Fluendo makes proprietary codecs available to Linux users

From the release:
In response to the growing demand for proprietary multimedia codecs on the open-source Linux platform, multimedia software development company Fluendo has released GStreamer codec plugins that provide native support for a variety of proprietary media formats. Available from Fluendo's web shop, several of the plugins facilitate encoding as well as playback. In order to provide these codecs without risking legal conflict, Fluendo has properly licensed the relevant patents on the various formats from their respective holders.
Currently, many Linux video applications facilitate Windows Media video playback using Windows DLL files and Wine, which provides suboptimal performance, particularly with streaming video. Additionally, proprietary codec support in many current open source media players potentially constitutes patent infringement. Fluendo's codecs could potentially provide better integration for streaming Windows Media playback in Linux web browsers as well as through GStreamer-based desktop applications like Totem. GStreamer, developed in part by Fluendo, is an increasingly popular open source multimedia editing and playback framework designed primarily for use on open source operating systems. “We have had these codecs in development for quite some time, to ensure they are of the highest quality possible and that all legal aspects are properly covered,” says Fluendo cofounder Pascal Pegaz, “By offering this drop-in solution we hope to increase the competitiveness of the GNU/Linux and Solaris platforms.”

Developer Christian Schaller also comments on his blog and elsewhere adds:
I see a lot of people confused about why we are releasing these codecs when there are things like the open source ffmpeg codecs etc. Our goal is not to provide the community with codecs which there is absolutely no support for already as that would be foolish. Our goal is to provide a 100% legal option which I know a lot of companies who have or want to deploy linux desktops have been looking for. These companies like open source, but they also have policies in place which hinders them from deploying solutions which have clear patent issues hanging over them in their country of operations. This is unfortunately the case with most multimedia codecs and even though we have spent a lot on resources on Xiph codecs here at Fluendo and are now working with BBC on Dirac there is still some way to go before the need for non-free codecs are gone.
So for those in a situation where they can freely use gst-ffmpeg and similar options, more power to you! For those who the lack of licensed codecs has been a hindrance or problem for adopting Linux (or Solaris) desktops at your company or institution or even private use, then we hope our plugins will be a good solution.

A few comments. I definitely agree that the current state of Linux multimedia is not acceptable long term. A quick blog search will bring up a number of posts on this topic. While part of the argument comes down to the “what do we want to give up” meme that I've consistently repeated recently, I'll approach this from a different angle for now. While I wish Fluendo a ton of luck on this endeavor and appreciate all the work they've done on GStreamer (which has come a long way), I'd be surprised if this is a significant success unless they get some OEM distribution uptake. Now, obviously that can't currently come in the gratis community releases, but that's fine – people are willing to pay for a working OS. Linspire has already gone this route and supports almost everything (from mp3 to wmv) right out of the box. While I've seen good reviews, I've not tried the product myself and haven't heard how successful commercially it's been. With an integrated solutions already available, I'm not sure people will be willing to spend $30 for a completely separated non-integrated product. The average user wants things to “just work”, and do so out of the box. So will distribution vendors come aboard? That remains to be seen. Like it or not at the main stream level we need to somehow deal with non-free codecs. While I am 100% fine going the mplayer/ugly/ffmpeg route personally, that is not an option for companies or aunt millie. I see this move by Fluendo as sort of a toe dip. If it gains enough traction with users and enough acceptance from the Open Source community, it will be a bit of an evolutionary step in the process. This is a complicated issue and I've left some of my opinion and ideas out of it for now – what do you think?
–jeremy
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