Thursday, January 31, 2008

Debian and mplayer FAQ

This is just my attempt to explain the current situation. Please contact Andrea Mennucci directly with package questions. The latest version of this FAQ (or a pointer to it) should be at It was announced to debian-legal on 2005-04-20 .

Is mplayer in debian?


Why not?

There were problems with copyright and patents (according to this summary of the history ).

What were the problems and how have they been resolved?

  1. code without copyright notices: mplayer team did a licence audit and noted which files have what copyright
  2. CSS code: mplayer uses libmpdvdkit2 which includes libdvdcss and libdvdread. The debian package doesn’t have that, but is linked against the libdvdread3 package and uses libdvdcss if you happen to have it installed (according to Diego Biurrun)
  3. libfaad2 code: this is almost identical to libfaad code in xine-lib (from Apr 2005)
  4. remaining questionable-licence code in the upstream tarball is removed to make the debian orig tarball by debian/rules
(from debian-legal Feb 2005 threads unless marked) And what about patent problems? It looks like – at worst – mplayer as packaged now would introduce no new patent problems to debian. If you know otherwise, or can work on the patent problems shared by other packages, please act!

What is the current situation?

A fresh copy has been uploaded and awaits ftpmaster review in the NEW queue. Jeroen van Wolffelaar reviewed it on debian-devel .

What is ftpmaster review and how long does it take?

See Matthew Garrett’s description of ftpmastering . The NEW queue summary suggests it could take up to 3 months.

If mplayer is so free, so why is it sooooo darn difficult to have it in Debian???

One theory: mplayer.deb seems to be a “tinderbox” – Anyone who has prolongued exposure to it gets frustrated by the legal grey areas and its history, so they start flaming innocent bystanders for being wary. This writes new chapters of bad history and “dries the tinder” more. Users and other developers are wary of mplayer because of this history, so probably treat it differently to other packages, increasing the frustration of the developer and thereby helping to start the flames. Sometimes they try to be kind while being wary, which makes the flames hurt more. (From this list post )

How can I help?

Work on software patents if you can. Please review the package if you have time, especially looking for problems like those which stopped it before. Please watch debian-devel-announce or debian-devel-changes for developments. Please don’t flame anyone.

Where can I download the current package for review?

Direct from the packager at his mplayer download area .

Where should I send comments and questions about the package?

Ask the packager first, or debian-legal for licensing questions if you prefer.

Where should I send improvements for this page?

Email me with comments or patches to the bare html, please.

19 January 2006, MJR

So far, some patches from Ken

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