[XviD-devel] Re: License/legal discussions

Christoph Lampert chl at math.uni-bonn.de
Sat Dec 20 17:39:53 CET 2003

On Sat, 20 Dec 2003, Christian HJ Wiesner wrote:
> the patent situation, as charact3r was pointing out also, does only 
> apply to the using of them, not to 'unusable' sourcecode. As long as you 
> dont release binaries, you are completely on the safe side here. So, 
> there is absolutley nothing wrong about XviD using GPL, as long as you 
> dont release binaries. However, it would be a wise thing to point out to 
> people compiling th sources for their use, that they might be violating 
> other existing software patents by doing so, as you are doing already IIRC.

The point is not if the copyright holders ("we") are permitted to
distribute XviD source. Also, it's about _using_ XviD. Both has nothing to
do with GPL. The problem is whether anyone, home user, commercial or
whatever, is allowed to modify and redistribute XviD. That's what GPL
usually permits, under certain conditions. 
But, if you read GPL closely (which maybe we didn't in the beginning), it
says that you are not allowed to redistribute, if the code contains any 
patented algorithms unless they are free to everybody. 
So, if XviD contains any patented ideas which cost license fees anywhere
in the world (which is most likely, considering XviD is MPEG4) then nobody
is allowed to redistribute. The copyright holders could sue any person
in the world for breach of copyright who offers XviD as download, no
matter if source or binary. 

This is of course ridiculous, why claiming something to be
redistributable under GPL, if at the same time, GPL forbids distribution
to anybody? So, the whole thing is a flaw in our choice of license, 
nothing more. We _wanted_ to allow redistribution, but we didn't. 
A while ago, we added the geographic restriction for get around this,
but that's not very safe, because we don't really _know_ where the patents
exist and where they don't. In the second where a patent is granted
outside the excluded countries, whole license breaks down again.

It's of course the same for other projects (like MP3 stuff), but they
don't seem to care.


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