MP3 is officially free

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The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits has officially "said goodbye" to the MP3 codec and file format. Key patents related to MP3s expired at the end of April.

MP3 (MPEG-1 Layer III) is a popular codec and audio file format widely supported around the world. The vast majority of media player developers (both software and standalone devices) include support for MP3 in their product.

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It is worth noting that different patents relating to MP3s were held by different companies, which gave rise to constant disputes and lawsuits. As a result, some device manufacturers (MP3 download players) did not pay an MP3 license fee at all, while others paid tens of cents per device. And Alcatel-Lucent, for example, has sued Microsoft for $1.53 billion.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits of the Fraunhofer Society said in a statement that the licensing program associated with MP3 patents has officially ended. According to the institute, the future lies with codecs that compress audio more efficiently: such as AAC or the MPEG-H under development. 

Even though National Public Radio is reporting the "official death" of MP3, in fact the expiration of the patents (and the termination of the licensing program) means that MP3 support can be built into your products without any royalties to the patent-owning organizations.