Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Music Patents Technology IT

MP3 Is Not Dead, It's Finally Free (marco.org) 415

The commentary around IIS Fraunhofer and Technicolor terminating their MP3 licensing program for certain MP3 related patents and software has been amusing. While some are interpreting this development as the demise of the MP3 format, others are cheering about MP3s finally being free. Developer and commentator Marco Arment tries to prevail sense: MP3 is no less alive now than it was last month or will be next year -- the last known MP3 patents have simply expired. So while there's a debate to be had -- in a moment -- about whether MP3 should still be used today, Fraunhofer's announcement has nothing to do with that, and is simply the ending of its patent-licensing program (because the patents have all expired) and a suggestion that we move to a newer, still-patented format. MP3 is supported by everything, everywhere, and is now patent-free. There has never been another audio format as widely supported as MP3, it's good enough for almost anything, and now, over twenty years since it took the world by storm, it's finally free.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

MP3 Is Not Dead, It's Finally Free

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 16, 2017 @10:03AM (#54425997)
    accumulated over decades of life in MP3 format. I'm not going to abandon it anytime soon. Just isn't going to happen.
    • What they want is that you abandon MP3 format in favor of DRM rigged formats, like MPEG4. MPEG2 layer 3 (MP3) does not have this "feature" built-in. This way they can control what your are allowed to listen to.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )
        I abandoned MP3s in favor of lossless formats long ago. Funny thing, all of mine are DRM free.
    • You could always convert them to AAC, because it's a superior CODEC and your songs will sound better at the same bitrate!

  • DRM (Score:5, Funny)

    by Big Hairy Ian ( 1155547 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2017 @10:04AM (#54426007)
    Please tell me the DRM is still patented
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2017 @10:05AM (#54426019)
    >> MP3 is not dead

    Er...why would it be? This is how music is stored, shared and played for the most part, isn't it?

    >> a suggestion that we move to a newer, still-patented format

    I don't believe that Ogg Vorbis is patented. That's the next logical place to move, isn't it?
    • Context: There have been a number of articles over the past few days claiming MP3 is dead (and usually 'incidentally' citing AAC as being the 'superior' 'de facto' 'standard' now - AAC incidentally still being patent-encumbered, and for which Fraunhofer still extract licensing fees) ... in other words, FUD claims have been issued to the media, seemingly to try 'scare' people off MP3 by claiming it's "dead" (when in fact it's now completely open), and trying to steer people toward AAC. I'm going to speculate

  • It's technically superior so why not?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by arth1 ( 260657 )

      It's technically superior so why not?

      Because with today's storage capacities and transfer speeds, the benefits of lossy audio compression over lossless are negligible.
      Whether I fill up 2% of my drive with lossy audio or 4% with lossless isn't making much of a difference. Knowing that it's lossy does make a difference, even when I can't hear a difference.

      Also, my DAWs don't work with the "technically superior" Ogg/Vorbis...

      • My phone has 128 GB of storage. I have 21 GB of Ogg/Vorbis files on it, considering it's still approximately 11 to 1, like MP3, just better quality afterward I think I'll stick with lossy.

      • by Khyber ( 864651 )

        Dude, EVERY PIECE OF MUSIC IS LOSSY.

        Why? One word - equalization.

        Things were already removed or added in order to achieve that sound.

        • Dude, EVERY PIECE OF MUSIC IS LOSSY.

          Why? One word - equalization.

          Things were already removed or added in order to achieve that sound.

          That's not really what it means though is it? You could take that and say every sound is lossy because your ears don't pick up anything close to the full spectrum.

          • The differences between analog processing and FFT processing involving acoustical masking are entirely different.
            • Yeah but my point was more that lossy/lossless only really comes in after the production has been done. In a conversion sense at least. You can't really lose bits they haven't given you in the first place.
        • by arth1 ( 260657 )

          You just don't understand what lossy means in a compression context, it seems.
          If you compress it and then uncompress it, and the result is not bit-for-bit identical, it's a lossy compression.

      • by damaki ( 997243 )
        Same here, I used to care about disk space and transcoded quality, so I was using wavpack lossy 8 years ago. Now that huge hard drives are dirt cheap, I mostly use FLAC, because it is bulletproof and verifiable (embedded hash). I got hundreds of gigabytes of music (and their backups) and could not care less :)
        For mobile usage on Android, opus is currently my golden standard.
        • by arth1 ( 260657 )

          For mobile usage on Android, opus is currently my golden standard.

