Feeds

Canonical explains Ubuntu unfree video choice

License to distribute

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Ubuntu's commercial sponsor Canonical has tried to clarify how - if not why - it has licensed a closed-source and patented codec for video on PCs running its Linux.

Canonical is the first Linux shop to have agreed to license the codec in question, H.264 from MPEG LA. Even though Red Hat and Novell are also available for use on PCs, they have not licensed H.264.

Canonical inferred here that PC manufacturers that engage with its OEM services unit have the right to gain coverage for the company's license of H.264.

OEMs work with Canonical to tune Ubuntu to their hardware, for things like fast start-ups or to work with specific graphics drivers.

The H reported that Canonical director of business development Chris Kenyon said it has licenses to redistribute other open- and closed-source software, too. "Like Adobe Flash, Adobe Acrobat, Fluendo, RealPlayer, DVD players and other proprietary software, we have a direct re-distribution agreement for H.264," Kenyon said.

That doesn't mean, though, that all PCs with Ubuntu pre-installed are covered by Canonical's H.264 license. "The vendor may have opted not to include it", Kenyon said, as the PC maker decides what additional software and codecs they want included on the machine.

The H continued that the issue: "is further complicated by some components (like DVD drives) coming with codec and software licences pre-bundled."

Apparently you, the consumer, have no way of telling what codecs are included on the machine, unless the manufacturer has called them out - something that'll miff open sourcers. Canonical has apparently tried to do right by the community, and "explored setting some minimum requirements for codecs, but this is not something that we presently do."

Licensing of codecs is a thorny subject that's as difficult to navigate for those building and implementing systems as it is for open sourcers like Canonical who've had to bite the bullet and swallow a piece of software that goes against their open-source creed.

Kenyon didn't say "why" Canonical licensed H.264. And in a way, he didn't have to.

As I wrote in my original article that revealed Canonical's H.264 license, it's the price of doing business for companies like Canonical that might support open and free alternatives to H.264 such as Ogg Theora, but that also want to serve the mass consumer market. That's a market where billions of devices play video using H.264 because it's seen by media companies as being both ubiquitous - so video plays anywhere - and safe, in terms of technical reliability and patents.

Unfortunately for the industry, it's a handful of technology companies that have built H.264 that are also promoting it as safe and reliable. Those companies include Microsoft and Apple, which are delivering either video players in their software or actual video content through services like iTunes that'll run on those billions of device in the marketplace. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Google+ goes TITSUP. But WHO knew? How long? Anyone ... Hello ...
Wobbly Gmail, Contacts, Calendar on the other hand ...
Preview redux: Microsoft ships new Windows 10 build with 7,000 changes
Latest bleeding-edge bits borrow Action Center from Windows Phone
Microsoft promises Windows 10 will mean two-factor auth for all
Sneak peek at security features Redmond's baking into new OS
Google opens Inbox – email for people too thick to handle email
Print this article out and give it to someone tech-y if you get stuck
UNIX greybeards threaten Debian fork over systemd plan
'Veteran Unix Admins' fear desktop emphasis is betraying open source
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
Redmond top man Satya Nadella: 'Microsoft LOVES Linux'
Open-source 'love' fairly runneth over at cloud event
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.