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Why aren’t multimedia codecs included by default?

I'm having some doubt regarding media codec's in Ubuntu.

My question is why Lubuntu shipped with all the necessary medic codec and at the same time ubuntu/Xubuntu don't have any?


Ubuntu's commitment to only include completely free software by default means that proprietary media formats are not configured 'out of the box'. See Ubuntu's Free Software Philosophy and the Free Formats page for a more comprehensive discussion of these issues.

Notable part from the 1st link:

Ubuntu 'main' component licence policy

All application software included in the Ubuntu main component:

  • Must include source code. The main component has a strict and non-negotiable requirement that application software included in it must come with full source code.
  • Must allow modification and distribution of modified copies under the same licence. Just having the source code does not convey the same freedom as having the right to change it. Without the ability to modify software, the Ubuntu community cannot support software, fix bugs, translate it, or improve it.

and from the 2nd link:

What is a Free format?

Some file formats are proprietary, which means that they are owned by a company or other organisation. Sometimes, the owners of such formats charge licensing fees or impose legal restrictions on the use of their formats. This means that people may be unable to use or distribute these formats without first paying a fee or applying for a license.

A Free or open format is one which can be used by anyone, free of legal restrictions on how they use the format. Free formats are very popular - the World Wide Web is based on the open HTML standard. Ubuntu supports many free formats and the open-source community as a whole encourages their wider use.

Restricted Format MP3, AAC, WMA, WMV, MPEG-4, H.263, doc, xls, ppt

Preferred format Ogg Vorbis, Ogg Theora, WebM, OpenDocument format

edit: are you sure Lubuntu installs lubuntu-restricted-extras by default? A small search would suggest not. This suggest Lubuntu uses the same method as Ubuntu:

When you installed Lubuntu, you had a chance to check a box enabling you to install restricted addons that enabled things like MP3/DVD/Flash playback. If you forgot to do this, you can still install these packages by opening the Lubuntu Software Center (version 12.04 and later) in the menu under System Tools. Search for “lubuntu-restricted-extras” and, when the selection loads, click “Install.”

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  • 2
    +1 for answering why not, BTW AFAIK ubuntu studio is the only ofiicial derivative which is prepacked with restricted codecs – Tachyons Nov 21 '12 at 15:59
  • @Tachyons I'm pretty sure you're right there :) – jackweirdy Nov 21 '12 at 16:28

It is due to two reasons

  1. Ubuntu believes in free software philosophy, So the all default apps are free(free in free speech).

  2. Legal issues, It is illegal to include such codecs in some countries

Codecs still remain a problem for open source software because of the legal restrictions placed upon them. Certain codecs (including MP3, Win- dows Media Format, QuickTime, and RealMedia) are proprietary and as such have restrictions placed on their use, distribution, and licensing.

Although developers in the open source community have gone away and created free implementations of some of these codecs, the licensing that surrounds them conflicts with the legal and philosophical position that Ubuntu has set. These codecs are excluded not only because they are legally dubious but also because they disagree with Ubuntu’s ethic of cre- ating a distribution that consists entirely of free software in the most free sense of the word. QUICK TIP

To work toward resolving these problems, a number of developers are work- ing on free codecs such as Ogg Vorbis and Ogg Theora that provide high- quality results and open licensing. The Ogg Vorbis codec is used on audio and can provide better results than MP3 at a smaller file size. The Ogg Theora codec is used for video and competes with the MPEG-4 codec. Ubuntu includes the Ogg Vorbis and Ogg Theora codecs by default, and you can encode and play back any media that uses those codecs out of the box.

Source: Official Ubuntu book


  1. https://help.ubuntu.com/community/RestrictedFormats
  2. https://help.ubuntu.com/community/FreeFormats
  3. http://www.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/philosophy
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Ubuntu doesn't come by default with proprietary media codecs installed. However during installation one can choose to install them.

Even after installing one can simply install ubuntu-restricted-extras package if you need the media codecs.

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  • 2
    Though correct it does not answer the question: it is about 'why not?' ;) – Rinzwind Nov 21 '12 at 15:49
  • Yes you're right. – To Do Nov 21 '12 at 16:14

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