While I too think it's better to have low quality over black by default, it really is an US issue. Why should people outside have low quality by default, when they can legally get the better one?
A Linux distribution not based in the USA, and which is not sold in the USA for profit, has no reason to follow US laws.
Problem is, though, that many major distributions ARE based in the USA, and thus MUST follow US laws. Listing the ones from the distrowatch.com top list:
Ubuntu (UK, but makes profit in the USA)
Red Hat, Fedora (Raleigh, NC, USA)
Suse (Provo, UT, USA)
Debian (France, but is a widespread distro and has major download servers in the USA, possibly can risk losing them, probably better not)
Mandriva (France, but makes profit in the USA)
Linux Mint (Ireland, possibly could risk it)
PCLinuxOS (Houston, TX, USA)
Slackware (Herndon, VA, USA)
Gentoo (doesn't have to care, they just make download and compile scripts and shift the problem to the user)
CentOS (Belgium, probably could do it, but they normally don't make their own packages but just rebuild RHEL ones)
FreeBSD (doesn't have to care MUCH, they can opt to not redistribute it like Gentoo by simply disabling package creation for it in the ports) (BTW: I know this isn't Linux, and number eleven but distrowatch lists it in the "top ten", so do I)
Among these, only Linux Mint, Gentoo and FreeBSD are likely to include US patent infringing code, all others would face a severe risk if doing so.
I am just explaining the motivation between US based software developers to follow US legislation, as it apparently isn't clear to some people here.
It does suck that a bad situation in the USA makes things worse in all other countries too that way. Not denying that. And in fact, I am quite glad that some important projects - that surely DO violate US patents, and lots of them - exist and are managed outside the USA (for example, ffmpeg/libav, mplayer, vlc).
But either we ban all US developers from free software development, or we will have to live with them not wanting to risk their financial status for a feature in an open source project. Because anyone who redistributes patent using code in the USA needs a license for doing so. This even includes non-US-based Linux distributions, once they sell their product in the USA.
One solution BTW could be if Ubuntu started to make two download distributions - one for law-abiding US citizens, and one for everyone else. From the USA, Ubuntu's download site would then only offer the (possibly) "patent-free" S2TC support, while from other countries it would provide the ISO with full S3TC support.
However, in Ubuntu's special case, I wonder why they don't simply license the technology from S3. They do pay licenses for some audio and video codecs, after all, so apparently they have the money for patent licenses.
The author of Mesa, Brian Paul lives in Steamboat Springs, CO, USA. If he makes Mesa violate US patents, this can cost him his (financial) existence.
You are free to fork Mesa outside the USA, and add S3TC functionality, though.
He would not be guilty of it. After all, there would be a US flag.
And so long he is not implenting it himself either, he is not in risk of being sued.
Now, by adding the flag, the ball gets pushed down to the distroes instead, meaning a US disto without the US flag could get sued.
On the other hand: I doubt the actual patent would stand in court, if it was not bought in the first place.
The world is not US and there should be a compilation flag for US users.
They talked about adding a compilation flag for S3TC when they added the patented floating point texture support. The consensus on the mailing list was that leaving it as a plugin was far better for everyone involved, as you could add and remove support at runtime without forcing a recompile. There were a lot of people in favor of that capability. The only reason the FP stuff wasn't done the same way was because it can't be separated out a cleanly as a texture format can be.
And really, I can see their point. What needs to happen is to have the distros allow easy installation of the plugin, like they do for patent encumbered media support, for example.
Last edited by smitty3268; 07-19-2011 at 09:03 AM.