          You could use FLAC there too. Foobar 2000 has an Android version now, and it works pretty well. A 128 GB card mostly filled with FLACs gives me more hours of music than I know what to do with, and if I need more, I can copy it in the background while playing something else.

          • by damaki ( 997243 )
            I got about 100 GB of music on my mobile phone, a micro sdxc card mostly dedicated to music. Using FLAC is clearly not an option ;)
            I just love having my entire music collection at hand. I do not want to have to choose a subset of my music collection.
    • It's technically superior so why not?

      Why not ?
      Because the same developpers - Xiph - this time working in tandem with Skype - brought OPUS to you.
      And that one busts nearly everyone else in ABX tests, is considered a IETF web standrad, and thus supported by most browsers and used by several on-line voice-chat apps (Skype, WhatsApp, etc.), there are even informal tools to support it inside Digital Radio Mondial (the digital cousin of AM radio), etc.

      It's thus very likely to be supported by your smartphone (e.g.: recent versions of android do play

    • Unluckily my car infotainment and my HiFi don't support it. Only my smartphone.
    • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2017 @12:51PM (#54427307)

      Everything is superior to MP3. Vorbis, Opus, AAC, ATRAC, even (ugh) WMA. Because MP3 is simply dated.

      But sometimes dated works. It's universally supported. Every device, every platform, from PCs to doorbells. The same reason GIF and JPEG still stick around, when there are superior alternatives now.

  • by EndlessNameless ( 673105 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2017 @10:10AM (#54426065)

    So apparently some people are incapable of understanding basic legalities or doing basic research before publishing.

    While some are interpreting this development as the demise of the MP3 format

    We can safely blacklist anyone who ran a story where this was presented as a fact or even a likelihood. Until something better takes the world by storm, the patent expiration will only help the format become more widely available.

    Nice chance to see where there is more noise than signal though.

    • Actually there are tons of articles out there on the internet right now by sources who should know better who are saying that nobody is going to support MP3 any more. One guy I work with has seen so much of this that he felt the need to personally respond to it on Facebook. No, MP3 is not dead or never going to be supported again, but that hasn't stopped people from saying that anyway.
    • At the same time it mp3 really is dying. avi was great while it lasted. And mp3 might be good enough, but it is inferior in every way to modern formats. Yes, their is loads of stuff floating around their in mp3, but everything new is in a better more modern format. In that way mp3 days years ago.

      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        And mp3 might be good enough, but it is inferior in every way to modern formats.

        "Every way"? If you have many listeners on iPod, iPhone, or iPad, MP3 is superior to Vorbis and Opus because Apple refuses to add support for Vorbis or Opus to iOS. MP3 is superior to the AAC-based M4A because MP3 is no longer encumbered by patents.

    • OPUS (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DrYak ( 748999 )

      Until something better takes the world by storm, the patent expiration will only help the format become more widely available.

      Let me intoduce your to this thing called OPUS.
      (It's also by Xiph, the people behind Vorbis, but this time in collaboration with Skype).

      It's patent-free, it's free.
      it's accepted as a IETF web-standard, it's supported by web browser.
      it's already used by lots of voice chat application (Skype - obviously - but also e.g.: WhatsApp)
      your smartphone probably already supports it (if it's a recent enough version of android).
      there are even informal standards to use it in Digital Radio Mondial (the digital cousin of A

  • by wardrich86 ( 4092007 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2017 @10:18AM (#54426141)
    Never understood why, in a time of .ogg files, MP3 was always the defacto format. Ogg was free, and had better a far better compression:quality ratio. The fact that MP3 was ever popular is mindblowing. Glad to hear it's finally free, though.
    • by crow ( 16139 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2017 @10:31AM (#54426275) Homepage Journal

      Compatibility.

      I can play MP3 files in both my cars, my phone, our iPad, you name it. It's natively supported by everything out there. Ogg, not so much.

      Even in cases where Ogg might work, I know MP3 works, so why bother checking? Why should I rip my CDs to a format that might not work everywhere?

      Is it better? Sure, there are technical aspects that are better, but should I care? Storage is so cheap, so a 320kbps MP3 is as good as the original for me. Where's the motivation to even see if another format works?

