I have a Linux machine and I intend to only run code on it that is open source.
I know, it's almost impossible (binary blobs in the Linux kernel, drivers, firmware, ...), but i want to keep it at a minimum.

So, a lot of video/audio formats are patented and I don't know what, so that you can't find any video players supporting formats like mkv in the "free" repositories of Linux distributions.

And sure enough after installing Fedora on my machine without enabling non-free repos, I can't play video files like avi, mp4 and mkv (at least I don't get video output, I did get the audio for avi and mkv, though) and I even found some YouTube videos that I could not play. According to my research this is because I'm missing certain codecs.

I guess my question is, are there open source codecs/players for these video formats (especially mkv, mp4 and avi) or are they legally forced to be closed source because of some patent/licensing nonsense?

I know that the formats that I'm asking about are container formats and that I'm generalizing a lot. Basically I just need the most common constellations of avi, mp4 and mkv files to work, if that makes sense.

  • You don’t happen to have links to example videos? I don’t know much about codecs, but I don’t have a single piece of proprietary software installed, and in more than ten years I’ve come across only two video files I couldn’t play (because of some rare Windows audio codec, IIRC), and never found a YouTube video I couldn’t play. – unor Jul 3 '17 at 20:55
  • I think you're mixing license restrictions and proprietary/closed source software. Most codecs that can be installed from Linux should be open source, but are not included in the normal installation due to license restrictions (=> non-free). – pLumo Jul 4 '17 at 7:24
  • @unor I can't find one of these Youtube videos right now, but from this site: techslides.com/sample-webm-ogg-and-mp4-video-files-for-html5 I can only correctly play the webm and ogv file. It works in Firefox and in Dragon Player. I was not able to play any of the 720p 1MB examples from here: sample-videos.com I tried "Parole", "Audience" and "Dragon Player" which seem to be the only video players in Fedora's free repo. – Forivin Jul 4 '17 at 9:26
  • @Forivin: All of the mentioned videos play fine for me. I don’t use Fedora, but it seems that you would have to add the repository from RPM Fusion to install the GStreamer plugins: What packages should I install to be able to play nonfree codecs? (as far as I can tell, here "nonfree" doesn’t mean that this implementation is proprietary). Other distributions typically provide these in their official repositories (e.g., like Debian). – unor Jul 4 '17 at 13:36
  • @unor But I'm sacred that the non-free packages contain proprietary code. Sure it doesn't have to be that way, but it could. At least I couldn't find a rule that said that the non-free repository may not contain proprietary code. – Forivin Jul 4 '17 at 13:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.