EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

06.07.10

As Promised, Google Delivers GPL Compatibility and GNU/Linux Starts Embedding VP8/WebM Support

Posted in Apple, BSD, FSF, GNU/Linux, Google, GPL, OSI, Patents at 2:16 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Tolrance - tux diving
GNU/Linux dives right into it

Summary: Why the next version of your Web browser, media player or GNU/Linux distribution will probably contain VP8/WebM code; Apple and MPEG-LA continue to be the main barriers to VP8/WebM adoption

OUR last post ended with a word of warning about Microsoft patents that prevent access to one’s own videos, assuming that they are encoded using Microsoft’s own formats. The lesson to be learned from all this is that software patents which cover video compression are unacceptable and dangerous to society. This is why Ogg Theora/Vorbis and VP8/WebM are so important. The latter is currently being implemented/deployed in GNU/Linux, which already supports Ogg in all its varieties.

All in all, the Linux community has made a lot of progress implementing support for WebM in two short weeks. Given that few content providers are supporting the codec yet (Google-owned YouTube being the major exception), free-software users are ahead of the curve on this issue. And that’s definitely the right side of the curve to be on.

More developers get access to the code and Chrome gets it too [1, 2]. That was fast!

The Open Source Programs Manager from Google writes to inform everyone about necessary changes to the WebM licence. In his own words:

You’ll see on the WebM license page and in our source code repositories that we’ve made a small change to our open source license. There were a couple of issues that popped up after we released WebM at Google I/O a couple weeks ago, specifically around how the patent clause was written.

There used to be the issue of patents and GPL incompatibility. This is resolved. It’s all rather lovely, “but still no patent indemnification,” claims Florian Müller. Brett Smith from the FSF is more satisfied than that. “Google just updated the WebM license to make it GPL compatible,” he writes. Being a key GPL person, Smith also published the official statement from the FSF:

A couple of weeks ago Google announced their WebM project, which provided a free software implementation of their VP8 video codec and a license to exercise the patents the company held on the software. (This after we appealed to them to do just that a couple of months prior.) The license they chose was unambiguously free: a three-clause BSD license combined with a patent license based on one found in the Apache License 2.0. Unfortunately, the interaction between the copyright license and the patent license made the result GPL-incompatible. Based on the concerns of developers writing GPL-covered software, Google publicly stated that they would take some time to review the WebM license and try to address the community’s concerns. Today, they released a revised license, and it is GPL-compatible.

Simon Phipps (OSI) had this to say:

Google has also eliminated the incompatibility with the GPLv2 and GPLv3 licences that existed in the original language, which means that it will be possible for WebM to be readily incorporated in the GNU environment and in GNU/Linux.

More here:

By removing that part of the custom licence, what is left is a “three clause” BSD licence which is an OSI approved form of open source licence. Simon Phipps, the OSI board member who pointed out the original problem, was “pleased to say that project is now fully open source” in his blog where he congratulated Google on the “timely and welcome” correction of its “licencing and community-relations error”.

“Google open codec wins OSI love after patent shield rethink,” reports The Register.

Google has rejiggered the license on its open-source VP8 video codec after complaints that it wasn’t really open source.

Ars Technica emphasises compatibility with the BSD licence.

Google is adopting the BSD license for WebM in order to address a licensing conflict. When Google opened up the VP8 codec and announced the launch of the WebM project during the Google I/O conference last month, the actual license under which the code was distributed was not an official open source software license. It was a custom license that had not yet been approved by the Open Source Initiative (OSI), the organization responsible for maintaining the open source definition and validating licenses.

Google’s custom license posed some problems because it included clauses that made it incompatible with GNU’s General Public License (GPL), the most widely-used open source software license. It was a minor technicality, but one that would have broadly precluded adoption of WebM in many popular open source software applications. Fortunately, Google has rectified the conflict and has found an acceptable way to harmonize its licensing terms with the GPL.

[...]

To avoid the resulting incompatibility with the GPL, Google decided to use a standard BSD license instead for the software copyright and draft a separate set of terms for the WebM patent grant.

“Using patent language borrowed from both the Apache and GPLv3 patent clauses, in this new iteration of the patent clause we’ve decoupled patents from copyright, thus preserving the pure BSD nature of the copyright license,” wrote DiBona. “This means we are no longer creating a new open source copyright license, and the patent grant can exist on its own.”

It’s all good news, until Apple comes in.

In a new post on the subject of HTML5, Christopher Blizzard from Mozilla complains about Apple's latest lies (also see [1, 2]). Here is another take on the subject:

There’s open as the rest of the world thinks of it and there’s Apple open, which is what Steve Jobs wants it to mean. Jobs is very keen to dismiss Flash as a proprietary product, which it is, although iPhones and iPads also run proprietary operating systems.

[...]

