I applied to be part of the Fluendo beta of binary-only (as I understand it) GStreamer plugins for closed/proprietary media formats. I know that you can use copies of the Win32 codec dlls with GStreamer and other media players on Linux to be able to play closed formats; many people do, but I’ve never bothered to. This is mostly because it seems like a hack to use the binaries from a different platform.
This program is worth some of my time because producing native plugins for formats like wmv/a and Realmedia within the GStreamer framework is important. If GStreamer were to become the de-facto standard for multimedia on the Linux platform, which these plugins may help it become, then other proprietary media format creators are more likely to create plugins for GStreamer, meaning that Linux users have a better experience.
Of course, releasing details of file formats would be best, because this would allow for other implementations of the formats to be written. In my experience, the open-source implementations are often better than their closed-source counterparts — witness the widely renowned quality of the lame mp3 encoder.
The final versions of these plugins will not be free, that is, users will have to pay for them; whilst this may be against the ideals of Free software, my view is that efforts like this, if successful, will increase the support of Linux from vendors. This is because each purchase of these plugins demonstrates that there is a user-base willing to fund the development of proprietary solutions; this will bring more developers and users to Linux in the long term.
On a separate note, there is a page on the lame website about the lame maybe being used in the software at the centre of the recent Sony rootkit-as-cd-protection incident: using lame without regard to the license or copyrights involved would make the Sony rootkits even worse if it is true.