I checked every AAC- and FFmpeg-related question on the entire StackExchange and it's not yet clear to me.

In my project, I provide some audio-only content, encoded in AAC, to the end users. Some parts (not all) of the content are available only to the users with a paid subscription to the app. The software I distribute only does the audio playback (mobile iOS & Android audio player apps).

But, to prepare that content (i.e. convert from some format to AAC) I use the encoders (FFmpeg), which happens once per audio file. No encoding or decoding logic is a part of the user-facing flows, i.e. the users consume only the audio files that were (or were not) encoded to AAC sometime in the past.

I see in the FAQs that distributing the content is free, but prior to distributing this, I need to encode it to AAC.

  1. Do I need to care about the license fees or patents because of using FFmpeg on the backend side to prepare the content before distributing?
  2. If yes, is there a way to avoid this, e.g., using the other free encoder (not FFmpeg)?
  3. If no free encoder can help, will compiling the FFmpeg myself help?
  4. Can the use of free software like ExoPlayer (Android) or AVPlayer (iOS) be treated as "decoding"? i.e., can the paid audio player app be treated as a "distributed software that provides the paid decoding functionality"? i.e., do we need to pay the license fees for the app that plays AAC?

(the audio content itself is mine, so I own all the rights)

UPD for 4.: a good quote from the ExoPlayer members: by adding ExoPlayer to dependencies, no encoder or decoder is actually bundled to the software we distribute. On iOS it's even a system library.

  • 1
    Have you read Is the output of an open source program licensed the same?
    – MadHatter
    Commented Jun 16, 2022 at 16:21
  • @MadHatter oh, seems like that is the one I missed. You're right, it looks quite close, and probably answers the question. I'll accept and upvote if you'd create an answer :) Thanks! Commented Jun 16, 2022 at 20:23
  • Well, if it completely answers the question, this should be closed as a duplicate thereof (and I'm happy to do that if you'd like). If it doesn't, I'll happily write an answer, but it would help if you edited this one to be clear about what remains unanswered in your mind.
    – MadHatter
    Commented Jun 16, 2022 at 20:24
  • @MadHatter looks like it answers the 1, 2, 3 (the first question), and 4 (the second question) is answered in the question UPD part. 50% duplicate, 50% not :) So, up to you. Commented Jun 16, 2022 at 22:21
  • I’m voting to close this question because the core of the question is about patent rights and not about Open Source licenses. This should be dealt with in patents.stackexchange.com Commented Jun 18, 2022 at 13:49


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