[theora-dev] theora.org website proposal

Aaron Colwell acolwell at real.com
Tue Feb 24 10:34:12 PST 2004

IANAL, but after talking with some people more familiar with the license 
here is my understanding of things.

On Mon, 23 Feb 2004, Arc Riley wrote:

> 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.

If you were downloading a source tar that had distribution libraries in it 
you'd need to agree to the Binary EULA. Apparently we haven't created 
source tars of only RPSL compatible code. Supposedly that should be 
available by Helix Player Milestone 3 which is in April. You don't have to 
wait that long if you just use CVS to access the source. The cvs 
permissions and such will prevent you from checking out code that is 
covered by a license that you have not agreed to.

> > 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.

Real does supply MP3, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, and H.263 in it's public source 
code. People are allowed to build and use this code for personal use 
and/or research only. They are not allowed to distribute a product with 
it unless the secure the appropriate IP rights.

Player binaries released off of the Helix site are allowed to include 
these codecs because RealNetworks has the IP rights to distribute these 
codecs. The EULA that covers those release are the same type of license 
that you have to agree to for most commercial software. It basically just 
states that the player is for your use only. 

Like I said earlier though, we are working on getting a RPSL player that 
can be distributed by anyone. Having Vorbis and Theora support in this 
player greatly increases it's usefulness, which is why I've been working 
on adding solid support for those codecs.

> 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".  

I think I answered this above. You can use the public code for personal 
purposes, but if you want to distribute you have to secure the appropriate 
IP distribution rights. The licenses can be viewed as an attempt to 
prevent users from accidentally breaking the law. 

By providing source to IP encumbered codecs, we can allow people to "try 
things out" before they go down the road of securing the IP distribution 
rights. It also provides great examples of how to integrate codecs into 
our system. Personally I would rather have examples that I know I couldn't 
distibute instead of not having access to the code just because it isn't 
compatible with GPL.

> > 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.

Once we have a RPSL only source tar this won't be an issue. It currently 
isn't an issue if you use CVS to get the code. 

We definitely do need to be much more explicit about what is covered by 
RPSL and what is covered by more restrictive licenses. Please bear with 


> --- >8 ----
> List archives:  http://www.xiph.org/archives/
> Ogg project homepage: http://www.xiph.org/ogg/
> To unsubscribe from this list, send a message to 'theora-dev-request at xiph.org'
> containing only the word 'unsubscribe' in the body.  No subject is needed.
> Unsubscribe messages sent to the list will be ignored/filtered.

<p>--- >8 ----
List archives:  http://www.xiph.org/archives/
Ogg project homepage: http://www.xiph.org/ogg/
To unsubscribe from this list, send a message to 'theora-dev-request at xiph.org'
containing only the word 'unsubscribe' in the body.  No subject is needed.
Unsubscribe messages sent to the list will be ignored/filtered.

More information about the Theora-dev mailing list