MP3 patent issues?

Kenneth Burgener kenneth at
Wed Aug 3 13:16:34 MDT 2005

Michael Torrie wrote:
> I'll be honest here and say that I don't understand how this would be a
> problem.  I really don't. 
> If you have an mp3 requirement then you need to buy a licensed
> encoder/decoder package.  Pure and simple.  For you the content
> producer, there is no other choice.  This is business, as they say.

There is nothing simple about this issue at all.  Patents are NEVER 
simple, which is why I came here looking for good resources, and advice.

The first problem I noticed is that there are more then 1 group that 
holds patents on different parts of the MP3 encoding.  So just because 
you say you need a license, doesn't mean anything helpful as each group 
has their own sets of rules, licenses and royalties.

So if we get the wrong license from the wrong company we are still held 
liable if we didn't cover the other groups patents as well.  And from 
reading the patent laws, ignorance is never a workable excuse.  In fact 
ignorance gets you fined at one level, and willful violation is fined at 
a different level.

You assume that because it is in a business environment, then it is a 
requirement to buy a licensed encoder?  What if we are using the MP3 
encoding for in house use only, where no direct revenue will be made 
from it.  Does this fall under "personal use"?  If no revenue is being 
made does this fall under the non-business use case?

The next question to you is this, why do we need to use the "patented" 
MP3 encoder.  I may be completely wrong on this, but according to one 
site, LameMP3 does not use the ISO code for encoding.  If they use a 
different breed of encoding to come up with an MP3 file, is it a patent 
violation to use a competing algorithm?

The next question is, let's say that we do need to get a "licensed" and 
approved encoder.  Do we have to pay royalties on EVERY MP3 that we 
encode, or are the royalties for each MP3 covered with the encoder's 

As I said, it is NEVER simple when dealing with patents, nor the law for 
that matter.  I really am astonished that companies flourish at all with 
all the crap and legality that gets kicked at them.

I have sent an email to the primary patent holders looking for more 
information on this as well.  Hopefully they give me a straight answer.


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