> However, mp3 is not free...yet. Some of these patents are set to expire on their 20 year time frame in a couple of years it would seem.
Yes, the next MP3 patent expires this Sunday. The longest patent seems to expire in 2018 but that appears to be MPEG-2 LSF and only required for low sample rate MP3s. So the next furthest date looks like April 2017 but it may be worth double checking the dates on those around 2014/2015.
Ubuntu doesn't seem to have a problem redistributing H.264 support in libavcodec.
As far as the Vista stories go, the network/copying/audio issues had to (or were believed to at the time) do with the DRM laden audio chain.
> Oddly, I have Chrome 188.8.131.52, but no FFMPEG license in sight.
That's because <video> support was added in Chrome 3.x
Stupidity, like virtue, is its own reward.