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In the past I have wondered how LAME (not) encoder managed to become so popular and widely used when it seemed to be violating patents, the last of which expired in 2017. Now I know. This from http://lame.sourceforge.net/tech-FAQ.txt

 

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Does LAME use any MP3 patented technology? LAME, as the name says, is *not* an encoder. LAME is a development project which uses the open source model to improve MP3 technology. Many people believe that compiling this code and distributing an encoder which uses this code would violate some patents (in the US, Europe and Japan). However, *only* a patent lawyer is qualified to make this determination. The LAME project tries to avoid all these legal issues by only releasing source code, much like the ISO distributes MP3 "demonstration" source code. Source code is considered as speech, which may contain descriptions of patented technology. Descriptions of patents are in the public domain.

 

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