[gst-devel] lame and mp3 licence

Sean McNamara smcnam at gmail.com
Thu Jun 3 16:06:57 CEST 2010


On Thu, Jun 3, 2010 at 9:20 AM, Vincent Meserette <vmeserette at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi all,
> I plan to use the lame gstreamer plugin to allow mp3 encoding in a
> commercial product that I develop.
> Does anyone know if I must buy a mp3 licence which will allow me to do that
> ?

By using the `lame' module of GStreamer, you must directly comply with
(at least) three licenses, and possibly also patent laws (which may
require you to purchase a patent license covering the MP3 patents in
any countries in which you sell your software; see below for the
patent stuff):

The GStreamer license:

The LAME license: http://lame.sourceforge.net/license.txt

As a side effect of LAME using mpglib, you'll also need to abide by
the mpglib license if you use lame for mpeg decoding. The version of
mpglib used internally by lame (unless this has been updated) was
licensed under the GPL, not the LGPL. That said, it is unclear to me
whether GStreamer even uses the decoding part of LAME at all. If you
only use the `lameenc' element through GStreamer, I don't think that
is using the relevant mpglib bits, although you might want to
investigate that more closely.

The link to the relevant patent info is here:

Generally speaking, mp3 decoding on Free Software platforms (i.e.
without an explicit MP3 license in your own name) has largely been
solved if you use Fluendo's free plugin from
http://www.fluendo.com/shop/product/fluendo-mp3-decoder . Read that
page for an explanation of why you do not need to buy a patent license
to use that software. But mp3 encoding is significantly more risky,
because the licensing organizations consider encoding (especially in
commercial software) to be a separate, juicy target for licensing
fees, and because no company has yet stepped up to pay the licensing
fees to allow a redistributable mp3 encoder. The way the licensors
work, they place a significantly higher monetary value on encoding,
which will be reflected in any price quotes you get from them. If you
plan your software to be extremely high impact (millions of licenses),
the chance of the MP3 patent licensors approaching you increases.

Of course, if you are not going to sell your software in countries
that recognize the MP3 patents, you are scot free. You can also elect
to take your chances and hope you stay under their radar, but IMHO
that is a risky foundation for a business, and immoral in at least
some sense; although software patents are bad, two wrongs don't make a

Since you are putting out a commercial project that will bring in
revenue, you can probably afford a lawyer, yes? While you have their
services, make sure you are complying with the licenses of the Free
Software you link against, such as GStreamer.

> Sorry, I searched on the web but I'm a little bit confused with these
> licensing problems.

The mp3 in Free Software issue (or, more generally, implementing
patented algorithms without licensing those patents) has been
discussed to death all over the internet. There are literally
thousands of articles on this from every point of view -- from the
purist "just use Ogg/Vorbis", to the defeatist "just license from
MPEG-LA", to the pragmatist "use Fluendo for decoding and pay for
encoding licenses", to the illegalist "use gst-plugins-ugly and ignore
the threats of legal action". And some people can ignore these issues
entirely because they live in a place where all this software patent
stuff is not part of their country's legal system. The issue is
significantly more complicated when you are distributing an mp3
encoder in binary form to a global audience.

The only way to be *completely sure* about what the right course of
action is for you -- depending on where you are, and where your
customers will be -- is to get a lawyer. You can read infinite amounts
of wise advice from other people, but unless they are providing you
official legal advice, it is just noise, and you should take it with a
grain of salt -- including the entirety of this message.


> Thanks in advance for your replies.
> Best regards
> --
> View this message in context: http://gstreamer-devel.966125.n4.nabble.com/lame-and-mp3-licence-tp2241643p2241643.html
> Sent from the GStreamer-devel mailing list archive at Nabble.com.
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> ThinkGeek and WIRED's GeekDad team up for the Ultimate
> GeekDad Father's Day Giveaway. ONE MASSIVE PRIZE to the
> lucky parental unit.  See the prize list and enter to win:
> http://p.sf.net/sfu/thinkgeek-promo
> _______________________________________________
> gstreamer-devel mailing list
> gstreamer-devel at lists.sourceforge.net
> https://lists.sourceforge.net/lists/listinfo/gstreamer-devel

More information about the gstreamer-devel mailing list