MP3: licensing program is now finally expired

MP3 no longer subject to the licence. Such as the Fraunhofer Institute for integrated circuits IIS (Fraunhofer IIS) and its licensing partner Technicolor told have the license program now has finally expired. The note placed on the Fraunhofer page according to the program ended on 23 April. Greater attention is now after them was noticed by developers who were previously for many years forced to contend with rather complex and confusing terms and structures experiencing this fact.

 MP3 no longer subject to licence (graphic: Fraunhofer IIS)

already 2016 the phasing out of the licensing program announced itself in. In November got Fedora Workstation version 25 already support for the decoding of MP3 since encoding was inaccessible due to the problematic situation of license at that time yet. The situation was complicated not only by the variety of the relevant patents, but also by the fact that the patents in different countries had different runtimes. In the EU, all relevant patents have expired already 2012. With the end of patent protection in the United States, MP3 can be used now in fact free.

particularly open-source projects like Fedora suffered complicated licensing. Not only, because they are very transparent and were at the center of attention, but also because any use had to – fit also for their own license terms what not really was possible. Smaller, private-sector projects could only once generous to ignore the problem and decide if patentees reported, if they give up or whether the business is lucrative enough to make something.

MP3 is one of the great success stories of German technology in the IT era. In a brochure (PDF), the Fraunhofer Institute explains royalties from the MP3 patents totaled each year “on a high double-digit millions”. And the “accumulate induced tax revenues through MP3 for federal and State Governments on at least 300 million euros.”

 Jürgen Herre, Fraunhofer researchers Martin Dietz, Harald Popp, Ernst Eberlein, Karlheinz Brandenburg, Heinz Gerhäuser (from left) with her ASPEC-19-inch Studio units in 1991 (picture: Fraunhofer IIS) Jürgen Herre, Fraunhofer researchers Martin Dietz, Harald Popp, Ernst Eberlein, Karlheinz Brandenburg, Heinz Gerhäuser (from left) with her ASPEC-19-inch Studio units in 1991 (Figure : Fraunhofer IIS)

2006 received Karlheinz Brandenburg one of the fathers of MP3, for his work because the Federal cross of merit. He had already in 2003 the entertainment corporations called on the new technique prefer to take advantage of, rather than to fight them. Threats of the music industry against new-coming, many peer-to-peer platforms have prompted at that time. In October 2000 the German future Prize received Brandenburg and his colleague Harald Popp and Bernhard Grill for the development of the MP3 format by then Federal President Johannes Rau.

the idea of audio compression was developed at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. Also first fundamental work in this area were carried out there. In collaboration with the also in Erlangen, Germany-based Fraunhofer Institute for integrated circuits IIS, the procedure was then developed by a large team from 1987 which ultimately came into prominence as a MP3.

before barely ten years ago, in November 2007, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft founded a Foundation, the revenues should be used by MP3 license revenues for building new patents and know-how. It was equipped with an insert of “significantly more than 100 million euros” and is intended to provide approximately 10 million euros for various projects per year.

as basis for MP3 was the 1991 featured audio-coding method ASPEC (Adaptive spectral perceptual entropy coding). This in turn resulted in improvements to the previous version of OCF and with the help of contributions of the University of Hanover, as well as the research laboratories of AT & T and Thomson. Shortly thereafter Jürgen Herre, Martin Dietz, Harald Popp, Ernst Eberlein, Karlheinz Brandenburg and devices Heinz Gerhäuser thought for broadcasters, introduced originally slated for the reliable transmission of voice and music by means of ASPEC via ISDN.

until then, the station were forced to rent expensive and tightly-connected leased lines of Deutsche Post, to transmit programmes between studios. ASPEC encoding language and music in high quality at 64 KBit / s became possible, exactly of the transmission capacity of an ISDN channel. Radio FFN in Lower Saxony took advantage as the first customer. The station thus transferred each 20-minute program of six local studios in the Central Studio. With the change, he was able to reduce operating costs by 90 percent and reduced the Bill for transfer fees at the post office to around 500,000 DM per year.

until it for MP3 but then several years simply because the potential of the industry was not recognized, not could be used for the method in the mass market continued or not wanted to use it, because she wanted to go their own way. So reported the developer once an appearance at a technology fair in the United States, where they presented their audio codec because of the exhibits at the neighbouring stalls stalls – a chess computer and a cooler of beer – from the audience were largely ignored. Most of the time visitors are today have a chess computer nor a beer cooler, but very probably use MP3.

 the audio coding algorithms ASPEC (Adaptive spectral perceptual entropy coding) was introduced in 1991. It forms the basis of MP3 and was initially offered broadcasters as part of these devices (picture: Fraunhofer IIS) the audio coding algorithms ASPEC (Adaptive spectral perceptual entropy coding) was introduced in 1991. It forms the basis of MP3 and was initially offered broadcasters as part of these devices (picture: Fraunhofer IIS)

the breakthrough came with a supposed backlash: actually, the Fraunhofer Institute wanted to sell the he developed compression software via download over the Internet. As an Australian but bought the software with a stolen credit card number and download offered them free of charge, the subject had done. For this, the software was suddenly everywhere.

so it came that Christmas business in 1998 with the “Rio PMP300 Diamond” the world’s first MP3 player suitable for consumers was offered. In Germany joined in 2000 with the “Philips rush!” the first portable MP3 players on the market. He weighed 50 grams, 7 times 7 centimeters tall and 1.7 centimeters thick. With the pre-installed software RealJukebox, RealNetworks, users could create music, manage, and play. And they do today with MP3.

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