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. Links 17/4/2014: Android RDP, New Ubuntu, RHEL 7 Milestone

    Links for the day



  2. Racing to 1984: Mass Surveillance, Cracking, 'Targeted' Assassinations, and Illegal Torture

    Links for the day



  3. More Microsoft Subsidies to Patent Troll Intellectual Ventures

    Microsoft hands money to Bill Gates' close friend who is the world's largest patent troll



  4. Aiding Microsoft Under the Disguise of 'Pro-FOSS'

    Not everything which is FOSS necessary becomes, by virtue of existence, a positive contribution, as we are constantly reminded by projects that help proprietary software and/or restrictions get a strong grip on FOSS



  5. Links 16/4/2014: Red Hat PR, Ubuntu LTS Imminent

    Links for the day



  6. Links 15/4/2014: Lots of PCLinuxOS Releases, Ukraine Updates

    Links for the day



  7. Apple and Microsoft Actively Lobbying Against Patent Reform in the US

    Apple and Microsoft are reportedly intervening/interfering with US law in order to ensure that the law is Free/libre software-hostile



  8. Lawsuit by Microsoft Shareholder Targets Fine for Crimes Rather Than the Crimes Themselves

    A new lawsuit by a Microsoft shareholder shows everything that's wrong with today's model of accountability, where those who are responsible for crimes are accused of not avoiding fines rather than committing the crimes



  9. Public Institutions Must Dump PRISM-Associated Software

    Another reminder that taxpayers-subsidised services should refuse, as a matter of principle, to pay anything for -- let alone deploy -- proprietary software with back doors



  10. GNU/Linux News: The Opportunities Amid XP EOL

    Links for the day



  11. Microsoft Gets Its Money's Worth From Xamarin: PlayStation 4 Now Polluted by Microsoft

    The Trojan horse of Microsoft, Xamarin, is pushing .NET into Microsoft's console competitor



  12. After Brendan Eich Comes Chris Beard

    Having removed Brendan Eich using bullying and blackmail tactics, his foes inside Mozilla achieved too little as we have yet another man (coming from inside Mozilla) acting as CEO



  13. Healthcare News: Free Software in Health, Humanitarian Causes

    Links for the day



  14. Links 14/4/2014: MakuluLinux, Many Games, More Privacy News and Pulitzer Prize for NSA Revelations

    Links for the day



  15. TechBytes Episode 87: Catching up With Surveillance (NSA, GCHQ et al.)

    The first audio episode in a very long time covers some of the latest happenings when it comes to privacy and, contrariwise, mass surveillance



  16. Server News: KVM, ElasticHosts, Other GNU/Linux Items, and Open Network Linux

    Links for the day



  17. Hardware News: Freedom, Modding, Hackability on the Rise

    Links for the day



  18. Distributions News: GNU/Linux Distros

    Links for the day



  19. GNOME News: Financial Issues, Mutter-Wayland, West Coast Summit, Community Participation

    Links for the day



  20. KDE News: Kubuntu at the Centre Again KDE Applications Updated

    Links for the day



  21. Techrights Rising

    Effective immediately, Techrights will do what it takes to bring back old volume and pace of publishing



  22. Links: Surveillance, Intervention, Torture and Drones

    Links for the day



  23. Mobile Linux Not Just Android: Jolla, WebOS, and Firefox OS News

    Links for the day



  24. Google's Linux Revolution: New Gains for Android, Chrome OS (GNU/Linux)

    Links for the day



  25. Free/Libre Databases News: MongoDB, NoSQL, and MySQL Branches/Forks

    Links for the day



  26. Open Access on the Rise: Textbooks, Journals, Etc.

    Links for the day



  27. Finance Watch (Watching What's Not Being Watched): Economic Warfare/Class Injustice

    Links for the day



  28. Climate and Ecology Watch: News About a World Being Destroyed

    Links for the day



  29. Copyright News: DRM, Censorship, Megaupload, Hypocrisy, and Impact on the Internet

    Links for the day



  30. Sharing Works: Latest News Stories About Crowd-sourcing, Sharing, Transparency

    Links for the day


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