Fedora Linux Disabling Mesa's H.264 / H.265 / VC1 VA-API Support Over Legal Concerns

Written by Michael Larabel in Fedora on 28 September 2022 at 05:10 AM EDT. 118 Comments
For Fedora Linux users currently making use of Mesa's VA-API support with the open-source AMD graphics driver or similar and using it to speed-up H.264, H.265, or VC1 decoding, you may soon be out of luck and will have to fall-back to either using CPU-based decoding or be relying on an unofficial/third-party Mesa build.

Fedora's Mesa packages have been built with full VA-API support to this point but now is removing H.264 / H.265 / VC1 acceleration support due to legal (patent) reasons. Understandably this is frustrating some Fedora users who may have enjoyed the support up to this point -- primarily with the open-source Radeon graphics driver stack -- and now with Fedora 37/Rawhide and possibly retroactively on existing Fedora Linux releases could now find it disabled.

Last week the change to drop that support from their Mesa VA-API build was made on the basis of: "Drop codecs. We don't have legal approval for this. Previously it was accidentally shipped."

Red Hat's David Airlie commented on this discussion thread:
This was an oversight being enabled prior to this, and I think we have to remove it from older Fedora as well. Fedora cannot ship anything that causes the OS to provide an API which exposes patent algorithms.

The patent licensing around H264/H265 is such that providing this could leave Red Hat and other Fedora distributors exposed to legal problems.

Earlier this year Mesa added the ability to build with select video codecs to be disabled over the software patent concerns.

This move is obviously frustrating some users who run Fedora Workstation and moving forward will not be able to enjoy GPU-accelerated H.264/H.265/VC1 content with ease out of the box but would need to resort to building Mesa themselves or using third-party packages. But as it's a legal matter and Fedora / Red Hat sides on being cautious, there doesn't appear to be any near-term solution for improving the situation.
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