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I was wondering if I can use the aac codec in my commercial app for free (through lgpl ffmpeg). It says on the wiki:

No licenses or payments are required to be able to stream or distribute content in AAC format.[36] This reason alone makes AAC a much more attractive format to distribute content than MP3, particularly for streaming content (such as Internet radio). However, a patent license is required for all manufacturers or developers of AAC codecs.> For this reason free and open source software implementations such as FFmpeg and FAAC may be distributed in source form only, in order to avoid patent infringement. (See below under Products that support AAC, Software.)

But the xSplit program had to cancel the AAC for free members because they have to pay royalties per person. Is this true (that you have to pay per each person that uses aac)? If you do have to pay, which company do you pay to and how does one apply?

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Go to this page and they will set you right up:

###AAC Frequently Asked Questions

Who must sign a license?
What products are covered by the license?
What technologies are covered under the AAC patent licensing program?
Are there use fees for AAC?
What is the term of the AAC license?
I am already a licensee of MPEG-4 AAC and HE AAC. How can I take the AAC license?
Besides the license fees, are there any other costs involved?
What is "PC Enabling Software" as presented in the AAC license Fee Schedule?
Who are the licensors participating in the AAC Licensing Program?
How can I obtain a sample license for review?
What do I need to do in order to execute the agreement and obtain a license?
What are the reporting requirements of the AAC Program?
What is meant by a "reset" in the fee schedule?
What is the definition of a "professional" product?
Is there a difference between license fees for multi-channel products and stereo products?
How are products categorized as either stereo products or multi-channel products?
Is there a trial period available for licensed products?
What do I get after signing the AAC patent License Agreement?
Where can I get code or other "know-how" for AAC?

These answers to frequently-asked-questions are provided to explain the licensing program. The terms and conditions governing the license are provided in the license agreement.

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    new link: via-corp.com/us/en/licensing/aac/faq.html
    – user187770
    Mar 4, 2017 at 15:32
  • StackExchange moderation convention encourages quoting from external webpages that form the bulk of your answer. You linked to a (now-invalid) URL, but you only quoted additional questions instead of answers to OP's question. May 28, 2021 at 14:56
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(This answer is not legal advice. You should speak to an experienced patent attorney.)

What to do about AAC

If I needed to encode or decode AAC, I would rely on operating system APIs where the OS or hardware vendor has licensed the AAC patents AND the patents for similar audio technologies:

Another option is to purchase Fluendo's patent-compliant package for FFmpeg or GStreamer, which supports Windows, MacOS, GNU/Linux, Android, and iOS. The Fluendo package might support platforms supported by GStreamer like the BSDs and OpenSolaris.

The problem with patents

In general, it is not possible for you to prove that any software you write or depend on does not infringe upon any patents you haven't licensed.

When you license a patent, you did not pay for the "right" to actually use a technology. You have only earned the right not to be sued by the licensor for infringement of the patents you licensed. This is why we see cases like Alcatel-Lucent v. Microsoft Corp., where Microsoft had licensed Fraunhofer's MP3 patents but Alcatel-Lucent still argued that Windows Media Player's MP3 support infringed upon two Alcatel-Lucent patents for perceptual audio coding.

FFmpeg's patent situation

Any code in FFmpeg--even the Fraunhofer FDK AAC library--could be infringing upon yet-unknown patents. To minimize their own liability, the FFmpeg developers cannot advise you on which patents you may need to license. Patent owners have no incentive to warn or sue open source projects for infringement. Instead, they wait for wealthy companies to integrate these infringing technologies in lucrative commercial products. FFmpeg warns on their legal page that MPEG LA does this.

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Android apps like TuneIn radio use the FFMPEG decoder and I cannot believe that such a popular app is paying a per download licence fee for that. I note the the BBCs rather nifty iPlayer Radio app uses HLS to deliver the audio directly to the media player. This is how it should be done.

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    Use of FFmpeg does not necessarily imply use of its AAC codec. From the FFMpeg LICENSE file: "The nonfree external library libfaac can be hooked up in FFmpeg. You need to pass --enable-nonfree to configure to enable it. Employ this option with care as FFmpeg then becomes nonfree and unredistributable." It is quite possible that TuneIn compiles FFmpeg without the --enable-nonfree option and simply uses other media formats; in that case they would not include any AAC codec in their executable and thus be exempt from licensing fees.
    – apsillers
    Jul 26, 2013 at 20:38
  • This answer is wrong and not useful. TuneIn using FFmpeg does not imply that either TuneIn or FFmpeg has the necessary patent licenses. The Android MediaCodec API also provides functions for decoding and encoding AAC. Android OEMs need to license AAC patents, but not Android application developers using Android OS APIs. Presumably the same holds true for other operating system audio APIs. May 28, 2021 at 13:25
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I think AAC allows apps with limited distribution without payment, but you’d need to check that elsewhere. If you want to ship lots of copies of your app, then someone has to pay a license fee.

Apple, Google, Microsoft all have AAC built into their operating systems and are paying license fees for every shipping device. So if you use operating system code, you are fine. Someone else paid the license fee for you.

I don’t know about the others, but iOS and MacOS support mo3 playback, not encoding. The playback code is licensed and paid for by Apple. You can get encoders, but then you have to take care yourself if licensing. So AAC is overall your best bet for high quality audio.

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