Somebody might remember that last month I started a sort-of campaign about FAAD 2.5 licensing ; I haven’t commented on that anymore since the post right afterward that talked about Debian using a GPL-incompatible version .
What did happen in this month? Supposedly, Ahead received at least ten to twenty mails – unlikely to be enough to actually hear community voice; I was hoping my blog post could have been reproduced by other blogs too, but that wasn’t the case – but I haven’t seen any reaction on their site, nor any contact made to distributors who contacted them before.
Debian still ships FAAD 2.5.
Let’s see what the problems are then: there’s an unfortunately low community reaction to the problem, although I remember there was an higher reaction about xine not playing aacPlus streams in the past (lot of users on #amarok complaining at least); there has been little or no interest in trying to spread the word about the idea of writing Ahead to ask them to use sane licensing for their software; there is very little concern from Debian about licensing terms when they are not making a point that makes them feel “good”.
Creating Firefox, Seamonkey and Thunderbird clones made them in the news for several days; forking cdrtools also made a lot of noise, especially since now other distributions are taking part into their noise; but fixing a GPL incompatibility with one of their packages is not a problem, not even a stopper for release it seems…
The battle with Ahead seems lost, they don’t really give a crap about Free Software, they just want to be seen as they are good, while instead they just use evil licensing terms and disallow developers from using their library without paying them for a proprietary license.
What remains to do then? First of all, the only solution to get a free AAC decoder is hoping that FFmpeg developers complete their own with other profiles like HE (currently only LC, the one used by Apple iirc, s used); if you’re a coder, you might as well try to help them yourself — caution: Maalox highly suggested if you want to deal with FFmpeg developers. If you’re a coder, but don’t want to deal with FFmpeg developers, there’s also another alternative, that would be forking FAAD2, using only code that was released under true GPL, and starting improving it from there in the mean time; MPlayer developers have a pretty much patched version that might help.. and I’ll be glad to add support to xine-lib for a fork of faad2 that fixed the API troubles and started improving the code itself, as it’s a really big piece of crap, in my opinion.
Then, if you’re a Debian user, or know a Debian user, you might want to point them on this bug to remember them that not only famous software and troublesome developers have licenses that are no good for the final users. If you’re the author of a GPL-licensed package, that in Debian is linked to FAAD 2.5, you might even want to remember they are not entitled to redistribute your software that way — would be scary if they actually put it on CDs, too!
If you do think that Free Software is important, if you do think that respecting licenses is important, then please don’t try to use FAAD2 anyway, just “because you can”, instead pay attention to these kind of problems, and back away from the dark side.