Ubuntu and Multimedia Patents: An Introduction

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Ubuntu

If you’re like me, you don’t put much thought into where your multimedia codecs come from: you run a quick “apt-get install gstreamer-plugins-ugly” on new installs and move on to more important things. But not everyone’s like me, and as Ubuntu moves increasingly into government and the workplace, patent and licensing issues are becoming more and more important for many Ubuntu users.

Linux and patents

The Linux community has a long history of shirking restrictive software patents and licenses, which should not surprise anyone. After all, at the core of the free-software movement is repulsion at the notion of having to abide by terms that users may not agree with in order to use their computers. Many people use Linux because they want to live a life unencumbered by software patents.

Reality, however, rarely lives up to perfection. Although many Ubuntu users would like to be able to rely only on software licensed under the GPL, a large number of us have to use proprietary code. From closed-source video drivers to “binary blobs” in the Linux kernel, non-GPL software is often a pragmatic necessity for getting the most out of a machine.

Why multimedia is different