04.06.10

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Ubuntu Removes Codec Patent Trap, But What About Mono?

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Open XML, Patents, Ubuntu at 2:26 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Towed away

Summary: The AAC encoder is taken off Ubuntu repositories, but other, more troubling software stays, despite clear warnings from Microsoft

CANONICAL has begun cleaning up a bit around its repositories, but what about Mono and Moonlight? They pose similar problems. Jeremy Allison has suggested that Ubuntu should put Mono in the “restricted” repositories [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. Here is what Ubuntu does with the AAC encoder.

Problems with the licensing of the faac library could lead to it having to be removed from Ubuntu’s distribution or moved to the “restricted” repositories where license encumbered codecs are kept. Libfaac is used to encode audio into the AAC format, which is used alongside a range of video formats to provide a soundtrack.

We previously explained how Apple and Microsoft were promoting the use of proprietary codecs with a lot of software patents in them.

In other news that ought to matter, OOXML continues to suffer from software patents, with McKool Smith taking a leading role, sometimes as a front for patent trolls [1, 2, 3, 4].

The folks at Microsoft Corp. have to be more than a little ticked at Mike McKool and his law firm.

In the last year, McKool Smith PC has won nearly $400 million in two patent infringement victories against the Redmond, Wash., software giant. It just filed a third suit, hoping for more of the same.

Last week we wrote about Microsoft losing its chance to appeal in the i4i case [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12]. This is now being covered in many news sites, such as the following:

It is worth adding that Microsoft’s Marshall Phelps, who was among the engineers of the patent war against GNU/Linux and Free software, is joining the board of ipCapital Group, which seems like some form of a company that derives revenue from taxing the industry with intellectual monopolies and lawyer fees.

ipCapital Group, Inc. (ipcg.com), one of the nation’s leading intellectual property (IP) strategy consulting and licensing firms, is proud to announce that Marshall C. Phelps, Jr., former Corporate Vice President, Deputy General Counsel for Intellectual Property and Licensing at Microsoft, has joined the firm as a member of the Board of Directors. Mr. Phelps is a leading figure in the field of intellectual property management and execution and pioneered many of its foremost strategies to unprecedented results while leading IP business and related activities at IBM and Microsoft.

We wrote about the subject of Marshall Phelps in [1, 2, 3]. He wrote an entire book to defend Microsoft’s attack on GNU/Linux using software patents. To use a new example, here is how ridiculous the US patent system has become:

Redden told jurors that at first examiners rejected Ballard’s patent application, both on initial examination and at reexam, citing check-scanning technology dating back as far as 1981.

“So Mr. Ballard amended his application to add the idea of encryption, and he got his patent,” Redden said. Ballard’s patent survived the reexam, Redden added, because it had one additional feature—encrypting a two-digit ID number on the back of a check.

Apple is now suing Android/Linux [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] with Microsoft’s support [1, 2]. What about all the ideas Apple is taking from other companies?

Today I was at Williams Coffee Pub, eating a delicous bagel with garlic flavoured cream cheese and enjoying my coffee. I happened to stumble upon some interesting news around Apple and OpenPandora. The issue is over something called the “iControlPad” which was an add-on for the iPhone which made it easier to play games on the device. Apple decided it was a worthy enough invention that it decided to put a patent on it. That’s correct folks, Apple stole someone else’s invention (iControlPad.com). This isn’t news if you know about Xerox though ;)

Typical Apple. And Apple — like Microsoft — is now bullying its #1 competitor using software patents.

“We’ve always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”

Steve Jobs, Apple

“As long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours.”

Bill Gates

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6 Comments

  1. Needs Sunlight said,

    April 6, 2010 at 4:55 am

    Gravatar

    As desirable as removing WMV/WMA codecs would be, the H article only points to a bug report. Oh, wait, this report does not mention WMV or WMA, those are still there. It mentions MPEG, but that codec is still there.

    The Mono Guard is rather vehement about burying inconvenient bug reports.

    Solving the problem requires two actions, promoting open formats Ogg + Dirac, removing proprietary codecs from the main repository. While they are arguing with the Mono Guard and others over the latter, the former is easy to do and could even be done in collaboration with Mozilla or other projects.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I sometimes wonder about the relationship between Canonical and Mozilla after Ubuntu took their livelihood (search bar in 10.04).

    Needs Sunlight Reply:

    Didn’t that happen after they hired or made arrangements to hire Microsoft’s Matt Assay?

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    No, it was just before the announcement, AFAIK (maybe a week or so).

    Needs Sunlight Reply:

    That’s basically the same time frame… The announcement would come after a period of negotiation.

    All those years ago, did Matt ‘almost’ get hired the same way that Miguel ‘almost’ got hired? He’s sure kept in close contact with that group which no self-respecting individual would have any earthly reason to be in contact with.

  2. Dr. Roy Schestowitz said,

    April 6, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Gravatar

    The announcement would come after a period of negotiation.

    But there are others in Canonical, including ex-Softies.

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