The (L)GPL says nothing about a contract with the MPEG LA.
I'll give you another example: The original author has the right to publish the software under any license. This right is *not* passed along with GPL software. I could also sell you some FFmpeg code I wrote under a proprietary license. Then you have the right to use that code under said proprietary license, but you do *not* pass that right along when you redistribute FFmpeg. You have the right, but you need not pass it along, you are not even allowed to pass it along.
> in the end what we saw is a practical situation (no distro feels
> legally safe to ship ffmpeg/xine/vlc/mplayer).
Do you really believe what you were saying there? Just scroll up and read a bit of the discussion above or verify such statements before making them.
> But don't blow up the discussion with insinuations that we think
> ffmpeg is illegal, or that we try to take away anyone's freedom.
You profit from making people think that you are the only "legal" way to run multimedia software under Linux. Some people are easily scared and gullible and believe what you write. These people then run your proprietary software instead of free software to do the same job at least as good. These people are thus deprived from their software freedom and you have profited.
There is no way around these facts. If you were putting all the money you earn with that stuff into a big fund to sponsor free software or if you donated it, then fine, I would believe you. Or if there was a note in your shop that said "no private person has ever needed this, you can use free software X instead also". But you do no such thing.
Which is fine, be that way if you want, I would welcome you to act differently, but I do not condemn you. However, please be honest about what you do. You sell proprietary software like any other company and are in no way special.
> That's just intentionally polarizing the discussion. Your arguments
> are stronger when you don't put words in the mouth of the other.
I have heard "FFmpeg is illegal.", "Playing DVDs under Linux is illegal.", "Someone will end up in jail." more times than I can count. Just try to spend a day at an FFmpeg/MPlayer booth for a day during LinuxTag or some other event.
This discussion is already polarized and lopsided in one direction. I intend to balance the scales a bit by countering the FUD and anticipatory obedience that has become the hallmark of parts of our community.