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Canonical Explains Decision to License H.264 For Ubuntu 372

Posted by timothy
from the less-painful-to-pay dept.
tux writes with this snippet from The Register: "Ubuntu's commercial sponsor Canonical has tried to clarify how — if not why — it has licensed a closed-source and patented codec for video on PCs running its Linux. Canonical is the first Linux shop to have agreed to license the codec in question, H.264, from MPEG LA. Even though Red Hat and Novell are also available for use on PCs, they have not licensed H.264."
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Canonical Explains Decision to License H.264 For Ubuntu

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  • Re:WHY? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by mcvos (645701) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:05PM (#32117334)

    Even so, I seem to remember that some years ago, Ubuntu was extremely purist, not even showing the Firefox logo on Firefox because it was a trademark. And now they license patented tech.

  • Re:Lawyers win-win (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sys.stdout.write (1551563) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @06:28PM (#32118422)
    I'm sorry, why shouldn't we reward people who come up with a novel compression algorithm?

    In any event, they only get it for the next 18 years. And in all likelihood, someone will come up with a better algorithm in the mean time.

    I've never really understood the anti-intellectual property sentiment on Slashdot..
  • Re:Good thing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by obarthelemy (160321) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @06:53PM (#32118818)

    I disagree. I think
    - Open Source should not be about less choice, but more. Are we bashing OOo for being somewhat compatible with MS's formats ? Or Linux for running on a proprietary architecture ?
    - Proprietary formats are evil, underoptimized, expensive, buggy, risky long-term... Open Source should have no problems coming up with better alternatives. In this case, it seems there's a problem (hint !)
    - This is Real Life, compromises must be made. Proprietary software, hardware, formats are everywhere. While rejecting any kind of proprietary stuff sounds right and/or cool, doing so would ensure almost nobody ever would choose any Open system: no MP3s, no MS Office docs, no Flash, almost no video, no SMB, ...

    I'm anticipating the answer "yes, but in all those examples, the devs didn't pay ransom for a license". Indeed, but they paid for developing the features. In the end, it's money, time, talent... buying a license and getting the code may actually be cheaper, and free up resources for other projects. Even if it's not, being able to handle popular formats is probably necessary to get a foot in the door on home PCs, and later, when a better, open alternative to H.264 comes along, make the switch.

  • Re:Good thing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dunng808 (448849) <(osp) (at) (aloha.com)> on Thursday May 06, 2010 @08:21PM (#32120054) Homepage Journal

    You want mass market? You have to include the things that people want, and with more video going to H.264 online, what are you supposed to tell the consumers? "Sorry, this doesn't jibe with the worldview that we hold and you don't understand or care about. ..."

    This is not born out in the real world. Apple still refuses to put Flash on the iPhone / iPad. Microsoft has made switching browsers as hard as possible, and it took a federal lawsuit to force AT&T to allow customers to use their modems on the Bell phone system. The mp3.com web site was a popular and valuable promotional tool for indi artists (that is where I first heard Skylab 2000 and other European techno groups) until the US entertainment industry sued them into oblivion. No, big corporations do not give their mass market customers what they want. They really do say "I peece on you."

    I am not a hard core FOSS guy, but I do agree with Stallman's reasons why software should be free. I was there when AT&T tried to kill BSD and claim all the Unix code as their own. More recently we saw something similar from SCO. We must not forget those lessons. If we allow all video to go closed source we will be pwned.

  • Re:Good thing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BobPaul (710574) * on Thursday May 06, 2010 @10:39PM (#32121306) Journal

    Look up some basic patent definitions; you don't even need to get into patent law.

    Patents protect the owners from others selling/distributing infringing products. They give the patent owners a monopoly on the sale/distribution of these products. A competing company, however, is free to product infringing products for internal testing, etc as long as they don't distribute them in anyway. This is why you see generic drugs appear on the market the DAY the patents expire. They completed their FCC testing using infringing copies of the patented drugs, using the patent as a a design guide, no less. This is legal because the drugs are only used for study and any not used by study participants are destroyed. The company doesn't sell the infringing drugs, or even distribute them freely, until the patents expire (at which point they aren't infringing).

    Drugs certainly aren't an exception by any means, and all patented items fall under the same laws. Generics of all popular products release as soon as the original patents expire if competitors haven't found non-infringing work arounds. They don't appear months afterwards because they already designed against the patent and tested, waiting for their chance to sell.

  • by Kickasso (210195) on Friday May 07, 2010 @03:43AM (#32123406)

    I wonder what happens if I swap an Ubuntu kernel for my own kernel, configured and compiled by myself. Do I still have a licensed Ubuntu system? Even if the kernel is from vanilla sources? What if I replace their libc? How about gnu userland, I hear there are alternatives? Do I have to use Canonical's repositories for my updates? Maybe I can switch to rpm or even portage-based package manager, do I still have an Ubuntu? It should be feasible to port Debian/FreeBSD to the Canonical platform, is it OK to use Ubuntu/FreeBSD system? In short, how much of Ubuntu can I leave in the system to be still considered a licensee?

    I also wonder whether smart lawyers at MPEG LA have answers to these questions. Or maybe they have no idea of what Linux is about.

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