August 27, 2002
2:56 PM   Subscribe

More good mp3 news. Thomson Multimedia is now requiring patent payments for MP3 decoders as well as encoders.
posted by alan (23 comments total)
This means anyone who makes an MP3 player (nullsoft and winamp for example) needs to fork over money if they want to continue to distribute their software. I assume this effects the makers of MP3 players as well (like Rio and the iPod). P2P apps that let you stream audio as it downloads could also be hit.

It could even go so far as effecting things like flash movies that use mp3s for their audio, but I'm not a patent lawyer and I haven't looked at the flash EULA in a while.
posted by alan at 2:58 PM on August 27, 2002

Why aren't software such as winamp and simpleMP3 grandfathered in? Any lawyers want to explain how "hitting them up when they're successful" is legal?
posted by geoff. at 3:09 PM on August 27, 2002

Time to go here:
posted by Dillenger69 at 3:12 PM on August 27, 2002


MP3 has been, since the beginning, a patented technology. There's nothing to grandfather. Up to this point, the patent owners made a strategic decision and allowed freeware MP3 players and development tools to use the decoding technology royalty free. Now they've decided to charge for it.

When you own a patent, you can do anything you want with it for the life of the patent.
posted by alan at 3:23 PM on August 27, 2002

Didn't someone try to do this with GIFs at one time? And didn't we all just flip them off? What happened to the good old days?
posted by ZachsMind at 3:30 PM on August 27, 2002

I call it sabotage. The reason it's so ubiquitous is precisely because it's free.

You can't give something away, then once everyone has it, ask to be paid for it. It's completely unethical.
posted by zanpo at 3:32 PM on August 27, 2002

does anyne know what Winamp's response wil be to this?
posted by signal at 3:32 PM on August 27, 2002

Zach, that was CompuServe (Unisys) and we did flip them off, but image programs like Adobe and Fireworks paid up and we in turn paid the software developers.
posted by perplexed at 4:10 PM on August 27, 2002

For what it's worth, there was ALWAYS a charge on making MP3 decorders. Decoders for personal use were previously exempted and with the latest revision that exemption has been lifted to the tune of $0.75 per decoder. Collection is a different issue, presumably Nullsoft/Sonique/etc. would be charged.

The real pity is, MP3->OGG transcoding doesn't work so well because you're moving from one lossy format to another lossy format - comes out sounding pretty poorly. It's not as noticeable at higher bitrates but personally I can still tell.

None of this, presumably, applies outside of the US (Germany as well perhaps?)

Re: GIFS - I like the odd animation on the web. Anyone know the status of MNG (multiframe version of PNG) support in the major browsers?
posted by Ryvar at 4:14 PM on August 27, 2002

Welcome to patent law - they have a monopoly, they can do what they want with it. It is a bit strange - the general trend of MPEG is to make decoders free then charge all you can for encoders. Guess they couldn't pass up the opportunity. Maybe they're trying to driive more interest in MP3Pro?

Note that licensing is $0.75/decoder with a minimum of $15k/year. So much for small distributors! The other option is a one time $50k fee; I imagine that will be more palatable to folks like WinAmp.
posted by Nelson at 4:22 PM on August 27, 2002

Anyone know the status of MNG (multiframe version of PNG) support in the major browsers?

Test your browser for MNG support. It appears to me that Mozilla 1.1 (released yesterday) on Win98 is missing chromacity and ICC support, but all the other features are there. IE 6.0 doesn't appear to support the format at all.
posted by hilker at 4:37 PM on August 27, 2002

I will say that I, for one, enjoy watching the small developer being continually locked out more and more by large companies and interests. I think this trend can only help to ensure that our software comes from trusted sources and thus help us in our fight against terrorism and all who wouldst betray mom, apple pie, Elvis, the Church, and the WWF.

And people complain about the lack of innovation in software? Why did we always assume that when the evil robots took over, they'd be physical incarnations of inhumanity instead of abstract conglomerations of said?
posted by Ryvar at 4:42 PM on August 27, 2002

You can't give something away, then once everyone has it, ask to be paid for it.

Tell that to Gillette ("give away the razors and sell the blades"), drug dealers, or the hundreds of formerly free Web services that are now trying to survive by charging customers.

I don't think that companies like AOL Time Warner (which owns Nullsoft, the makers of WinAmp) will have any trouble affording the $50,000 one-time fee. Small developers will be squeezed out, but they've got a pretty good royalty-free alternative in Ogg Vorbis.

I think Thomson's aggressive use of the patent will help Ogg considerably, just as the Unisys GIF royalty threats helped PNG.
posted by rcade at 6:02 PM on August 27, 2002

hellooo, Ogg Vorbis
posted by Fupped Duck at 6:51 PM on August 27, 2002

This is good news, actually, at least I think so. MP3 was useful, but Ogg is much better; you get much better sound for the same level of compression. Given the choice between a mediocre format you have to pay for, and a better format that's free, what do think will happen?

Re: MNG - it looks like only Mozilla and Konqueror support MNG, and even they don't support the entire spec. Here's a list of apps with MNG support.
posted by RylandDotNet at 7:49 PM on August 27, 2002

Has anyone thought about the repercussions of no freeware mp3 players. Sure everyone will be able to get there hands one a name-brand player but this gives the aria and other imposing bodies the power the control want is played as well as what is ripped.

If everyone was forced to use, say, Winamp, there is an obvious point of control (and Im sure it will be exploited).
posted by Dr_Octavius at 8:03 PM on August 27, 2002

RIAA not aria.......Im retarded.
posted by Dr_Octavius at 8:12 PM on August 27, 2002

I'm confused: is this actually news? This March 6 '02 Salon article doesn't seem to differentiate between decoder and encoder and I can't find any press releases, either.
posted by Sinner at 8:36 PM on August 27, 2002

This is not a new story, as it has been mentioned. They have to enforce it, (received a message, but no follow up)which has not been done in the past. But it does stop the creative people from developing any more MP3 solutions. You can not get around it by using the LAME dll either. Just let your consumer download the needed files from a foreign server, and your hands are clean.
An interesting page, that I did not notice before was the streaming radio section.
Streaming fees - Looks like they are trying to be like ASCAP BMI as well. If you stream MP3's you now have to pay The artists twice (once through ASCAP, once through CARP), the record labels thourgh CARP, and now Thompson multimedia.
Welcome to the Clear Channel Nation.
Forget about MP3 or MP3 pro, use RealAudio, WMA or OGG
posted by imlit at 8:58 PM on August 27, 2002

Imlit: Entities with revenue less than $100,000.00 are exempted from licensing fees for streaming MP3s.
posted by rcade at 10:41 PM on August 27, 2002

imit: this IS news. MP3 decoders for personal use were exempt. They are no longer. As far as Nullsoft is concerned, this just means a $50K one-time fee. For small developers, this means you no longer write mp3 decoders. For open source, this means no mp3 decoders.
posted by Ryvar at 7:10 AM on August 28, 2002

If anyone's still reading, I can say uneqivocally that there is no story here.
posted by Sinner at 12:03 PM on August 28, 2002

I can also say it uneqUivocally.
posted by Sinner at 12:03 PM on August 28, 2002

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