MP3 patent issues?

Michael Torrie torriem at
Wed Aug 3 12:32:11 MDT 2005

On Wed, 2005-08-03 at 11:40 -0600, Lonnie Olson wrote:
> On Aug 3, 2005, at 10:46 AM, Kenneth Burgener wrote:
> > How about if I take a WAV file, encode it with LameMP3 and send it  
> > to a client?  Would this violate the MP3 patent?
> The patent and licensing problems only affect the developers of  
> encoders and decoders.  In this description it is not you who are the  
> violator, but the developers of LameMP3 who are the violators.

This is simply not correct, unless Thompson has said so in writing.
Patents do apply to the end user in the case of software.  This is one
of the problems with software patents in general.  The use and
production of software is blurred, since it is your computer that is
actually running the patented algorithm.  And in theory you could
negotiate an encoder license with them and apply that license to LAME to
make its use legal.

> You only need to be concerned if you develop an encoder/decoder for  
> commercial use.

Don't fall into this trap when dealing with software patents.  This
certainly is a minefield.

> Note: Just because it is open-source doesn't mean it is non- 
> commercial.  RedHat won't distribute MP3 tools because that is  
> commercial use, distributing MP3 encoders/decoders.
> After all is said and done, the end-user doesn't need to worry about  
> getting sued.  Just the developers and distributers.  Now you can  
> worry about them getting sued, and no longer having a great encoder/ 
> decoder.  :(
> --lonnie
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Michael Torrie <torriem at>

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