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TIGSource ForumsDeveloperBusinessMP3 licensing
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Timeworks
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« on: August 23, 2008, 04:51:11 AM »

As far as I know, there is a licensing cost for mp3 playing applications, isn't there? So, basically, when I make a game which uses mp3 files for its music, would I have to pay for every copy of the game that is downloaded? Because of course that completely rules out mp3 for a freeware game. Or are there any specific regulations for free software? How do you people handle this?

I'm aware of the OGG alternative, but I'd still like to know what exactly the deal is with mp3. Most music still comes as mp3, and I don't like transcoding. Plus I'd also like players to be able to swap in their own music if they like.
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qubodup
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« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2008, 05:04:12 AM »

To my knowledge, which is very limited on this issue, you have to pay a fee if you produce a device which plays mp3. But for some reason many Linux distributions didn't have mp3 support a while a go. Perhaps there was a lack of a free implementation though so it might be unrelated.

Anyways, the best way to get into the material appears to be reading Wikipedia's article on that issue.
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Eclipse
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« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2008, 10:29:35 AM »

support ogg vorbis and say fuck off mp3  Wink
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« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2008, 01:06:17 PM »

Hmm... I would assume that you'd only have to pay a licensing fee if you made money off of your game, but I really don't know anything about this topic. But yeah, just use ogg. I've heard that you can get away with using lower bitrates with little loss in quality when compared to MP3.

http://www.fmod.org/index.php/sales
It says there that you can use FMOD (a music playback library) for free if your product is non-commercial.
« Last Edit: August 23, 2008, 01:10:42 PM by jonny » Logged
mewse
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« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2008, 01:37:23 PM »

This is the link you want:

http://www.mp3licensing.com/royalty/games.html


It's a US $2500 patent license per game title, regardless of number of platforms that title is made for.  Or no charge, if fewer than 5,000 copies are distributed across all platforms.  And you don't get an exception from that if your game is free.


So yeah.  Go Ogg Vorbis instead.  Files are smaller, sound quality is better, Audacity support is better, and oh yeah, it's free.  Smiley
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jonny
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« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2008, 03:25:08 PM »

Are you sure you don't get an exception if the game is free? That seems a little ridiculous.
« Last Edit: August 23, 2008, 03:32:42 PM by jonny » Logged
JammingJim
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« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2008, 12:23:39 AM »

Are you sure you don't get an exception if the game is free? That seems a little ridiculous.

Not from what I've been told and read up on about it. So yeah use .ogg instead, even commercial games do sometimes(when they have someone smart in the publishing side of things). There are hard to distinguish sound quality wise - but .ogg is the slighty better compression-to-quality wise. All info you need is here:

http://www.vorbis.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ogg

.ogg is much better than .mp3 in game dev, especially for indies imho.
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ஒழுக்கின்மை
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« Reply #7 on: August 24, 2008, 02:56:02 AM »

I use .ogg and recommend it to all. Compression level 3 is usually good, anything less than that and it begins to sound scratchy.

And yes, there's no exception if your game is free for the .mp3 license. It's number of downloads only, and many freeware games exceed 5000 downloads.
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qubodup
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« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2008, 07:06:56 AM »

support ogg vorbis and say fuck off mp3  Wink
I agree to that. Smiley

Many thanks for the info!
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jonny
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« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2008, 07:22:41 AM »

Damn... well, then thank god for ogg vorbis.  Smiley
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soundofjw
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« Reply #10 on: August 24, 2008, 11:27:13 AM »

Ogg Vorbis is arguably better quality for your byte, too, I hear (;
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Timeworks
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« Reply #11 on: August 24, 2008, 12:20:15 PM »

People, yes, as I said I know about Vorbis, and I know it's the technically superior format. There are still reasons I'd want to support mp3, basically because it's still much more widely used than Vorbis. Most of the music you can obtain online to use in a game is in mp3. To use it with OGG Vorbis, you first have to transcode, and you always lose quality in such an operation, even if Vorbis produces better results than mp3 if both work off the same source material.

But, this unfortunate licensing situation is really nothing short of ridiculous, so I'll go OGG anyway.
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Thorst
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« Reply #12 on: August 24, 2008, 09:27:53 PM »

What if your game plays mp3s by accessing the mp3 playing software that is included with the OS, as opposed to implementing an mp3 player into the game?
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Ciardhubh
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« Reply #13 on: August 25, 2008, 12:55:14 AM »

What if your game plays mp3s by accessing the mp3 playing software that is included with the OS, as opposed to implementing an mp3 player into the game?

