LAME codec library

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LAME codec library

Edouard de Sauvage
Hi,

I am Edouard from Radionomy, the company who recently bought Winamp.
The app is currently under development and will be relaunched soon as a
freeware.

In the meantime, we are reviewing the licenses needed in order to use the
MP3 and AAC formats.

We were planning to use the LAME library which include these formats but we
would like to get your opinion first.

Are the licensing fees for these formats also required for freeware, or is
there some sort of tolerance from patents' owners?
Also, do you have any idea how other freeware are dealing with this (VLC,
etc.)?

Could you please help us with these questions ?

Thank you very much for your help,

Edouard.
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Re: LAME codec library

Mike Brown
Edouard de Sauvage wrote:
> we are reviewing the licenses needed in order to use the
> MP3 and AAC formats.
>
> We were planning to use the LAME library which include these formats

Well, one of the formats.

> Are the licensing fees for these formats also required for freeware,

Distributing MP3 and AAC encoders (i.e. the libraries or executable apps, in
their compiled, usable form rather than source code) requires a license. The
owners of the relevant patents can ask for whatever they want in exchange for
a license...and they certainly aren't known for their charity.

That's why Winamp has always had a paid version with extra features; the small
percentage of users who pay for it are subsidizing the licenses for themselves
and everyone who sticks with the free version. (Presumably, that is...maybe
the paid users didn't fully cover the bill, and other sources of income had to
be used.)

Here's the MP3 encoder licensing info:
http://www.mp3licensing.com/royalty/software.html

And here's the AAC info:
http://www.vialicensing.com/licensing/aac-fees.aspx

You can always ask them to cut you a deal, of course. I'd be interested to
know if you have any luck with that!

The LAME project avoids these issues by only distributing source code rather
than working, compiled DLLs and EXEs. It is assumed that people who use LAME
have either built the DLL or EXE themselves, or obtained it from a licensed
distributor of compiled code.

I'm not speaking on behalf of the LAME project; I'm just an interested user
of both Winamp and LAME.

Mike

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Re: LAME codec library

John Edwards-5
While you may wish to check with the patent holders, certainly if you
expect a wide distribution, it appears that you are unlikely to incur
any fees for freeware. At rarewares.org, we have been distributing the
executables, free, for many years without any contact whatsoever from
the patent holders.

The patent holders are only interested in those who sell encoders and
decoders, or so it would seem.

The above is based upon experience and not on any legal knowledge or
correspondence with the patent holders. In reality, some of the patents
have already expired and I believe the remainder will expire between now
and the end of 2017.

Hope that helps.

John

On 06/07/2014 06:10, Mike Brown wrote:

> Edouard de Sauvage wrote:
>> we are reviewing the licenses needed in order to use the
>> MP3 and AAC formats.
>>
>> We were planning to use the LAME library which include these formats
>
> Well, one of the formats.
>
>> Are the licensing fees for these formats also required for freeware,
>
> Distributing MP3 and AAC encoders (i.e. the libraries or executable apps, in
> their compiled, usable form rather than source code) requires a license. The
> owners of the relevant patents can ask for whatever they want in exchange for
> a license...and they certainly aren't known for their charity.
>
> That's why Winamp has always had a paid version with extra features; the small
> percentage of users who pay for it are subsidizing the licenses for themselves
> and everyone who sticks with the free version. (Presumably, that is...maybe
> the paid users didn't fully cover the bill, and other sources of income had to
> be used.)
>
> Here's the MP3 encoder licensing info:
> http://www.mp3licensing.com/royalty/software.html
>
> And here's the AAC info:
> http://www.vialicensing.com/licensing/aac-fees.aspx
>
> You can always ask them to cut you a deal, of course. I'd be interested to
> know if you have any luck with that!
>
> The LAME project avoids these issues by only distributing source code rather
> than working, compiled DLLs and EXEs. It is assumed that people who use LAME
> have either built the DLL or EXE themselves, or obtained it from a licensed
> distributor of compiled code.
>
> I'm not speaking on behalf of the LAME project; I'm just an interested user
> of both Winamp and LAME.
>
> Mike
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Open source business process management suite built on Java and Eclipse
> Turn processes into business applications with Bonita BPM Community Edition
> Quickly connect people, data, and systems into organized workflows
> Winner of BOSSIE, CODIE, OW2 and Gartner awards
> http://p.sf.net/sfu/Bonitasoft
> _______________________________________________
> Lame-dev mailing list
> [hidden email]
> https://lists.sourceforge.net/lists/listinfo/lame-dev
>

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Re: LAME codec library

Mike Brown
John Edwards wrote:
> The patent holders are only interested in those who sell encoders and
> decoders, or so it would seem.

Not that I would do anything different in your shoes, but I'm pretty sure most
lawyers would tell you that if there's a legitimate patent covering the
technology, then it's your responsibility to contact whoever you can to
negotiate a license, not wait and see if they notice your activity and have a
problem with it.

So my advice re: Winamp is don't count on anything... if you don't seek a
license, you are taking a risk.

As for Rarewares, there could be any number of reasons why they haven't
contacted you. Maybe being a small-time non-commercial site is a factor...or
maybe they haven't even noticed yet...or maybe they just dropped the ball...
or maybe they're not sure they have a legitimate case. Nothing would surprise
me!

> The above is based upon experience and not on any legal knowledge or
> correspondence with the patent holders. In reality, some of the patents
> have already expired and I believe the remainder will expire between now
> and the end of 2017.

That's correct, as far as anyone knows:
http://scratchpad.wikia.com/wiki/MPEG_patent_lists#MPEG-1_Audio_Layer_3_patents
http://www.tunequest.org/a-big-list-of-mp3-patents/20070226/

When I mentioned mp3licensing.com, I forgot that that's only for the
Fraunhofer/Thomson/Technicolor patents. I think you also have to get a
separate license from Sisvel/Audio MPEG for a bunch of the other patents:

http://www.audiompeg.com/index.php/mpeg-audio 
http://www.audiompeg.com/index.php/mpeg-audio/license-terms

Then there's the AT&T Bell Labs/Alcatel-Lucent patents, but I think they've
all expired now.

[obIANAL]

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