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Canonical Explains Decision to License H.264 For Ubuntu 372

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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  • by armanox ( 826486 ) <> on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:00PM (#32117260) Homepage Journal
    Reading the article and linked articles points out that this only applies purchased copies of Ubuntu and not the downloaded version that everyone seems to adore.
  • HOW? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:03PM (#32117304)

    Since TFS is so suckily misleading, I actually RTFA this time. Everybody's been saying it's legally impossible for Mozilla to license H.264 for Firefox, because MPEG LA requires a limit on the number of installs or something. Of course since Ubuntu is freely distributable, all the same arguments would apply. So WTF?

    But it turns out this doesn't mean licensing the codec for the installs we end users make from the ISOs we've downloaded and burned or anything. It's about offering OEMs the option of licensing it for preinstalled copies of Ubuntu.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:03PM (#32117306)

    introduce gNewSense [] as a fully free alternative to the NONSENSICAL non-free alternatives.

    Yours In Novy Urengoy,
    K. Trout

  • Re:WHY? (Score:4, Informative)

    by AvitarX ( 172628 ) <`gro.derdnuheniwydnarb' `ta' `em'> on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:11PM (#32117408) Journal

    I'm pretty sure they didn't display it because they made changes to it and mozilla said "this ain't our firefox"

    Since then they changed it to mozilla's firefox with ubuntu extensions installed.

  • by olden ( 772043 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:21PM (#32117512)

    Please mod parent up; so far this seems the only informed comment on this thread (sigh).
    Link to TFA: []

  • by kidjan ( 844535 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:43PM (#32117774) Journal
    First of all, H264 is not a "closed-source..codec"--this is complete nonsense. The standard itself is completely published and documented, and there is nothing stopping open source projects from creating H264 encoder and decoders. And have they ever--hands down, the best H264 encoder implementation today is x264, which is licensed under the GPL. The patent issue is totally separate, but let's not conflate "patented" with "open source." The real issue with H264 is who will pay royalties for the patents. For Windows 7 and OSX, MSFT and APPL pay those royalties. In the case of Ubuntu, it makes it easier for commercial entities to distribute Ubuntu if they know royalties and licensing fees are already being handled. So to be honest, this just makes Ubuntu an easier sell to PC manufacturers because they aren't liable for royalty costs or hidden "gotchas"
  • Re:Good thing (Score:5, Informative)

    by init100 ( 915886 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:52PM (#32117922)

    or demand them to add some Russian repositories in the apt-get config file so they can get unlicensed, pirated versions of those and break the law.

    Unless the term piracy now also includes patent infringement those codecs aren't pirated. They are simply illegal to distribute in the United States because the US allows software patents, and the software is covered by such US patents. The codecs in questions are perfectly legal in any country where software is not patentable.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2010 @06:54PM (#32118842)

    > Well over 99% of computers in use today cannot play Theora over the web.

    Um, what? I thought Firefox's market share was way above 1%.

  • by unix1 ( 1667411 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @07:10PM (#32119132)

    it's an open standard with open source encoders

    I don't know what definition of "open source" you are using or what you think it means in your mind, but that's not a generally accepted definition.

    I'm not going to cite hardline FSF views. Instead have a look at generally considered "pragmatic" OSI []:

    Open source doesn't just mean access to the source code. The distribution terms of open-source software must comply with the following criteria:
    1. Free Redistribution

    The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale.

    So, yes - open source does mean you need to be able to freely redistribute the source, otherwise what's the point?

    If you go down that road, you'd be able to convince yourself that MS Windows is "open source" too since MS has given the Windows source code to some governments and biggest customers. They just can't redistribute it or make it public.

  • by bad_sheep ( 186776 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @07:13PM (#32119178) Homepage

    Don't forget to add Opera, Chrome... I don't even talk about applets such as Cortado or plugins (VLC...) !

    Actually, on the desktop side, I would say h264 is less present than theora. Obvisously, this is not the case in the embedded world.

  • by roca ( 43122 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @08:01PM (#32119796) Homepage

    Many phones can in fact "hardware accelerate" Theora and other codecs. See for example []

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

    by dunng808 ( 448849 ) <> on Thursday May 06, 2010 @08:42PM (#32120270) Journal

    True, but in practice many FOSS folk use "open source" to include "patent and royalty free." And, just to be clear, an open source program can, according to a few well placed people, infringe upon patents.

  • by Tacvek ( 948259 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @09:02PM (#32120512) Journal

    Ah, but there is a damn good chance your phone does have the hardware needed for hardwae support of VP8 and Theora. Most mobile devices supporting hardware acceleration are using a general purpose DSP, which should be able to accelerate those other codecs too. All that is lacking is software support for the acceleration.

    For example every mobile device using a TI OMAP2 or OMAP3 system-on-a-chip has no h264-specific core but do have either a TMS320C55x DSP or an IVA2 or IVA2+ core. Those later cores can be use to accelerate any form of modern video decompression.

    Thus, much of the market is a lot less invested in H.264 than you would think.

  • by SgtChaireBourne ( 457691 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @11:39PM (#32121896) Homepage

    You liars are annoying. H.264 is still a closed standard and it does not matter how many Microsoft Partners tell you that closed is open or that open means "buy our stuff". H.264 fails on points 2, 3, and 4 of the formal definition of open standard:

    1. The standard is adopted and will be maintained by a not-for-profit organization, and its ongoing development occurs on the basis of an open decision-making procedure available to all interested parties (consensus or majority decision etc.).
    2. The standard has been published and the standard specification document is available either freely or at a nominal charge. It must be permissible to all to copy, distribute and use it for no fee or at a nominal fee.
    3. The relevant copyright and patents for the standard are made irrevocably available on a royalty-free basis.
    4. There are no constraints on the re-use of the standard

    Canonical is free to re-sell proprietary standards, but let's not pretend that helping establish vendor lock-in was or is a goal of Free and Open Source Software. Oh, wait, Canonical is not re-selling H.264 except for the OEM editions. The rest of you are still on the hook for the bill because it is merely a distributor. I notice that the enGadget article on H.264 patents [] leaves out the price for the third category obligated to pay under patent law: the user. GIF should have been a lesson about software patents.

    Obviously the Microsoft Party and its members have problems with the above definition and seek to disparage it and the process itself. Keeping the second version of the European Interoperability Framework [] clean, free from M$ damage, takes work.

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

    by tehcyder ( 746570 ) on Friday May 07, 2010 @05:22AM (#32123884) Journal

    IIRC, posts modded Funny does not give any karma bonus.

    No, but if you're lucky someone mods a joke as +1 informative

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Friday May 07, 2010 @12:21PM (#32128444) Homepage Journal

    H.264 is not "closed source",

    Irrelevant. It would be a straw man if people didn't keep saying that H.264 was undesirable because it's closed source. It's not; there's no source, it's a standard. It is not, however, an open standard because you must pay to receive the full standards (it costs money just to download a competent summary of the standard, in fact) and it must be licensed to be used, and that is the antithesis of an open standard.

Loose bits sink chips.