jtodd August 18th, 2009
Asterisk is undergoing a subtle but important change in the way it sounds.
Open Source Asterisk has had for quite some time the ability to play Music On Hold (MOH) to callers as an optionally configured call feature. Of course, as soon as the code had the ability to play music, there was a general request and obvious concept that Asterisk should include a few default music-on-hold files. At that point, several people within Digium looked around at the possible files we could use, but all of them had some type of license issues, which is understandable. We found a company which sold rights to music, and we discussed in specific, painstaking detail what we wanted to do with the files and how they were going to be used. They agreed that we could do what we wanted and distribute the files with Asterisk and that they were able to provide to us the appropriate license, so we paid our fee and proceeded to pick some likely music. We then included them in Asterisk in the hopes that the community would find them useful as part of the system without having to search out selections which complied with various copyright issues. This was a good-faith gesture on our part, and we had a quite reasonable expectation that the vendor from whom we purchased the license was authorized to provide to us a global right-to-use and redistribution capability to the Asterisk community for these sound files.
Apparently, that assumption is now being questioned. In some nations (Australia and France, to pick two that have been brought to our attention) there are some who are claiming that we do not have the rights outlined above, and that our users therefore are in a similar situation where they may be in violation of license terms.
In the interests of space here I will not outline the exact organizations, laws, and claims in question. Suffice it to say they are complex and unclear with a broad range of possible interpretations. Currently, at least two organizations disagree that we are complying with a set of license terms. This is very far outside of Digium’s ability or interest to manage, nor do we wish to become involved in the protracted series of legal proceedings required to sort out this licensing issue. So we have chosen another path that is more clear to us: we will eliminate the files of questionable license from Asterisk, and replace them with music that has clearly defined and more acceptable licensing terms which are compatible with both the Asterisk license, and with any reasonable redistribution methods that might be used by others who re-package Asterisk.
So how can we be assured this won’t happen again? The new music we’ve included is under the Creative Commons 2.5 license – which quite frankly didn’t have much of a following for media back when we first were looking for a set of MOH files. Certainly, the selection of good-quality music files that would suffice did not exist in an easy-to-obtain fashion, or we would have gone this route in the first place. Hopefully you’ll like the new music on hold, and will be customers of the artists who have so graciously given their work out under such a reasonable license. We found the new music on Opsound for those of you who are looking for an even wider selection of freely available music.
We apologize for putting people through this aggravation – we sincerely wish that the recording industry would standardize license terms and avoid treating customers like enemies. Perhaps there is a silver lining here – this may be a good opportunity for you to freshen up your hold music – maybe “Calm River” was getting under people’s skin after the thousandth time you put them on hold.
The Gory Tech Details:
The new files can be found here: http://downloads.asterisk.org/pub/telephony/sounds/
The new files have names that contain “opsound” replacing the term “freeplay” in the file names. It’s really that simple. We’ve removed the old “freeplay” files and symlinked the old names to the new “opsound” versions, just in case. The contents of the .tar archives are different, but Asterisk should “just work” when the file contents are put in place unless you’ve extensively modified your music on hold configurations.
If you have an existing Asterisk system it is our suggestion that you delete any and all copies of the existing “freeplay” music on hold set on your system(s) and replace them with the new “opsound” module sets. The good news is that this is very simple – very little configuration is required on your system – just a simple file copy and then restart Asterisk to see the new files.
What happens if you don’t update your music on hold? The state of the FreePlay license currently is in question, and even if it is determined that the Freeplay files were not provided under the necessary license terms, it’s unlikely that enforcement actions will be brought against end-users for using unlicensed hold music. However, we would encourage all administrators to update their instances of Asterisk to the new sound files. This is really a distasteful process for all of us, and in order to protect ourselves from any future liability we’re going to suggest that everyone remove the older files entirely.
The update is easy, which is the good news. For “baseline” Asterisk systems, you simply need to remove the existing MOH files in your MOH directory (typically/var/lib/asterisk/moh on Linux systems.) In fact, you’d probably be well-served just to delete everything out of that directory unless you’ve added your own MOH files. Then, download one or more of the MOH .tar files into that directory (wget http://downloads.asterisk.org/pub/telephony/sounds/asterisk-moh-opsound-gsm.tar.gz) and then unpack them (tar -xvzf asterisk-moh-opsound-gsm.tar.gz) then restart Asterisk (or issue an “moh reload” from the CLI) – you’re all done! Fetch only the .tar.gz files of the formats you expect to actually use – typically, downloading the ULAW or GSM version is sufficient for most installations. If you don’t have a certain file format for a certain codec, Asterisk will automatically convert whatever you have into whatever is needed at the cost of a small bit of processing power. For AsteriskNOW users, a simple ‘yum update’ operation will replace the MOH files installed on the system.
If you have a pre-packaged Asterisk system – just wait a bit. I’m sure the distributors for the various front-end platforms will have an update shortly which will allow for this to be done via the UI, but that may take some time to percolate through the various development groups who build such packages. If you’re a re-distributor of Asterisk in some form or another for versions created prior to today’s date, we’d suggest deleting any of the “freeplay” versions of your sounds and replacing with the drop-in versions of the “opsound” files. There are no filename dependencies in the Makefiles, so replacement is very simple.
We apologize for the inconvenience, and hope the new music at least offers a welcome change to temper the unfortunate requirement for update.