Intellectual Property Plugins and GNOME

As many of you are probably aware, Fluendo is now selling licensed IP plugins for decoding the MP3 audio format and WindowsMedia audio/video
plugins are currently in beta-test.

While I think it is important to support free multimedia codecs
(ogg-vorbis, FLAC, Speex, Theora, etc.), I think it is also good that
the desktop has evolved with a free multimedia framework that allows
IP-encumbered plugins to be easily integrated with the desktop if
users wish to pay the associated licensing fees.

Here at Sun, we have been talking with Fluendo about licensing these
plugins.  As you can imagine, it is fairly expensive to acquire a
license that allows a vendor to freely ship these plugins (as opposed
to a per-use license).

They are especially expensive when one considers that many users use
UNIX in non-desktop environments and are likely not interested in the
plugins or paying for their bundled cost.  Even adding together all
UNIX-based distributions, it is still a very small segment of the
desktop market.

In our discussions with Fluendo, we asked them if an organization
like the GNOME Foundation could acquire a single license that could
be used for all GNOME users, regardless of distribution.  Christian
Schaller from Fluendo said that he thought that this should be possible
if it could be organized.  I am sure the details would need to be worked
out, but this might be something worth exploring so that GNOME
distributions can save money and end-users can have a more rich
experience.  Perhaps several distributions could contribute enough in
donations to the GNOME Foundation to support Fluendo in this way?

As an aside, I know that Real also offers WMA/WMV plugins that have
similar licensing fees.  Also, Real obviously supports their own
RealMedia formats.  So given the choice of paying a similar amount
of money to use GStreamer with WindowsMedia support or use Real
with both RealMedia and WindowsMedia support, I think it is likely
that organizations may well decide to support Real/Helix.

Perhaps Microsoft and Fluendo would find it interesting to work a
license with the GNOME community directly since WindowsMedia and
RealMedia are competing formats and otherwise it seems Real may be in
a good position to become a Linux multimedia standard.  Also, it seems
it would strengthen Microsoft's commitment to be fairly competitive if
they were to work out such an arrangement with an organization that
represents such a small percentage of desktop users.

Is this worth exploring?


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