Google is going down a different path entirely. Last month, it released VP8, a genuinely open compression format designed to handle multimedia on the web and not be beholden to proprietary software. Unlike Apple, the company does have a genuine commitment to openness. Having said that, there is a debate as to whether VP8 is quite as open as it appears to be – and whether it differs much from H.264.

But the difference is that Google is, I believe, genuinely looking top open standards, while Apple is a law unto itself.

Separately, writes Florian Müller to us, “I’ve commented once again on WebM. As you can see in case you read this, I don’t take the same position as FSF/OSI. Their concern is to push for a “free” codec no matter what. My concern is whether early adopters of WebM would be exposed to too much of a risk and whether Google should do more to protect them. All of that is independent from the fact that I’d prefer to see software patents abolished, which would spell the end for MPEG LA and anyone pursuing a similar “business model”.” Here is the blog post which raises fair points.

Google’s WebM initiative is somewhere in the middle between a true act of generosity and an IBM-style scheme:

* There’s no reason to assume that Google wants to hurt the FOSS cause in any way with WebM, especially not in any IBM-like way. I don’t put it past Google to have that intention elsewhere: they might do anything, including the use of patents, to destroy an open source search technology that could adversely affect their core business. However, in this particular context of video codecs, I don’t think they intend to cause harm. I do believe them that they want more competition in this case.

* What Google does do — and what I believe the FOSS community must approach cautiously — is to shift most of the risk to others while keeping most of the benefits to itself. Businesses like to do that, but FOSS developers and users shouldn’t lose sight of the risks just out of excitement over the idea of getting a seemingly “unencumbered” codec.

Google will retain control over WebM despite open-sourcing program code and publishing specifications

A common misconception about open source and “free” specifications is that this would make something such as the WebM project independent from a single vendor or a group of vendors. Some think this puts “the community” in charge.

There are lessons to be learned from Android. Google has not yet done anything which substantially reduces trust. Control is not the main issue here; the main issue is probably patents. There’s an urgent need to get past them.

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

What Else is New


  1. EPO Leak: Administrative Council's Latest Meeting Report

    The outcome of the Administrative Council's meeting, where Battistelli managed to avoid earthquakes and basically did just about everything he wanted, reinforcing the perception that there is no oversight



  2. Publicly-Available Information About the Meeting of the EPO's Administrative Council

    The EPO "crisis" -- as Board 28 called it -- lingers on because no substantial steps were taken towards Battistelli's removal from Office for his violation of Office rules (his own rules) among other laws that Eponia perceives itself as exempt from



  3. Battistelli's Last Moves Are Desperate Attempts to Crush the Messenger (SUEPO), Which Will Almost Certainly Backfire on (if Not Fire) Battistelli

    By implicitly declaring a war on those who speak truth to power or those who are associated with perceived truth-tellers, Battistelli reinforces the perception that he is protecting the bad people at all cost (even his very own career)



  4. EPO Staff Representative Jesus Areso Explains the Crisis to the Administrative Council

    An intervention by an EPO Central Staff Committee (CSC) member who is under gag orders from Battistelli's regime and cannot speak about his case, which apparently involves truly severe disciplinary actions for merely helping or contributing to a staff survey (not controlled by and paid for by Battistelli)



  5. Shadows of Alleged Criminality Over the European Patent Office (EPO)

    Cases against Željko Topić, a Vice-President at the European Patent Office, are moving forward in Croatia, where he still faces many criminal charges



  6. You Know That UPC is Quite Likely Dead (at Least in the UK) When Even Baroness Neville-Rolfe Dodges the Question (Updated)

    The UPC appears to be a dead end, much like Battistelli's career, not only in the UK but in Europe as a whole (it has been all along designed with London/England/UK in mind)



  7. Short Report From Today's EPO Protest in Munich

    A few noteworthy points about the staff protest which coincided with the Administrative Council's meeting earlier today in Munich



  8. Growing Consensus Even Among Patent Professionals That UPC is Dying Everywhere If Not Just in the UK

    The UPC continues to sink as more and more people come to grips with the complexity of the current situation, irrespective of what countries other than the UK do next



  9. Battistelli Attacks Not Only His Staff But Also Patents Themselves (Their Quality) and the Legal Legitimacy Surrounding the EPO

    Battistelli's EPO is having not only reputation problems but also staff retention problems, patent quality problems and problems pertaining to perception of fair trials or justice regarding patents



  10. Battistelli is Creating an Atmosphere of Terror at the EPO While Exploiting Terror Attacks to Garner Sympathy

    "As if Laurent were a terrorist, the Office has imposed a house arrest and has forbidden him to enter the EPO premises," according to SUEPO, writing about one of its members at The Hague who is "maliciously accused via a fabricated procedure"



  11. Rumours That EPO President Battistelli Got Sacked to be Replaced by Christoph Ernst Appear to be Baseless

    Dr. Christoph Ernst is claimed to be the successor (interim or permanent) of the notorious Battistelli, but these claims have little or no evidence to support them