    • Because they weren't better enough to prompt a mass switch over. MP3 was basically free at the point of use anyway, was widely supported and most stuff was already in it with good enough quality most people can't tell the difference between a decent mp3 and a cd. Why switch?
    • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2017 @10:50AM (#54426433)

      Never understood why, in a time of .ogg files, MP3 was always the defacto format.

      It's because OGG didn't always exist dummy! By the time OGG showed up, MP3 was already everywhere. I may be showing my age but perhaps you are too young to remember the days of MP3.

    • Because it was universally supported (because it came first) and worked well enough for the application. OGG is a obscure format that most people in the general public has never heard of.

    • by Daetrin ( 576516 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2017 @11:30AM (#54426749)
      I'm guessing you're relatively new here, as in on Earth, because for those of us who grew up through it it's pretty obvious.

      Reason 1: First mover advantage. Mp3 was initially released in 1993. Serious work on Ogg Vorbis didn't start until 1998, the format was frozen in 2000, and the first stable release was in 2002. So mp3 had 7-9 years to build up a lead. Which led to...

      Reason 2: Network effect. Quite literally, in this case, because the birth of mp3 went hand in hand with the birth of the internet, and very quickly the rise of mp3 sharing sites and applications, Napster most prominent among them. So for a significant portion of that early period mp3s were getting shared all over the place leading to early adopters quickly accumulating relatively large libraries, which led to...

      Reason 3: Vendor lock-in. So now you have a library of thousands of mp3s, you're going to want a media player that can play all the files you already have. Getting one that can even play Ogg Vorbis wasn't even an option for most people until 2002, and for a long time after that it wasn't trivial to get a player with Ogg Vorbis support. And a lot of people didn't want to switch away from a player that they were familiar with that could play all their current files to some new player so they could take advantage of another format as well. And for at least some people they didn't want to bother with the hassle of having to keep two sets of files organized. Unless you want to argue that people should have replaced all the older mp3s with ogg vorbis files, which would be difficult, time-consuming, and probably expensive for most people, and thus even more of a vendor lock-in.

      Now all of these are issues that might have been overcome if Ogg Vorbis was superior in _every_ way, but there was this one other issue...

      Reason 4: File size. Everyone talks about how space is cheap these days. Well that wasn't always the case. For many people their music collection was expanding rapidly at a time where space to store it was much harder/more expensive to come by. Perhaps the compression has improved since the early days, but when Ogg Vorbis first started making waves i checked it out, and the ogg files at the time were almost ten times the size of the equivalent mp3 files. Meaning my 75-80 GB of mp3s would have forced me to upgrade to a 1 TB drive, which would have been prohibitively expensive in 2005. And the other issue i ran into while testing the new format was...

      Reason 5: Most people aren't audiophiles. Most of the time i couldn't tell the difference between an ogg file and an mp3 with a decent bitrate. And even when i can tell the difference... i don't really care. Being able to hear tiny differences when comparing small segments side by side does not lead to me enjoying the lower quality version any less when listening to it in isolation. So the cost of "upgrading" to ogg would be huge, in time, money, and hard drive space, and as a non-audiophile the benefit would be minuscule.
      • by Curupira ( 1899458 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2017 @02:02PM (#54427939)

        Reason 4: File size. Everyone talks about how space is cheap these days. Well that wasn't always the case. For many people their music collection was expanding rapidly at a time where space to store it was much harder/more expensive to come by. Perhaps the compression has improved since the early days, but when Ogg Vorbis first started making waves i checked it out, and the ogg files at the time were almost ten times the size of the equivalent mp3 files. Meaning my 75-80 GB of mp3s would have forced me to upgrade to a 1 TB drive, which would have been prohibitively expensive in 2005. And the other issue i ran into while testing the new format was...

        Aren't you confusing OGG Vorbis with FLAC? I've lived the same period of time and heck no, Vorbis files never were 10x larger than MP3 files.

  • "There has never been another audio format as widely supported as MP3"

    I think WAV might have the lock on this one.
    • by djbckr ( 673156 )

      "There has never been another audio format as widely supported as MP3" I think WAV might have the lock on this one.

      I think you are partly right. MP3 is most widely supported as a distribution medium for sure. WAV is used mostly locally where size/transmission speed isn't as much of a factor.

