is a free software
Free software, software libre or libre software is software that can be used, studied, and modified without restriction, and which can be copied and redistributed in modified or unmodified form either without restriction, or with restrictions that only ensure that further recipients can also do...
A codec is a device or computer program capable of encoding or decoding a digital data stream or signal. The word codec is a portmanteau of "compressor-decompressor" or, more commonly, "coder-decoder"...
used to encode/compress audio into the lossy MP3
MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 Audio Layer III, more commonly referred to as MP3, is a patented digital audio encoding format using a form of lossy data compression...
The name LAME
is a recursive acronym
A recursive acronym is an acronym or initialism that refers to itself in the expression for which it stands...
in't an M
ncoder". Around mid-1998, Mike Cheng created LAME 1.0 as a set of modifications against the "8Hz-MP3" encoder source code. After some quality concerns raised by others, he decided to start again from scratch based on the "dist10" MPEG reference software sources. His goal was only to speed up the dist10 sources, and leave its quality untouched. That branch (a patch against the reference sources) became Lame 2.0. The project quickly became a team project. Mike Cheng eventually left leadership and started working on tooLAME
TooLAME is a free software MPEG-1 Layer II audio encoder written primarily by Mike Cheng. While there are innumerable MP2 encoders, TooLAME is well-known and widely used for its particularly high audio quality. It has been unmaintained since 2003, but is directly succeeded by the TwoLAME code fork...
(an MP2 encoder).
Mark Taylor then started pursuing increased quality in addition to better speed, and released version 3.0 featuring gpsycho, a new psychoacoustic model he developed.
A few key improvements, in chronological order:
- May 1999: a new psychoacoustic model (gpsycho) is released along with LAME 3.0.
- June 1999: The first variable bitrate implementation is released. Soon after this, LAME also became able to target lower sampling frequencies from MPEG-2.
- November 1999: LAME switches from a GPL license to an LGPL license, which allows using it with closed-source applications.
- May 2000: the last pieces of the original ISO demonstration code are removed. LAME is not a patch anymore, but a full encoder.
- December 2003: substantial improvement to default settings, along with improved speed. LAME no longer requires user to use complicated parameters to produce good results.
- May 2007: default variable bitrate encoding speed is vastly improved.
Patents and legal issues
Like all MP3 encoders, LAME implements some technology covered by patent
A patent is a form of intellectual property. It consists of a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or their assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for the public disclosure of an invention....
s owned by the Fraunhofer Society
The Fraunhofer Society is a German research organization with 60 institutes spread throughout Germany, each focusing on different fields of applied science . It employs around 18,000, mainly scientists and engineers, with an annual research budget of about €1.65 billion...
and other entities. The developers of LAME do not themselves license the technology described by these patents. Distributing compiled binaries of LAME, its libraries, or programs that derive from LAME in countries that recognize those patents may be patent infringing.
The LAME developers state that, since their code is only released in source code form, it should only be considered as an educational description of an MP3 encoder, and thus does not infringe any patent by itself when released as source code only. At the same time, they advise users to obtain a patent license for any relevant technologies that LAME may implement before including a compiled version of the encoder in a product. Some software is released using this strategy: companies use the LAME library, but obtain patent licenses.
In November 2005, there were reports that the Extended Copy Protection
Extended Copy Protection is a software package developed by the British company First 4 Internet, and sold as a copy protection or digital rights management scheme for Compact Discs...
A rootkit is software that enables continued privileged access to a computer while actively hiding its presence from administrators by subverting standard operating system functionality or other applications...
included on some Sony
, commonly referred to as Sony, is a Japanese multinational conglomerate corporation headquartered in Minato, Tokyo, Japan and the world's fifth largest media conglomerate measured by revenues....
The Compact Disc is an optical disc used to store digital data. It was originally developed to store and playback sound recordings exclusively, but later expanded to encompass data storage , write-once audio and data storage , rewritable media , Video Compact Discs , Super Video Compact Discs ,...
s included portions of the LAME library without complying with the terms of the LGPL.