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. Donald Trump Gives New Hope to Patent Aggressors and Patent Trolls

    Pessimism about the prospects of patent progress or patent reform in an age of staunchly pro-business Conservatives and glorification of protectionism



  2. More Fake News About the Unified Patent Court (UPC) Based on Lobbying Tactics From Bristows UPC and the Preparatory Committee

    Unified Patent Court (UPC) lobbying has gotten so bad that it now infiltrates general media outlets, where people are asked to just blindly assume that the UPC is coming and is inevitable, even though it's clearly in a limbo and is unlikely to see the light of day



  3. EPO Totally Silent for a Month, But Deep Inside There Are Serious Cracks

    The situation at the EPO seems to be pretty grim, even at the top-level management, and the EPO has gone into permanent silence mode



  4. Links 16/1/2017: Linux 4.10 RC4, Linux Mint 18.1 'Serena' KDE Edition Beta

    Links for the day



  5. 'Financial Director' Publishes Fake News About the Unitary Patent (UPC)

    Response to some of the latest UPC propaganda, which strives to misinform Financial Directors so as to enrich the author and his firm



  6. Independent and Untainted Web Sites About Patents Are Still Few and Rare

    Commentary about news sources that we rely on, as well as the known pitfalls or the vested interests deeply ingrained in them



  7. The 20% Rule: Patent Trolling Suffers Double-Digit Declines and Patent Troll Technicolor is Collapsing

    Significant demise or total catastrophe for the modus operandi (method) of going after companies with a pile of patents and threats of litigation



  8. US Supreme Court Did Not End Apple's Patent Disputes Over Android (Linux), More Cases Imminent

    An overview of some very recent news regarding the highest court in the United States, which has been dealing with cases that can determine the fate of Free/Open Source software in an age of patent uncertainty and patent thickets surrounding mobility



  9. Links 15/1/2017: Switching From OS X to GNU/Linux, Debian 8.7 Released

    Links for the day



  10. Number of New Patent Cases in the US Fell 25% Last Year, Thanks in Part to the Demise of Software Patent Trolls

    Litigation and prosecutions that rely on patents (failure to resolve disputes, e.g. by sharing ideas, out of court) is down very sharply, in part because firms that make nothing at all (just threaten and/or litigate) have been sinking after much-needed reform



  11. America Invents Act Improved Patent Quality, But Right Wingers Threaten to Make It Worse Again

    The past half a decade saw gradual improvement in assessment of patents in the United States, but there is a growing threat and pressure from the patent microcosm to restore patent maximalism and chaos



  12. PTAB -- Not Deterred by Courts -- Continues to Invalidate a Lot of Software Patents

    The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) continues to make progress reforming the patent system by eliminating a lot of patents and setting an example (or new standards) for what is patent-eligible after Alice



  13. EPO Abuses Come Under Fire From Politicians in Luxembourg

    Luxembourg is the latest nation in which concerns about the EPO's serious abuses are brought up not only by the media but also by politicians



  14. Constitutionality as a Barrier and Brexit Barriers to UPC Keep the Whole Pipe Dream Deadlocked

    The UPC is still going nowhere fast, but the demise (or death) of the UPC as we know it must not be taken for granted



  15. Links 14/1/2017: Wine 2.0 RC5 and AryaLinux 2017 Released

    Links for the day



  16. Links 13/1/2017: Linux 4.9.3 and Linux 4.4.42

    Links for the day



  17. Brexit Means No UPC (Unified Patent Court)

    Now that Jo Johnson, Boris Johnson's brother, is officially declared the new minister for intellectual property in the UK everything that Lucy Neville-Rolfe wrote is as solid as paper bag on a rainy London day



  18. Patent Trolls and Software Patents: CloudTrade, Patent Practitioners Density, and Via Licensing

    Software patents armament from a British company, charted concentration of the patent microcosm in the United States, and US-leaning patent trolls that prey on China



  19. Patent Maximalism -- Like Copyright Maximalism -- Relies on Misconceptions and Mass Deception

    The latest examples of discussions about patent scope, courtesy of those looking to benefit financially by pushing such monopolies to the max



  20. Software Patents Still Promoted by IBM and Its Lobbyist (and Former Employee) David Kappos, in Defiance of Much-Needed US Patent Reform

    While the corporate media celebrates IBM as though it's some kind of 'champion' for hoarding patents that it then uses to attack companies which actually grow



  21. Brexit/Trump Effect: Patent Systems With Institutional Corruption and Nepotism

    Rumours about Britain's head of patents (and copyrights etc.) being the brother of the Brexit campaigner and Foreign Minister; meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, rumours suggest that the corrupt judge Rader might be the next head of patents in the United States



  22. Links 11/1/2017: X.Org Server 1.19.1, GitHub's Atom 1.13

    Links for the day



  23. The Patent Microcosm is Already Sucking up to Donald Trump in an Effort to Enrich Itself at Everyone's Expense

    Four new examples of patent maximalists embracing/adopting the pseudo-populist slogan to advance their goals of increasing litigation (which they profit from) and undermining PTAB (which made patents great in the quality sense)



  24. Patent Quality in the United States Can Only be Assessed at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and the Courts

    The travesty of patent offices in the US and China, where the goal or the accomplishment is measured in terms of the number of patents rather than their quality



  25. Gradual Collapse of Microsoft's Extensive (and External) Patent Trolling Operations

    The President of Microsoft Technology Licensing LLC (patent troll) leaves and the founder of Intellectual Ventures, Microsoft's largest peripheral patent troll, joins Sherpa Technology



  26. No End to Battistelli's Witch-hunts Against the Media, Against Staff, and Against Politicians

    Rumours about the fate of people who are (or have been) criticising Battistelli's reign of terror at the EPO



  27. Links 10/1/2017: Synfig 1.2, Kodachi Linux 3.7

    Links for the day



  28. With Help From the US Supreme Court (Key Cases), Patent Trolls Are Going Away

    The demise of patent trolls in the United States, a trend partly attributable to Alice and other Supreme Court decisions, will likely accelerate soon (later this year) as the future of the Eastern District of Texas courts is at stake



  29. Patent Maximalism on Display: Patent Aggressor IBM Celebrated in the Media

    The patent lust at IBM, which is suing if not just shaking down companies using software patents, earns plenty of puff pieces from the corporate media



  30. FFPE-EPO, the EPO Management's Pet/Yellow Union, Helps Union-Busting (Against SUEPO) in Letter to Notorious Vice-President

    In a letter to Elodie Bergot (as CC) and Željko Topić, who faces many criminal investigations, FFPE-EPO ringleaders reveal their allegiance not to EPO staff but to those who perpetually attack the staff


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