[theora-dev] theora.org website proposal

Arc Riley arc at xiph.org
Mon Feb 23 16:33:17 PST 2004

On Mon, Feb 23, 2004 at 04:15:15PM -0800, Aaron Colwell wrote:
> I am not a lawyer, but here is my understanding of how the license works.
> The binary license only covers the components that don't have public 
> source available. This includes the RealAudio and RealVideo codecs, RN's 
> proprietary RDT and PNM transport protocols, a few pieces of the RA & RV 
> renderers, and a few pieces of the .RM file format reader. The rule of 
> thumb is that if it requires distribution libraries to build the component 
> then it would be covered by the binary license.

In my attempting to download the source code for the player, I should 
not be asked to agree to this license if the license only covers 
binary-only components.  Binary components should not be included with 
the source code.
> I believe the binary license is just for protecting RealNetworks IP and 
> third party IP that RN doesn't have license to distribute in source form. 
> You can build a player that is not encumbered by this license. Perhaps we 
> should create a installer that only contains code that is publically 
> available. I'll make that suggestion to the player team. Vorbis, Theora, 
> MP3, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, and H.263 would be the main datatypes supported 
> in such a player. I'm sure there are others as well, but I can't remember 
> the all off the top of my head.

IANAL, but I don't believe MP3 playing is legal under the RPSL.  If it 
is, it would not be OSI-approved or copyleft, since the MP3 licensing 
terms only allow free-of-charge players.  This is incompatable with free 
(as in speech), or even open source, licenses.  

Kiddies who don't know any better distribute their MP3 decoders under 
the GPL all the time.  Companies, like Redhat, know better.  I would 
assume Real is smart enough not to distribute a MP3 decoder in their 
"public source".  I assume that some of the other codecs you mentioned 
are in a similar status.

But there is my concern.  Since I have read nothing about the RPSL other 
than from the Helix pages, and being not a lawyer myself, I do not 
understand the terms of the license enough to know if it allows patents 
to restrict the rights granted by the license.  The GPL, for instance, 
says that if a patent restricts distribution then it cannot be 
distributed at all.  This prevents, for instance, the MP3 people from 
saying "it's great that you have GPL'ed code, but if anyone charges to 
distribute it they better be paying us our royalties".  

> Helix is sort of a strange beast because most of the code is open to the 
> public, but other parts RealNetworks doesn't have the rights to 
> distribute or doesn't want to distribute. Instead of just 
> keeping everything private, RN decided to release most of the code to the 
> public so they could benefit and extend it. Just because parts of Helix
> are protected by more restrictive licenses doesn't mean that it isn't an
> "open source" project.

It needs to be modular, because IMHO if you have to agree to a 
proprietary license to download any of it, then none of it is free.
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