Calling an OS program for a certain filetype is unreliable and complicated in my experience. Depending on your language, you'll have to deal with multiple operating systems. Even if you are only dealing with Windows, there is no way to guarantee that an MP3 player is installed, that file associations have been set correctly or how it behaves once started.

By the way, what is the reasoning behind choosing MP3 for games? 2,5k$ per title may not be a large sum for bigger productions but you could have a great motivational team weekend to boost morale and productivity instead Wink. Do they use tools to create music that cannot export to Ogg or even WAV? Do major commercial engines only support MP3? It cannot possibly be more expensive than 2,5k$ * # of titles to set up a WAV to Ogg converter once.
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mewse
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« Reply #14 on: August 25, 2008, 04:02:23 AM »

By the way, what is the reasoning behind choosing MP3 for games? 2,5k$ per title may not be a large sum for bigger productions but you could have a great motivational team weekend to boost morale and productivity instead

The commercial point of view is that looking at employee salaries, $2500 will only fund your lead staff for about two days.  Maybe less, depending on how many of these key staff members are involved in the mp3 vs. something-else work and investigation. 

So from that point of view, it's probably overall cheaper to just buy the mp3 license than to let your staff spend the time and energy looking into alternatives or building tools or etc.
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Ciardhubh
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« Reply #15 on: August 25, 2008, 05:25:19 AM »

The commercial point of view is that looking at employee salaries, $2500 will only fund your lead staff for about two days.  Maybe less, depending on how many of these key staff members are involved in the mp3 vs. something-else work and investigation. 

So from that point of view, it's probably overall cheaper to just buy the mp3 license than to let your staff spend the time and energy looking into alternatives or building tools or etc.

That would only be a one-time issue. After having decided how to integrate a free format, you won't have to do it again as you can reuse the knowledge gained. The 2,5k (or 3,7k for pro) on the other hand have to be payed for every title. Plus you have to negotiate the license with an external company which is an added effort for accounting and whichever other departments are concerned. Sounds like a lot of boundary crossing to me and this is usually not a good thing; or so I've been told.

One thing I could think of is that there are MP3 libraries that are proven to work in many titles. Due to that, you might expect less unforseen problems. I have no idea tough, whether there are any with Ogg to begin with.
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Timeworks
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« Reply #16 on: August 25, 2008, 05:40:35 AM »

One thing I could think of is that there are MP3 libraries that are proven to work in many titles. Due to that, you might expect less unforseen problems. I have no idea tough, whether there are any with Ogg to begin with.

Yes of course. libogg and libvorbis are both released under a BSD-like license, so there should be no trouble incorporating them into a commercial game at all. I don't really understand either why major games (which produce their own soundtracks) still use mp3 under these conditions, but the answer probably is that $2,5k are peanuts and not worth lifting a single finger for.
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Gnarf
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« Reply #17 on: August 25, 2008, 02:07:14 PM »

I agree that often as not, games could probably just as well use oggs. However it's sometimes neat when games go all "oh, just point me in the direction of your music collection and I'll put on some of that". I'd imagine mp3s being more common than oggs, and so that kind of thing would work out better with mp3 support than without. Like, guys who are me rip mp3s rather than oggs from their CDs because that's a format that both their computers and (somewhat old) mp3-players can handle. And other people haven't heard of oggs and think it's like eggs with an o. Etc. Maybe there is one or two other incredibly brilliant reasons for going for mp3s too. I dunno. Maybe. Possibly.
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Timeworks
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« Reply #18 on: August 25, 2008, 05:37:42 PM »

However it's sometimes neat when games go all "oh, just point me in the direction of your music collection and I'll put on some of that". I'd imagine mp3s being more common than oggs, and so that kind of thing would work out better with mp3 support than without.

Yeah, actually that was the second reason I wanted to use mp3 (see my compo entry, signature). But what is one to do.
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Ciardhubh
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« Reply #19 on: August 26, 2008, 03:53:54 AM »

But what is one to do.

Make a special edition that is restricted to 4999 downloads that supports MP3? Smiley
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