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MP3 royalty assurances are worthless – Vorbis author

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Claim and counter-claim continue to muddy the waters around the issue of MP3 player royalties.

In an email, Ogg Vorbis author Christopher Montgomery angrily castigated The Register and NewsForge for taking Thomson's assurances at face value, and insisted the licensing terms posted a threat to developers. The removal of explicit exemptions put free software players at risk of decoder fees, he insisted:

"The published license does not match this claim," he writes. "When the legalese doesn't match the press releases, you have to believe the legalese. Honestly, I expect Thomson to rectify the inconsistency according to their claims. However, that inconsistency clearly exists today, and it *is* a big deal."

Montgomery, who works for the Xiph.org Foundation, which develops the royalty-free MP3 rival, denies raising the decoder royalties as a publicity stunt,

"We had nothing to do with the Slashdot brouhaha. I was in the middle of a vacation running sound in a Sondheim show when it broke. The letter Emmett [Plant - CEO of Xiph and former Slashdotter] Ogg Vorbis posted was a *response* to the scare," he told us.

Red Hat and Sun Microsystems dropped MP3 decoding from their offerings last week; with Sun removing MP3 encoding and decoding from
version 2.1.1b of the Java Media Framework, explaining "If and when licensing issues can be resolved, we plan to return MP3 functionality back to JMF."

While Thomson insists there's been no change in policy - and you have to ask "since when?" - developers will continue to be concerned unless the software exemption for ""freely distributed software decoders" is made explicit.

Thomson might not have changed its policy practice, but it's given itself the leverage to do so in the future. ®

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