  12. Links 29/6/2016: SteamOS 2.83 Beta, Alpine Linux 3.4.1

    Links for the day



  13. The EPO Has Become Battistelli's Circus and the Administrative Council Has Been Reduced to (Illegal) Circus Animals Controlled With 'Treats'

    Battistelli's attack on justice and on the rule of law is debated among insiders who have grown increasingly impatient with the Administrative Council's tolerance of Battistelli and sometimes even Kongstad's amazing complicity



  14. The Latest Lies About the Unitary Patent (UPC) Would Have Us Believe That It's Alive and Well

    How patents-centric sites (some of which are in bed with the EPO) have responded to the 'Brexit' vote and why they're not telling us the truth about the Unitary Patent scam (often created and promoted by the same people who run and/or fund such sites)



  15. EPO Management Bunker: “The Bailiff Who Came to Deliver the Subpoena was Escorted off the Property by Five Security Guards.”

    Battistelli has essentially turned the European Patent Office (EPO) into a barracks, where he continues to enjoy immunity from the rule of law and discourages those who wish to challenge this immunity



  16. Keeping the Guard and Securing Society From Software Patents

    The policies over which Indians and Europeans have kept guard are being 'stolen' by vested interests



  17. Benoît Battistelli Further Weaponises His EPO 'Stasi' With CA/52/16

    A glimpse at what Benoît Battistelli will shortly attempt to do to the EPO, in order to cement his power in the face of growing opposition from many directions



  18. EPO Caricature: Administrative Council Control of Benoît Battistelli

    Another new caricature regarding the President of the European Patent Office (EPO) and lack of effective oversight from the Administrative Council (European Patent Organisation)



  19. EPO Caricature: Firing Benoît Battistelli

    The latest caricature regarding the President of the European Patent Office (EPO)



  20. Links 28/6/2016: Red Hat Summit 2016, Hadoop Events

    Links for the day



  21. Today's Media Coverage Says Microsoft Loves Linux, But Today Microsoft Extorted Linux Using Software Patents Again

    Luna Mobile has just been extorted by Microsoft (using dubious software patents, as usual) for using Android/Linux, but Microsoft-influenced media carries on spreading the lie that "Microsoft loves Linux"



  22. New Efforts to Work Around Barriers to UPC in Light of 'Brexit'; Behind These Efforts Are Self-Serving Patent Profiteers

    look at who's trying to work around the latest barriers to the widely-unwanted (by the public) Unitary Patent regime and what is being planned behind the scenes, or behind closed doors (by and for those who stand to profit from the Unitary Patent regime)



  23. Injunction Against Battistelli's Investigative Unit (Known Internally as 'Gestapo') Amid Serious Injustices and Bogus 'Trials'

    SUEPO, the EPO's staff union, steps up its spiel in a case against the "European Patent Organization" as defendant and "SUEPO/VEOB" (Trade Union of the European Patent Office) as claimants



  24. [ES] Con la UPC Muerta por el Resto del Termino de Battistelli, No Hay Razón para que la EPO o el Consejo Administrativo Sigan Manteniéndolo Más

    Pensamientos acerca de lo que pasará al líderazgo de la EPO después de ‘Brexit’ (salida Británica de la EU), lo que sevéramente socava el proyecto más grande de Battistelli el que usaba habituálmente para justificar sus increíbles abusos



  25. [ES] El Caradura Benoît Battistelli Debería Renunciar a Luz de la Filtrada Nueva Decisión en Su Vendeta en Contra de un Juez que se Atrevió a Decir la Verdad (Actualizado)

    Benoît Battistelli continúa quebrando las propias reglas de la EPO, no sólo las leyes naciónales, como una nueva decisión ayuda a revelar



  26. [ES] Cada Vez Más Parece Que Battistelli está Escondiéndo ‘Evidencia’ Falsa y/o Ilegalmente Obtenda de la Unidad Investigativa de la EPO

    El porqué creemos que Benoît Battistelli está cada vez mas desesperado de esconder operaciónes ilícitas de reunir ´evidencia´ lo que eventuálment lo puso a él mismo — no al acusado — en una situación catastrófica situacion que lo puede forzar (esperamos) a us renuncia



  27. Links 28/6/2016: Vista 10 Updategate, OpenMandriva 3.0 Beta 2

    Links for the day



  28. Links 27/6/2016: Linux 4.7 RC 5, OpenMandriva Lx 3.0 Beta 2

    Links for the day



  29. From Alleged Organised Crime to Vice-President of the European Patent Office (EPO)

    Željko Topić's situation in Croatia illuminated by means of recent documents from the authorities



  30. Battistelli May Still be on the Way Out as Pressure Grows in Germany, UPC in Shambles

    Pressure on Battistelli is growing even from within circles that are traditionally protective of him and a long letter is sent to Dr. Christoph Ernst, who some believe will replace Battistelli


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts