Please provide us a build of Audacity without MP3


I’m Alexey, the maintainer of Qumble, an Open-Source software distribution for Windows.
It aims to introduce new users into the world of Open-Source.
I would like to introduce my new users into the world of Audacity and of Free Software codecs (by explaining about bad MP3 patents etc…)
However Audacity for Windows sabotages my attempt to educate users about Free Codecs, because it ships with MP3 pre-compiled.
If I include Xiph “Open Codecs” package and educate users about patents, while shipping Audaicty with MP3, I will shoot myself in the foot. Open Codecs allows to plays Ogg Vorbis, WebM and other codecs in WIndows Media Player, while my goal is to reduce dependency on non-free formats and software in general.

I have several choices:

  1. Remove Open Codecs from Qumble
  2. Remove Audacity from Qumble
  3. Ask you to provide Audacity for Windows without MP3 support at all.


Audacity for Windows sabotages my attempt to educate users about Free Codecs, because it ships with MP3 pre-compiled.

Not from us it doesn’t.

This is the official download site. It’s certainly possible to offer Audacity in multiple different flavors due to its open-source nature and there was at least one report of someone selling it – which is perfectly legal – but they’re not the officially supported versions.


What do you mean “no” ?

Official binary setup “audacity-win-2.0.2.exe” includes MP3 decoder (but not encoder).
I’m asking to make decoder in a separate plug-in, just like encoder is.

Audacity is shipped with “support” for LAME and FFMpeg but LAME and FFMpeg are not included.

Audacity has native (built in) support for importing and exporting WAV, OGG, FLAC, AIFF and a few other non-restricted formats.

Audacity support importing MP3 (not encumbered with restrictions) but not MP3 encoding as patent restrictions apply to MP3 encoding (in some countries).
MP3 encoding may be achieved with (open source) LAME or FFMpeg (not included due to patent issues).

Audacity is released as open source software under the terms of GPL version 2.

Nice to see someone actively promoting (superior) alternatives to MP3 :wink:

Audacity uses libsndfile for file import / export.
libsndfile is fully open source and free of patent or other IP issues (as far as anyone knows, but I am not a lawyer).

libsndfile supports import/export of a wide range of audio formats and is probably the most widely used open source library for reading and writing files containing sampled sound. libsndfile does not support encoding MP3

“Reading” (decoding) MP3 is not subject to IP issues - the problems are with “writing” (encoding) MP3.

That is incorrect; Both MP3 decoder and encoder require patents. See this:

You may be right - they appear to have changed the licensing terms since the last time I looked (some years ago). They seem to be tightening up on their profiteering racket before their patents run out :wink: Fortunately I live in a country where their licensing terms are illegal and I don’t use MP3s anyway.

I’ll make some enquiries and see if I can find out how/why Audacity has MP3 import enabled.

Just to clarify, Audacity’s MP3 decoding ability comes from libmad (GPL v2).

MP3 patents have always been alleged to apply to decoding as well as encoding: .

However Thomson/Fraunhofer et al do not pursue open source programs as far as I have ever heard.

Also from the MP3 Licensing “End users FAQ”

no license is needed for private, non-commercial activities (e.g., home-entertainment, receiving broadcasts and creating a personal music library), not generating revenue or other consideration of any kind or for entities with associated annual gross revenue less than US$ 100 000.00.

This grey area (is a free open source software application really a “developer and manufacturer” to which licence fees apply?) is probably why no litigation has been pursued against OS apps.

For encoding there isn’t an open library, so we leave it up to the end users to decide whether they add MP3 encoding to Audacity and should pay a licensing fee to Thomson.

Should we do that for decoding as well? If we believe that libmad is free, I don’t think so. Only a handful of hundreds of Linux distros rip MP3 encoding support out of their Audacity packaged builds, and I think that is a pedantic, user-unfriendly view.

I thought you were in the UK?

Note that the MP3 patents are supposed to expire in the next few years in those countries where they have not already done so.


Please provide us a build of Audacity without MP3

You can provide that build yourself under GPL, as a very few Linux distros do.

If you do, you certainly won’t be competitive against other alternatives: .


I’ve just tried this (on Linux) and it’s very easy to do:

./configure --without-libmad

Audacity then builds without built in MP3 support (though MP3s may still be imported if the user chooses to install FFMpeg).

I also notice on the MAD: MPEG Audio Decoder web site:

MAD is > not > a derivation of the ISO reference source or any other code. Considerable effort has been expended to ensure a correct implementation, even in cases where the standards are ambiguous or misleading.
… …
MAD is available under the terms of the > GNU General Public License, Version 2> , for either permanent use or for evaluation prior to obtaining a commercial license. Please note that under the GPL, there is absolutely > no warranty > of any kind.

Commercial, non-GPL licensing is also available. Please contact us to discuss possible license terms.

I’ve not found a definitive answer as to whether libmad infringes patent claims as this case does not appear to have been tested in court. Underbit say that it doesn’t but Redhat think that it may. IANAL.