2.0.3 I have been told that to export MP3 files I have to pay patent fees. Can I use a free program like LAME?
LAME may be subject to patent claims in some countries and I am not a lawyer so if you are concerned about that you will need to seek appropriate legal advice.
Audacity does not ship with LAME because of possible issues with software patents, but LAME can be used with Audacity. See here for details: http://manual.audacityteam.org/o/man/faq_installation_and_plug_ins.html#lame
The current version of Audacity is 2.0.5 so I’d recommend updating Audacity before you install LAME. The current version of Audacity for "Windows is always available here: http://audacityteam.org/download/windows
If you use the recommended installer you can just run that to overwrite (update) your old version.
You are supposed to pay a royality if you distribute an MP3 encoder (such as LAME), or if you are a “big company” distributing or streaming MP3s with revenues of more than $100,000 USD. See [u]MP3licensing.com[/u]. (Of course, you can only distribute music/programs that you have the rights to distribute… )
I’ve never heard of anyone being “busted” for using an unlicenced copy of LAME, but people have been sued for distributing it.
The official LAME website only has the uncompiled source code “for educational purposes”. You have to look elsewhere of a complete working LAME encoder, or compile it yourself (not recommended if you are not a programmer).
If you want a licenced copy of LAME, there is a non-free version of dBpoweramp, or Winamp Pro. (But, Winamp is “going out of business”, and shutting sdown their website on Dec 20th.) When I checked-around a few years ago, I coluldn’t find a ligitimate-licensced stand-alone copy of LAME… You had to buy an application that came with it.
Free Itunes for both Windows and Mac has a MP3 license built-in. Change the “CD Import” setting to MP3.