> The MPEG LA has never sued an end-user to date. While in theory they could
> do that in the future, it's about as likely as getting killed by a meteor
There's no way to tell. Five years ago you could have said the same thing about the RIAA suing individual file-sharers, but then they started doing it.
Fundamentally it's a bad idea to bet on the MPEG-LA being lenient forever. Their job is to bring in licensing revenue for patent holders. At some point in the future, if suing users is a convenient way to scare people, or to destroy free competition to products that actually generate license revenue, there's no reason to believe they won't do it. Keep in mind that the optimal revenue-generation strategy changes over time: it pays to be lenient at first, to get the format maximally entrenched, and then you can squeeze the licensees for all you can get (modulo contractual restrictions). History is instructive. http://www.0xdeadbeef.com/weblog/2010/01/html5-video-and-...
Plus, let me remind you that your guess about the intention of the MPEG-LA to "not require" licenses for free software proved to be completely wrong. Betting on such guesses, no matter who makes them, would be foolish.