MP3 Licensing

From the MP3 Wiki:

The basic MP3 decoding and encoding technology is patent-free in the European Union, all patents having expired there. In the United States, the technology will be substantially patent-free on 31 December 2017 (see below). The majority of MP3 patents expired in the US between 2007 and 2015.

“In the past, many organizations have claimed ownership of patents related to MP3 decoding or encoding. These claims led to a number of legal threats and actions from a variety of sources. As a result, uncertainty about which patents must be licensed in order to create MP3 products without committing patent infringement in countries that allow software patents was a common feature of the early stages of adoption of the technology.

The initial near-complete MPEG-1 standard (parts 1, 2 and 3) was publicly available on 6 December 1991 as ISO CD 11172.In most countries, patents cannot be filed after prior art has been made public, and patents expire 20 years after the initial filing date, which can be up to 12 months later for filings in other countries. As a result, patents required to implement MP3 expired in most countries by December 2012, 21 years after the publication of ISO CD 11172.

An exception is the United States, where patents filed prior to 8 June 1995 expire 17 years after the publication date of the patent, but application extensions make it possible for a patent to issue much later than normally expected (see submarine patents). The various MP3-related patents expire on dates ranging from 2007 to 2017 in the U.S. Patents filed for anything disclosed in ISO CD 11172 a year or more after its publication are questionable. If only the known MP3 patents filed by December 1992 are considered, then MP3 decoding has been patent-free in the US since 22 September 2015 when U.S. Patent 5,812,672 expired which had a PCT filing in October 1992. If the longest-running patent mentioned in the aforementioned references is taken as a measure, then the MP3 technology will be patent-free in the United States on 30 December 2017 when U.S. Patent 5,703,999, held by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft[65] and administered by Technicolor), expires.”

So essentially MP3s are license free in most the world. There are some complicated rules surrounding the encoding and decoding of mp3s that still fall under patent controls, but even there most DH projects wouldn’t qualify “However, no license is needed for private, non-commercial activities (e.g., home-entertainment, receiving broadcasts and creating a personal music library), not generating revenue or other consideration of any kind or for entities with associated annual gross revenue less than US$ 100 000.00.”

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