[kwlug-disc] Open Source intro handout

Chris Frey cdfrey at foursquare.net
Thu Apr 30 02:09:12 EDT 2009

On Wed, Apr 29, 2009 at 10:19:31PM -0700, Paul Nijjar wrote:
> > > Is MP3 and DVD playing/recording software legal?
> > 
> > Nowhere it says it is illegal. That's why they want to
> > pass bill 61.
> > 
> > > You can't play DVDs on Ubuntu without enabling
> > additional repositories
> > 
> > True but don't tell them they can't just don't
> > scare them, give them the facts.
> I'm not sure I know the facts, to tell you the truth. I guess I can
> trust you and reword the document to make DVD playing sound less
> illegal. 
> Am I at least correct in saying that it is a grey area in the U.S.? Or
> is it not grey because it is forbidden outright?

As for MP3, according to:

it says:

	Thomson Consumer Electronics claims to control MP3 licensing
	of the Layer 3 patents in many countries, including the United
	States, Japan, Canada and EU countries.[31] Thomson has been
	actively enforcing these patents.

This is the primary legal reason that MP3 is a problem for free distros,
to my knowledge.  As I understand it, the encoder is more problematic to
include than the decoder.

As for DVD playing, the legal problem there is the status of the DeCSS
code needed to crack the encryption on a DVD.  This code is basically
a DRM circumvention tool, running afoul of the US DMCA.  This law does
not yet exist in Canada (and hopefully never will), so playing DVDs in
Linux is legal in Canada, as far as I can tell.

In distros like Debian, the DeCSS code is separated into an independent
library, in plugin fashion, and distributed separately, for programs
like mplayer.

- Chris

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