    • by djinn6 ( 1868030 )
      I wouldn't be so sure about that. There are lots of devices out there that are made specifically for MP3 playback. They might not even support a second audio format.
  • As someone who is wading into video encoding for the first time I'd love it if my first step in development was not to talk to lawyers about codec patents and licensing.
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Well, patents expire exactly the same so soon you'll be able to use MPEG2. Realistically if you want patent-free, use VP9. If you want to license, go H.264/HEVC. If you want to develop, well probably nobody cares until you make money. The world is full of obscure formats, for example many have tried to replace JPG and failed. Not much reason to try a shakedown until there's more than pocket lint.

    • AOMedia's AV-1 is attempting to be exactly that but for video.

      A codec that is either patent free or whose patent are free.
      Free code implementation.
      supported by nearly anyone involved in video, including content providers (includes both Google and Netflix, so a sizeable portion of all video played), software makes (Mozilla, VLC, etc.) and hardware manufacturer (AMD, Intel, Broadcom, ARM, etc.)

      And there are quite a few big developpers involved :
      - Xiph (makers of Daala), Google (VP10) and Cisco (thor)

      It's goin

  • In that I don't collect files with MP3 extensions any longer.

    Those days are past, now I collect my audio with video attached. Space isn't an issue and I might want to watch something while I listen (and every device I have has a screen...) and I can ignore it if I don't.

    I haven't bothered to check, but I assume the audio component of those videos could still be using the MP3 standard.

  • by waveclaw ( 43274 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2017 @10:53AM (#54426453) Homepage Journal

    The lack of patent encumbered algorithms in MP3 means two things:

    1. 1. The MP3 gstreamer codecs can move from the non-free repositories to free for Linux distributions. So no more complaints from software like Amarok about missing MP3 support libraries on your Linux desktops. That's one less step to setup Mint, Ubuntu, Fedora or openSuse. Even though there are plenty of reasons (CAD software, WMA support, etc) to seek out the non-official or non-free package sources I expect less use.
    2. 2. Corporate users will be able to download, integrate and use the MP3 format in their projects with only a cursory approval from legal. I used to see quite a few video game projects use .ogg files and fmod [fmod.com] for their sound. I expect to see more of them ship with MP3s instead.

    Audio snobs won't stop arguing about the format of the week [audiophileon.com] or FLAC verses DSD or the best bit rates on PCM encoded WAV files.

    Mere consumers shall continue on with our plebeian fidelity sound as always.

    Online buyers will continue to download low bit rate MP3s to squeeze a few more hundred tunes onto their Zune [bustle.com]. Everyone you know will still play studio damaged music [slashdot.org] through tiny earbuds [reddit.com].

    • by sl3xd ( 111641 )

      Can we please ignore the lunatic ravings of the audiophiles? I'm tired of lunatic ravings by goons claiming they have hearing better than the rest of the animal kingdom combined, and lack the most basic understanding of how signals work.

    • by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples&gmail,com> on Tuesday May 16, 2017 @12:12PM (#54427053) Homepage Journal

      I used to see quite a few video game projects use .ogg files [...] . I expect to see more of them ship with MP3s instead.

      Unlike a web application, a PC-native video game doesn't have to rely on codecs built into the user's existing operating system. Thus the codec choice depends on licensing and rate-distortion efficiency. Yes, I expect games to switch away from Vorbis, but not to MP3 because MP3 is less space-efficient than Vorbis at a given fidelity level. They'll probably switch to Opus, which beats both MP3 and Vorbis at fidelity per bit.

  • ... increase the upper limit on acceptable bitrates to more than 320kbps. While the 320kbps bitrate sounds quite good, even in an A/B comparison to Apple's highly touted lossy AAC, allowing MP3 files to use higher bit rates would a nice intermediate alternative to moving to something like FLAC lossless.
  • What?? You mean I have to buy the White Album again?
  • Long life to ogg!
  • by Sir Holo ( 531007 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2017 @11:47AM (#54426889)

    This is an example of how the Patent system should work.

    Fraunhofer invented something good. They Patented it. Patents last 20 years, after which they expire forever.

    Fraunhofer enjoyed the monopoly on use of this technology, but only for a short time. Now, the Public owns it (it is in the public domain).

    • This is an example of how the Patent system should work.

      What a popular format encumbered and thus prevented from being included in the most basic of applications even 15 years after many alternatives were released and the purpose of its original inception (lack of disk space) is gone?

      There's nothing wrong with patents. There is something VERY wrong with a patent on a mathematical algorithm in a fast paced field such as technology lasting TWENTY BLOODY YEARS.

When it is not necessary to make a decision, it is necessary not to make a decision.

Working...