Bug#522373: Please clarify on acceptance policy of packages containing mpeg related algorithms

Reinhard Tartler siretart at debian.org
Sun May 30 14:21:46 UTC 2010


This bug has now been left unanswered since *14* months now.  From
private discussion with two DPLs, a very short phone call at the
ftp-master meeting in October 2009 (without any concrete results), until
now I have *guessed* that that ftp-master was very concerned about
redistributing software using MPEG related software.

However, on 28. May 2010, ftp-master did ACCEPT the package libvpx in
the Debian archive.  This package includes software to decode *and* encode
google's new VP8 codec, as well as WEBM, a container format based on
matroska.  An analysis that shows that VP8 is very similar to h264 has
been published by Jason Garrett-Glaser, a primary x264 developer:


He explains detail his concerns why he thinks that VP8 is too similar to
be free of patent concerns. Quoting from this article:

| Finally, the problem of patents appears to be rearing its ugly head
| again. VP8 is simply way too similar to H.264: a pithy, if slightly
| inaccurate, description of VP8 would be “H.264 Baseline Profile with a
| better entropy coder”.   Even VC-1 differed more from H.264 than VP8
| does, and even VC-1 didn’t manage to escape the clutches of software
| patents.  It’s quite possible that VP8 has no patent issues, but until
| we get some hard evidence that VP8 is safe, I would be cautious. 
| Since Google is not indemnifying users of VP8 from patent lawsuits,
| this is even more of a potential problem.  Most importantly, Google
| has not released any justifications for why the various parts of VP8
| do not violate patents, as Sun did with their OMS standard: such
| information would certainly cut down on speculation and make it more
| clear what their position actually is.

And indeed, there is very strong indication that the MPEG LA intends to
create a patent pool for VP8 as well:


| JP: Let me ask you this: Are you creating a patent pool license for VP8
| and WebM? Have you been approached about creating one?
| Larry Horn: Yes, in view of the marketplace uncertainties regarding
| patent licensing needs for such technologies, there have been
| expressions of interest from the market urging us to facilitate
| formation of licenses that would address the market’s need for a
| convenient one-stop marketplace alternative to negotiating separate
| licenses with individual patent holders in accessing essential patent
| rights for VP8 as well as other codecs, and we are looking into the
| prospects of doing so.

The fact that libvpx has been accepted into Debian allows the following

 a) this package was accepted by mistake, or

 b) ftp-master does not see sufficient risk that the MPEG LA or other
    patent holders will demand money from Debian. (what for? Debian does
    not make any money from creating or (re)distributing this distro).

In case a), I expect the libvpx package to be removed from the archive
within a week.

In case b), this shows that the actual problem is not about patents at
all, but some political maneuver by ftp-masters to keep multimedia
software from FFmpeg/mplayer out of Debian by delaying and demotivating
developers and users who are very interested in seeing these packages in
the Debian community.

In case (again) this bug does not see any further official notice from
ftp-master, I feel myself urged to formally and publicly ask the DPL to
take a decision on this matter for his delegates.

Reinhard Tartler, KeyID 945348A4

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