The reasons why a certain software package is not included in the main openSUSE are the following:
The software is proprietary software, it does not conform to the Open Source definition.
The software is providing functionality which is patented and the patent holder is preventing distribution of the software
The software violates laws concerning software distribution in jurisdictions where Novell conducts business.
with no particular emphasis on any one of those as the “real reason”.
However that is a wiki page, with a big generic legal caveat at the bottom:
The content on this and other wiki pages is posted by community members who are not acting for or on behalf of Novell, Inc., whether or not they otherwise have affiliation with Novell.
So who “really” knows? All we can do is offer our best opinion, and NOT go around to others whose view is equally valid and state “no thats not the real reason” which IMHO is simply argumentative.
The first one is related to closed source software. Since there are open sourced multimedia codecs this ones doesn’t applies.
The second one applies to patented software. And the patents over multimedia formats are well known.
The third one applies to software like libdvdcss or metasploit. Since the closed source codecs are being distributed for Windows, mobile phones, DVDs, etc. it’s clear that there are no “laws concerning software distribution” being violated.
If there are three possible causes and only one of them applies…
Also, that page also says.
MPEG-2 patent holders (assembled in the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG).) do not provide patent licenses which are compatible with the distribution of free software. This means that MPEG-2 decoders and encoders cannot be part of openSUSE.
Even though MPEG Audio Layer 3 (MP3) is an ISO standard, the MP3 patent holders (patents) do not license MP3 encoders or decoders under an open source license.
That explicitly say the problem is with patents.
When has openSUSE distributed patented formats support?
a) When RealPlayer was included. What made that different? That RealNetworks pays the licenses for patents.
b) With the Fluendo’s GStreamer MP3 plugin (notice this one is also open source). What made that different? That Fluendo pays the licenses for patents.
Anyone can know because where the legal obligations exist, they are facts. Novell is obligated, as other companies are. I don’t need to justify that. With a philosophy there is no legal obligation. That’s why I am certain that legality is the more important reason.
And why do you think the free open source software philosophy came about ? It was in part because there were legal implications for using someone else’s software. To try and separate the two and say one is a nice philosophical perspective, and one is strictly legal IMHO completely misses the point about free software (per the Free Software foundation defintion of free) and why it was created.
Novell are directly and financially involved in the openSUSE project. Like any business their obligation to law must be an overriding concern. Ask yourself this question: Which will do more damage to Novell’s business, a successful and expensive lawsuit resulting in costs, damages, and lost reputation, or a severe reprimand from the Free Software foundation? If I were a customer of Novell’s, I would be more concerned about the former of those outcomes. Neither one is desirable, they both incur bad publicity. It’s a matter of degree that led me to my conclusion.
Having said that, I don’t wish my assertion to belittle the philosophy of free software or the reasons for the creation of the “Free Software foundation”. I don’t believe I did that. Clearly software produced accordingly will have the benefit of avoiding the legal barriers of a proprietary approach. We are not totally there yet.
I ponder this… How many have tried to develop a codec algorithm, It’s not that easy takes a phenomenal amount of time and the complexities make it virtually impossible to build a tight functional code without crossing patent and copyright boundaries.
Just because you find distributed codecs for windows, mobile technology, and multimedia devices does not constitute there not being laws about distribution (you know the lengthy EULA you need to agree to right!). As for violations, you bet, not every violation is detected or announced. If a tree falls in the forest it still makes a sound even if there is no-one there to here it.
Take a few of the “biggest” (=most well known) linux distributions.
How many of them install proprietary codecs or applications like flashplayer without explicit user interaction (=adding/activating some repo), which for me is “out of the box”?
Even on Ubuntu (if it didn’t change since my last installation, a 8.04 and if canonical themselves didn’t start breaking their own guidelines, see link below) one has to activate “universe” and/or “multiverse”, even “restricted” is not supported officially.