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Innovation

Are Ubuntu users covered by H.264 license? It depends

Canonical is listed as a licensee of H.264 from MPEG LA, the patent pool which licenses out the codec patents, but does this mean that Ubuntu users are covered by this license? The confusing answer is: it depends.

Canonical is listed as a licensee of H.264 from MPEG LA, the patent pool which licenses out the codec patents, but does this mean that Ubuntu users are covered by this license? The confusing answer is - it depends.

Canonical's Chris Kenyon, who handles OEM services, talks to The H and highlights just what a mess the whole licensing issue has become.

If a user downloads Ubuntu and installs it themselves, then as Ubuntu is free software, no MPEG-LA license is included.

Good news for those who download Ubuntu - you're covered, and the MPEG LA aren't going to be kicking your door down.

But ...

Where the H.264 licence comes into play, says Kenyon, is if a device has been bought with Ubuntu pre-installed. OEM's have the option when using Canonical's OEM services to obtain the rights to include products and licenses for a number of proprietary packages.

...

However, this doesn't mean that if the Ubuntu operating system is pre-installed by the OEM, that it necessarily has a H.264 licence; the vendor may have opted not to include it.

Uh-oh ...

So, the situation that those purchasing Ubuntu-based machines find themselves in is that unless the system comes shipped with H.264 support, then it's unlikely that the system is licensed, which technically means that adding that support later would be unlicensed.

It's unlikely that the MPEG LA would come kicking your door down as a home user, but as a business user this puts you in an awkward position.

Basically, the licensing is a mess.

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