Newsforge story on our MP3 plugin

has a story discussing our MP3 plugin.
The article do point out one item we in the GStreamer community have been discussing since long before Fluendo’s founding. The issue GPL, patents and non-GPL compatible code. Which is also the reason why after a lot of discussion and thinking the licensing advisory was written.

Anyway the article has a few misunderstandings, the first is the claim that any GPL application shipping with GStreamer would need the exception clause. This is not correct, only programs that would use the plugins need it. Which is why there is no need to add a clause to gnome-cd for instance.

One thing we often considered is adding some for of API to GStreamer which would allow applications to say something like ‘I don’t want to load a non-GPL compatible plugin’ and through that allow distributions to keep shipping GPL applications alongside non-free plugins(to be used by other apps). This would funnily enough be a DRM system meant to protect the integrity of the GPL. The problem with a simplistic model here is that a user is not violating the GPL by installing a non-GPL compatible plugin themselves, so you get the same problem as you get with a lot of other DRM systems, it would overreach. We have discussed other models of solving the issue by crosschecking betweeen vendor tags and licensing etc., but so far the issue has seemed to complicated and the uncertainty that a good solution can be found has kept anyone from implementing it. Personally I think this issue should be solved on the application licensing side, which it slowly is, and articles like the one on Newsforge do help make people aware of this issue.

Another misunderstanding in the article is that distributions would not be allowed to build the plugin themselves. This is wrong, our license do allow that. We have tried to style our distributor license towards being like a tapping license for Coca Cola. The MIT source code is our ‘secret recipie’ and by signing an agreement with us distributions are allowed to use the recipie together with our name and trademarks to produce a real ‘Fluendo GStreamer MP3 plugin’. Of course the difference with Coca Cola is that our recipie is really not that secret and others, like Sun are going to use it together with their own Thomson MP3 license to ship GStreamer mp3 support. That plugin would of course not be a ‘Fluendo GStreamer MP3 plugin’, but a ‘Sun GStreamer MP3 plugin’

But the article to make one good point and that is that distributions who wants to ship things like the Fluendo MP3 plugin (or any other non-GPL compatible plugin, like the Monkey’s Audio plugin for instance) would need to only ship those applications that have an added clause to their GPL license, like Totem. Or which uses a license that allows non-free plugins by default, like Banshee (MIT) or Jamboree (LGPL in CVS).

3 thoughts on “Newsforge story on our MP3 plugin

  1. The Linux kernel already has a system kind of like you describe (it allows symbols to be exported from the kernel so that they can only be used by GPLed modules).

  2. So, just to be clear on something: the code for the MP3 plugin is MIT licensed, with no additional restrictions, correct? Thus, anyone who decides that Thompson and software patents can take a flying leap is free to build and use your plugin themselves, just as anyone can go fetch and install LAME now, right?

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