05.03.10

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“Behind the Open Codec FUD Attack, W3C Captured by Microsoft, Apple, Nokia and So On?”

Posted in Apple, FUD, Microsoft, Novell, Patents at 2:09 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: Microsoft and Apple continue their attack on freedom facilitation in the World Wide Web and Apple’s PR problem escalates

A FEW months ago we expressed concerns because Novell’s Jaffe, a vocal proponent of software patents, became the chief of the W3C (with chairs from Microsoft, Apple and IBM beneath him). In reality, the W3C should dump Apple and Microsoft for shunning Theora and promoting their software patents, but something has definitely gone amiss [1, 2]. Berners-Lee clearly opposes software patents, but Microsoft is injecting them into HTML (with Apple's support). The president of the FFII wonders loudly, “Behind the open codec FUD attack, W3C captured by Microsoft, Apple, Nokia and so on?” Florian is among those who are concerned about it too (no anti-IBM for a change, with defensible exceptions). As this new article puts it, both “Apple [and] Microsoft Come Out Against Open Source Video Codecs”; FFII’s president writes about it: “Microsoft opt for h264 video format in Internet Explorer, in order to kick other browsers who will be said “incompatible with this website”.”

Another blogger wonder what is “behind the open codec FUD attack” (in seeking of explanations, the simplest ones are usually most suitable):

The FUD attack launched against Ogg Theora and VP8, the very idea that they violate patents, is not aimed at the courts, but at the W3C, which held a conference on the coming HTML5 standards last week in Raleigh.

[...]

Microsoft and Apple are carrying the water of the content industries, which fear that losing control of the technology under which content is displayed results in losing control of the content itself. That control is expressed through the MPEG LA licensing body.

The $5 million license fee for the H.264 codec required by MPEG LA acts as a barrier to entry, both a financial and moral one. A licensee that doesn’t follow Hollywood’s rules could have its license pulled, and thus its product.

The money is chump change for Microsoft, and the barrier a good thing. It’s a matter of principle for open source.

Apple wants to shoot down Ogg just like is has shot down Lala months after acquiring the service (maybe due to relationships with Lala's competition). GNU/Linux users are negatively affected by this.

Apple iTunes on the web would be good news for a lot of people if it is launched. It would enable Linux users to purchase songs from their computers (Apple iTunes does not work on Linux).

TechDirt also ponders: “Apple Bought Lala To Shut It Down?”

Instead, it looks like Apple bought Lala to shut it down. Just five months or so after purchasing it, Apple has announced that Lala will be closing at the end of May, pissing off lots of users. Now, it’s entirely possible (or even likely) that Apple is timing the shutdown with a launch of a totally new streaming iTunes-in-the-cloud type service, but it does seem weird to buy a company and shut it down so quickly, and raises questions of whether or not the purchase was really about building out Apple’s offerings, or about shutting down a nascent competitor just before Apple launched its own version. Also, if the plan is to launch its own version, why “shut down” Lala? Why not just transfer them over to the new service?

TechDirt‘s Carlo Longino is one among many who criticised Apple for its hypocrisy [1, 2, 3, 4] when it comes to banning Flash (and MonoTouch [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]). “I think Flash is crap,” says this person who judges software from an accessibility standpoint.

But nothing against Linux at all.

As a blind person, I tried Ubuntu, just because they said It was accessible, so I wanted to see how accessible it was.

Turns out, from what I saw, not half bad.

Anyway, I think flash is crap too. From an accessibility standpoint, from what I’ve seen over my last 10 years of using the various screen readers such as Windoweyes and Jaws For Windows, flash is not very accessible, if at all.

Even if you don’t like apple at all, as of 2008 or so,you have to give it to them when it comes to accessibility.

Now that Apple receives a lot of negative publicity (e.g. [1, 2]) it actually finds supportive apologists (not just staunch Apple proponents that mock Android) who ought to read Wiki pages about Apple’s many offences against Free software and especially against GNU/Linux (Apple is fine with Free software when it makes Apple richer). To be fair, Apple is not so hostile towards web standards, but the hypocrisy stands.

According to TechCrunch, “Apple Patents The Invisible Button” and since Apple uses patents against GNU/Linux and never joined the OIN, this is a reason for concern (Apple sues Linux vendors). The FSF’s John Sullivan has published an article about Apple in Ars Technica (cited here before and now in Slashdot) and the FSF’s Web site put together a response to Steve Jobs’ ‘Thoughts on Flash’. It says:

In a response to an open letter from Hugo Roy of the Free Software Foundation Europe, Jobs claimed that free codecs like Ogg Theora could also infringe patents, but that does not justify making the internet standard for video a technology that is known to be patented by a group who is actively collecting royalties and suing people for infringement.

We have legal assurances from the only publicly claimed patent holders that Ogg Theora can be used both commercially and noncommercially, in any software, by anyone, without royalty.

Of course, other patents may arise, and we will have to fight them if they do. H.264 could also find itself dealing with some hitherto unknown patent claims in the future; that’s just the nature of the system. Buying a license to H.264 does not magically protect you from such submarine attacks.

The software patent system is broken and we will continue campaigning for its abolition. You can help with this campaign by watching and sharing the new film, Patent Absurdity: How software patents broke the system.

In the meantime, “Everything could be patented anyway” is not an argument for “Give up even trying and just submit to MPEG-LA.” It’s an argument for Ogg Theora, and against software patents.

Adobe might soon sue Apple, not just denounce it in public. Both companies are quite religiously proprietary, but both pretend that they are not (some pretend more effectively than others).

Steve Jobs anti-Adobe Flash rant is really quite a remarkable document both for what it says, and what it doesn’t say.

First, and foremost, there’s the fact that Jobs spends most of his time complaining about the Flash format and ignoring the real beef Adobe has with Apple. Sure Adobe doesn’t like that Apple won’t let Adobe Flash on its iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch platforms. But, that’s not what has Adobe executives ticked off to the point that they’re telling Apple to go screw themselves and that they’re quietly considering suing Apple.

It would be nice to see Gizmodo suing Apple after (it participated in) breaking the law when harassing and ‘assaulting’ a blogger. Here is a new cartoon on the subject, summarised as follows:

Gizmodo’s payment of $5,000 for a misplaced iPhone raises questions about the nature of journalism in the Internet age.

We’ve also covered the issue in some of the posts below.

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