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August 18, 2009

Fedora Software Patents FAQ

Filed under: Blog — krkhan @ 8:48 pm

Going through the Planet Fedora feed, I spotted this excellent write-up which tries to explain Fedora-related patent questions such as “why the $*#@ won’t Red Hat give us MP3 playback support“. I would be straight-down lying if I said that the article offered nothing new to me. In fact, some answers, such as this one … :

Patent licenses are usually granted via payment of royalty based on the number of users. Since Fedora is free and open source software, the effective number of users is essentially unrestricted. Patent holders are generally unwilling to give a blanket patent license for unlimited use, and the royalty payments for these licenses would be too high to purchase them outright. Proprietary operating systems like Microsoft Windows include the cost of the patent license as part of the product being sold to the end users. Fedora is not sold commercially, so there is no way to recoup these substantial expenses. Even assuming funds are available to do so, licenses such as the GPL require a written patent grant (in regions where software patents are enforced) compatible with royalty free distribution and modification. Since meeting this requirement effectively nullifies the effect of a patent, patent holders are also generally unwilling to do this.

… clarified in my mind a few long-held confusions about Fedora’s reluctance regarding patent infringement. For the general user, RPM Fusion works around all that crap; but a read of the linked FAQ is recommended nevertheless for having an idea about the issues inherently involved with seemingly simple tasks such as playing DVDs.

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