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Greg K

MP3 License

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I know the Mp3 format is licensed but do you have to pay to use it? If I were to write a game that played Mp3''s is there anything I need to do (legally)? -Greg Koreman

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Yes, you need to license the format. For a game, they have a special flatrate of $2,500 per title (no per unit costs). For other application, it's minimum $50,000 per license. Look here for details.

I would recommend looking at the OGG/Vorbis format instead. It's better quality than MP3, and totally open and free, no license costs whatsoever involved.


[edited by - Yann L on November 4, 2002 9:17:43 PM]

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Guest Anonymous Poster
"No license fees are due if less than 5 000 copies of a particular game title are distributed"

So, If you actually are selling your game and sell over 5000 coppies I''d figure that you wouldnt have a problem coughing up the 2.5k. Otherwise your set for free

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quote:

-mp3 is free to use in games IF less than 5000 copies are distributed.


Correct. But only for games. And be very careful: if you create a freeware game and put it onto the net to download for everyone, then each download is counted as a distributed copy. If Thomson sues you, then you have to prove that no more than 5000 people ever downloaded your game (ie. you've already lost the lawsuit, before it even begins).

quote:

-mp3 is free to use in freely distributed products.


Incorrect. A common myth. That was the case until around a year ago. Thomson Multimedia (the MP3 patent holder) have changed their license agreements, and now a license is needed even for freeware products.

Oh, forgot to mention: all this is only applicable, if the country where you live in (and distribute your products) recognizes software patents. If not, you don't have to pay a cent, even if you sell millions of copies. But afaik, Canada recognizes them, so you're out of luck...

[edited by - Yann L on November 4, 2002 10:05:09 PM]

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I didn't realize that Thomson (no longer with the Multimedia suffix) owns the patent rights on MP3 technology. That is quite a surprise to me, since I work for one of their many divisions. A quick search found this site which should answer all your questions about what you can and can't use MP3's for. If I'm reading it correctly you cannot use MP3 without licensing even if using DirectShow but I could be wrong about that.

EDIT: Fixed link.

[edited by - jaxson on November 5, 2002 3:29:41 AM]

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quote:

If I''m reading it correctly you cannot use MP3 without licensing even if using DirectShow but I could be wrong about that.


Good question, there is no mention of DirectShow on their website. But quoting a part of their license overview:

mp3 patent-only license
This patent-only license is needed in case the mp3 software is developed in-house or licensed from a third party.
Decoder · US$ 0.75 per unit or US$ 50 000.00 one-time paid-up
Encoder / Codec · US$ 2.50 per unit


I guess that using DirectShow classifies as ''licensed from a third party'', and thus also requires the purchase of a license. Unless Microsoft has negotiated a special agreement with them, that grants a general license to all DirectShow developers. Although that seems a bit unrealistic to me, as Thomson would lose a huge amount of potential licensees. Someone should send them an email and ask them.

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quote:

Correct. But only for games. And be very careful: if you create a freeware game and put it onto the net to download for everyone, then each download is counted as a distributed copy. If Thomson sues you, then you have to prove that no more than 5000 people ever downloaded your game (ie. you''ve already lost the lawsuit, before it even begins).



Pardon my naive understanding of the law, but wouldn''t the burden of proof lie with the plaintif (e.g., Thomson would have to prove that at least 5000 people did download your game)?

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Yes, they would have to prove that, but if you posted it on cnet.com, it clearly shows how many people have downloaded it. They could also readily get a search warrant to search your server logs to find out how many downloads you had, given just cause. I would think just cause would constitute that they see 4,000 downloads somewhere, and you have it on 50 different websites.


Looking for an honest video game publisher? Visit www.gamethoughts.com

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Guest Anonymous Poster
quote:
Original post by Yann L
[quote]
If I''m reading it correctly you cannot use MP3 without licensing even if using DirectShow but I could be wrong about that.


Good question, there is no mention of DirectShow on their website.

From that FAQ:
quote:

I have my own/third party mp3 software. Do I need a license?

Yes. Use of our patents is not related to a specific implementation of encoders and decoders, which means that a license under our patents is needed.



DirectShow would qualify as a third party mp3 software implementation. Therefore you need a license to use the Thompson patents.

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quote:

Pardon my naive understanding of the law, but wouldn''t the burden of proof lie with the plaintif (e.g., Thomson would have to prove that at least 5000 people did download your game)?


Yes, of course. But proving that more than 5000 people downloaded something on the internet is not very hard (esp. with corporate lawyers...). 5000 people is nothing, if you put your code on popular freeware and shareware download sites. You OTOH, if you want to defend against the claim, would have to prove the opposite.

What can help a big deal (and should put you more or less on the safe side), is using shareware with a registration key. And unlock the mp3 relevant parts only if the user is registered. That way, you can keep track of the registrations, and that would also constitute a very good argument in court. Of course, you''d need to stop selling at 5000 copies (or purchase the license).

Oh, and btw, here again: the OGG/Vorbis format, license free, patent free, good.

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