Distributing multimedia packages can get you sued by the patent holders—so most distributions refuse to install them by default, but following these simple instructions will make it easy to install Linux multimedia packages.
Dangerous Linux Multimedia Packages
Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, and almost every other Linux distribution distributed in the United States (and many European countries) cannot include software subject to U.S. copyright and patents unless the Intellectual Property (IP) owners agree to distribute the software under a royalty-free license.
A lot of IP owners do agree to give away their software for free—for example, companies that own various drivers for hardware supported by Linux usually have no problem letting Linux distributions use their software (after all, these same companies give away their Windows drivers for free). But a few companies that own patents or copyrights to multimedia software expect to receive royalties for their software, and Linux can’t pay.
It isn’t that the companies behind Ubuntu and Fedora are cheap, it’s that the software licenses on the Linux kernel and most other Linux software prevents those companies from restricting access to the software on the installation CDROM. And, if Ubuntu and Fedora can’t prevent people from making legal copies of their installation CDs, then they can’t promise to pay royalties.
Some distributions, like Ubuntu, get around some of these problems by installing some multimedia packages after you finish installation from the CDROM. But these are special cases where Ubuntu was able to buy a license to distribute an unlimited number of copies. For software which costs extra for each install, the costs are too high for Ubuntu to afford.
Other distributions, like Linux Mint (based on Ubuntu and Debian), just ignore the law. They distribute their installation CDROMs over the Internet from countries with liberal copyright and patent polices (or just ineffective police enforcement of IP laws). This puts them at risk—the police could shut them down any moment—but the distributions that resort to this illegal activity usually don’t have corporate sponsors, so they don’t worry about the law.
How To Install Linux Multimedia Packages
United States law forbids anyone from following the instructions presented in this article. We will not be responsible for the actions of anyone who follows the instructions in this article. As the maintainers of Ubuntu say,
It is your legal responsibility to make sure that the software you are installing can be legally used in your country and for your intended purpose.
Since many, many people want to install the Linux multimedia packages, adventurous Linux system administrators have bought servers in countries with liberal copyright and patent policies and created special repositories that contain IP-restricted packages. Installing software from these repositories works exactly the same as installing software regularly in your distribution—but you need to setup these special repositories first.
The steps differ for each distribution, so please go to the relevant section below, but first please open a terminal—to keep things simple, we wrote all of the instructions below for the Linux command line so you can just copy and paste the commands into your terminal.
How To Install Linux Multimedia Packages for Ubuntu
First you want to add the MediBuntu repository to your Ubuntu system by running the following complex command. (Note: it’s MediBuntu, not MediaBuntu.) This command runs as root (
sudo), creates the file indicated by the
--output argument, and downloads the URL starting with “http”. The embedded command
$(lsb_release -cs) will print into the URL which version of Ubuntu you use, so MediBuntu gives you the right packages. Here is the command to run:
sudo wget --output-document=/etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list http://www.medibuntu.org/sources.list.d/$(lsb_release -cs).list
Now you need to update your packages list in order to download the list of Linux multimedia packages included in MediBuntu. Run the following command which will automatically update the package list:
sudo apt-get update
To help prevent hackers from sneaking software into MediBuntu, the developers at MediBuntu “sign” every package with a cryptographic key. To keep your computer safe and to avoid annoying warnings, you should download the public version of this key by typing the following command:
sudo apt-get install medibuntu-keyring
The command above will print a warning that you’re about to install an unauthenticated package. This puts you at risk slightly, but if you install this key now, you won’t need to worry about installing any other unauthenticated packages from MediBuntu.
You’re done for Ubuntu. You can find all of the new Linux multimedia packages using the Synaptic package manager.
How To Install Linux Multimedia Packages for Fedora
RPM Fusion provides Linux multimedia packages for Fedora 12, 13, and 14 (with pre-release support for the upcoming Fedora 15). You need to run a single command as root (
su -c) that downloads the list of packages from RPM Fusion:
su -c 'yum localinstall --nogpgcheck http://download1.rpmfusion.org/free/fedora/rpmfusion-free-release-stable.noarch.rpm http://download1.rpmfusion.org/nonfree/fedora/rpmfusion-nonfree-release-stable.noarch.rpm'
The two RPMs downloaded by YUM in the above command will automatically configure your Fedora system to use RPM Fusion for multimedia packages. All you need to do now is use GNOME Package Kit to install Linux multimedia packages for your computer.
How To Install Linux Multimedia Packages for Debian
The Debian Multimedia project provides Linux multimedia packages for Debian. To get started on Debian, you need to become the root user: run
su and enter your root password.
Next, you need to figure out which version of Debian you’re using. If you don’t know which version you use, you probably use stable. If you made the choice to upgrade to testing or unstable, substitute those for the word stable in the command below to add the Debian Multimedia repository to your system:
echo 'deb http://www.debian-multimedia.org stable main non-free' >> /etc/apt/sources.list
To download the list of Linux multimedia packages from Debian Multimedia, run the following command:
You also need to install the public cryptographic key from Debian Multimedia to help ensure hackers can’t sneak packages into the Debian Multimedia repository and onto your system. Downloading this key without authenticating it in person puts you at risk slightly, but it can save you from being hacked later. Run the following command:
apt-get install debian-multimedia-keyring
The command above will display a message asking whether you really want to install an unauthenticated package. In this one case, you do—so say yes.
Now you’ve setup the Debian Multimedia repository. Remember to exit your root shell by typing the
exit command. Then run Synaptic or another package manager to begin installing Linux multimedia packages.