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Fedora disables Mesa’s H.264/H.265/VC1 VA-API support due to legal issues


Fedora disables Mesa’s H.264/H.265/VC1 VA-API support due to legal issues.


Fedora’s Mesa package has built in full VA-API support (The Video Acceleration API is an open source library and API specification that provides access to graphics hardware acceleration capabilities for video processing.) , but for legal (patent) reasons, Fedora Linux 37 is removing its H.264/H.265/VC1 acceleration support.


The change came last week when Fedora  removed a range of H.264/H.265/VC1 support from the Mesa VA-API build, with a comment saying: ” We have no legal approval for this, previously it was an “accidental release” goods” of  .


Fedora disables Mesa's H.264/H.265/VC1 VA-API support due to legal issues


Red Hat’s David Airlie commented in this discussion thread on VA-API  legal issues :

It was our oversight to enable this feature earlier. In addition to the new Fedora 37 release, we also had to remove it from older versions of Fedora. Fedora cannot publish anything that would cause the operating system to provide an API that exposes proprietary algorithms.

The licensing of patents surrounding H264/H265 could expose Red Hat and other Fedora distributors to legal issues.


For Fedora Linux users using a GPU with open source drivers (mostly AMD) , and using it to accelerate H.264, H.265 or VC1 decoding will have to fall back to using CPU-based decoding, or rely on Unofficial/3rd party Mesa builds. 

This affects common use cases for Fedora Workstation, such as watching videos, internal game streaming, participating in online meetings, and more.


There is no good solution to this problem in the short term,  Fedora/Red Hat is right to be cautious, and issues such as patent licensing can lead to serious legal disputes.