[XviD-devel] License/legal discussions

Jan Rychter jan at rychter.com
Thu Dec 4 18:19:52 CET 2003

While the responses I've received didn't directly adress my question, I
guess they let me conclude that this is the appropriate forum for
discussing legal issues related to XviD...

>>>>> "Christoph" == Christoph Lampert <chl at math.uni-bonn.de>:
 Christoph> On Tue, 2 Dec 2003, charact3r wrote:
 > My company has enhanced XviD and we'd like to work out a solution as
 > to how we can distribute it. We'd prefer not to go the Sigma Designs
 > way, that's why I'm asking.
 >> [...] The copyright angle...
 >> (GPL paraphrased) You must distribute the source code of your xvid
 >> enhancements to anyone who receives your binary.  Easy.

 Christoph> Not really the right phrases.

 Christoph> Thing is: If you used XVID as basis for own development and
 Christoph> you want to distribute the result, you have to do so under
 Christoph> GPL. Only providing the source isn't enough, it has to be
 Christoph> with GPL license!

Yes, that is correct and I am very well aware of that.

The problem we're facing is what one person called the "copyright
angle", although I find this name misleading. I call it the "patent

Section 7 of the GPL in conjunction with the MPEG-4 patents basically
prohibits distribution of XviD in any form by anyone except its authors
(and even that is a grey area). I'm trying to find out if there is a
solution to that.

I'd like to immediately answer some of the sarcastic comments by saying

  -- our strategy is not to sell XviD and make money on that,
  -- our products will do very well without XviD too,
  -- we're not trying to find a way to hide the sources and still sell
     the stuff.

In general, please don't treat us as ripoffs just because we want to use
XviD in a commercial setting.

 Christoph> P.S. Just curious: What did you enhance?

We have ported XviD to a DSP microprocessor (from Texas
Instruments). That normally takes a lot of optimization work. The result
is that you can run XviD on a small set-top box (hackable and soon to be
available in retail) with no moving parts, very low power consumption
and good performance.

We currently use XviD for demos and it works quite well indeed.

We're trying to work out whether there is a way for us to distribute
that code to our (future) users. Mind you, the "give away the source"
issue is not a problem, so I'd like not to discuss that at all. We're
willing to give away the code. The real problem is that the way I
understand it now, the only way to distribute XviD is directly from the
authors to the end-users. People who package and/or redistribute XviD in
any form are violating the GPL.

The only way around that is (as far as I can tell) to 1) contribute all
our changes to the main code base and 2) tell our users to download and
compile the code themselves. Obviously this will not work for anyone
except programmers, and even for them it will be a major task, as
they'll have to have a complete DSP toolchain installed.

Would the authors be willing to either dual-license the code or change
the license to one that does not include the "anti-patent" restriction?
There are many licenses that could be used, guaranteeing that the code
will remain free (in the GPL "pass the source" sense), while not totally
blocking redistribution.

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