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MS Buys Codecs from MS

[M]ark [S]huttleworth buys [M]icro[S]oft codecs for Ubuntu

The following observation came up in our IRC channel just a short while ago. It indicates that Ubuntu engaged in licensing of codecs from Microsoft.

<microsoft-spy> schestowitz: you are allowed, Ubuntu licensed Windows Media from Microsoft for Netbooks <jbh> I don't know anyone in CA <moparx> I'll never understand why a distro (or any foss developer for that matter) would purposefully taint themselves for some of microsoft's proprietary scraps. <schestowitz> Gah. Maybe that's why they don't allow downloads of it. <schestowitz> Software patents aren't even valid where Canonical is. <schestowitz> ms-spy, got a URL, please? <jbh> never even heard of netbooks before <microsoft-spy> schestowitz, how about ? <schestowitz> I believe this is important because given what I know I worry that MS (Mark S.) would do the same with MS for business 'enterprise' boxes. <microsoft-spy> schestowitz, MS does whatever benefits him, proprietary kernel parts etc <schestowitz> Which MS? <schestowitz> :-) <microsoft-spy> Shuttleworth <schestowitz> Well, that's very problematic because he enables Microsoft to control the price of Free software. <schestowitz> They already cross-licence with Apple, but they play by their own rules. <microsoft-spy> he just says "All the *applications* in Ubuntu are free software only." <schestowitz> Cross-licensing (pardon the typo above) is incompatible with the GPL. <schestowitz> Yes, but.. <microsoft-spy> so does not include drivers, firmware, codecs, ... <schestowitz> Just to be clear, the issue is not binary/FOSS, but gratis/taxed <schestowitz> This forbids redistribution, which is also why they don't permit downloads. It's like another Moonlight.

If you fail to see why this is bad, then consider looking back at the Red Hat 'extortion' story (more in this recent article about the 'codec incident'). Also recall what Novell did.

In order to defend such plots, Microsoft has been fighting for DMCA around the world -- essentially extending beyond the boundaries of the United States. Recently it was Canada that got targeted and in the news you find Red Hat's founder, Bob Young, entering the ring.

Lulu Inc. CEO Bob Young is a major voice in the open source software industry, but according to him the entire community has been unjustifiably ignored throughout the Canadian government's copyright reform initiatives.

Last year, the Conservative government vowed to adopt copyright laws which would make it illegal to modify or remove any device or software fitted with a technical protection measures (TPMs). After months of hearsay and numerous delays, the buzz on Parliament Hill now suggests a proposed copyright bill from Industry Minister Jim Prentice is imminent.

In the wake of these rumors -- which many industry activists have begun referring to as the Canadian version of the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) -- a new open source software alliance has added their name to the lengthy list of opposition to the Industry Minister's soon-to-be-unveiled legislation.

It's worth adding that Bob Young is pro-GPLv3 (video).

We wrote about this Microsoft lobby before. As some further relevant readings (external links), consider:

This is a dangerous precedence that Microsoft is setting and It's sad to see Canonical and Intel playing along. Nevertheless, it's not surprising given the nearness of Intel and Microsoft. In private, sources told us a few months ago that Mark Shuttleworth negotiated codecs with Microsoft.

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