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. Leaked: Boards of Appeal Face 'Exile' or 'Extradition' in Haar After Standing up to Battistelli

    A look at some of the latest moves at the European Patent Office (EPO), following Battistelli's successful coup d’état which brought the EPO into a perpetual state of emergency that perpetuates Battistelli's totalitarian powers



  2. The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) Comes Across as Against Software Patents, Relates to the EPO as Well

    Some analysis of the input from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) with focus on the EPO and software patents



  3. In the US, Patent Trolls Engage in Patent Wars and Shakedowns, Whereas in China/Korea Large Android OEMs Sue One Another

    Highlighting some of the differences between the US patent system and other patent systems



  4. Links 24/7/2016: Elive 2.7.1 Beta, New Flatpaks and Snaps

    Links for the day



  5. Links 23/7/2016: Leo Laporte on GNU/Linux, Dolphin Emulator’s Vulkan Completion

    Links for the day



  6. Links 22/7/2016: Wine 1.9.15, KaOS 2016.07 ISO

    Links for the day



  7. Haar Mentioned as Likely Site of Appeal Boards as Their Eradication or Marginalisation Envisioned by UPC Proponent Benoît Battistelli

    Not only the Staff Union of the European Patent Office (SUEPO) is under severe attack and possibly in mortal danger; the increasingly understaffed Boards of Appeal too are coming under attack and may (according to rumours) be sent to Haar, a good distance away from Munich and the airport (half an hour drive), not to mention lack of facilities for visitors from overseas



  8. EPO Attaché Albert Keyack Viewed as Somewhat of a Mole, Reporting From the US Embassy in Brazil Until Shortly Before the Temer Coup

    Public responses to the role played by Albert Keyack on behalf of the United States inside the European [sic] Patent Office



  9. EPO Insiders Explain Why the EPO's Examination Quality Rapidly Declines and Will Get Even Worse Because of Willy Minnoye

    Public comments from anonymous insiders serve to highlight a growing crisis inside the European Patent Office (EPO), where experienced/senior examiners are walking away and leaving an irreplaceable bunch of seats (due to high experience demands)



  10. Patents Roundup: BlackBerry, Huawei, PTAB, GAO, Aggressive Universities With Patents, and Software Patents in Europe

    Various bits and pieces of news regarding patents and their fast-changing nature in the United States nowadays



  11. Glimpse at Patent Systems Across the World: Better Quality Control at the USPTO Post-America Invents Act (2011), Unlike the EPO Post-Battistelli (2010)

    While the EPO reportedly strives to eliminate pendency and appeal windows altogether (rubberstamping being optimal performance as per the yardstick du jour), the USPTO introduces changes that would strengthen the system and shield innovation, not protect the business model of serial litigants



  12. Blockstream Has No Patents, But Pledges Not to Sue Using Patents

    Blockstream says that it comes in peace when it comes to software patents, which triggers speculations about coming Blockchain patent wars



  13. Links 21/7/2016: Ubuntu 16.04.1 LTS, Linux Mint 18 “Sarah” Xfce Beta

    Links for the day



  14. Links 21/7/2016: An Honorary Degree for Alan Cox, Looks Back at DebConf16

    Links for the day



  15. EPO USA: Under Battistelli, the 'European' Patent Office Emulates All the Mistakes of the USPTO

    Conservative Benoît Battistelli is trying to impose on the European Patent Office various truly misguided policies and he viciously attacks anyone or anything that stands in his way, including his formal overseers



  16. Links 19/7/2016: ARM and Opera Buyout

    Links for the day



  17. Large Corporations' Software Patenting Pursuits Carry on in Spite of Patent Trolls That Threaten Small Companies the Most

    With unconvincing excuses such as OIN, large corporations including IBM continue to promote software patents in the United States, even when public officials and USPTO officials work towards ending those



  18. Battistelli Has Implemented De Facto EPO Coup to Remove Oversight, Give Himself Total Power, and Allegedly Give UPC Gifts (Loot) to French Officials

    Benoît Battistelli's agenda at the EPO is anything but beneficial to the EPO and suspicions that Battistelli's overall agenda is transitioning to the UPC to further his goals grow feet



  19. EPO Social [sic] Report is a Big Pile of Lies That Responsible Journalists Must Ignore

    A reminder of where the EPO stands on social issues and why the latest so-called 'social' report is nothing but paid-for propaganda for Battistelli's political ambitions



  20. Links 18/7/2016: Vista 10 a Failure, FreeType 2.7

    Links for the day



  21. Exploiting Perceived Emergencies/Disasters, Suspending the Rule of Law, and Suspending Judges: How Erdoğan is Like Battistelli, Except the Coup

    Pretexts for crackdown on law-abiding people or figureheads who are remote and independent the hallmark not only of Erdoğan but also the EPO's President, Benoit Battistelli



  22. The Impotence of Gene Quinn

    Attacking the enforcer of Alice v CLS because it's doing harm to his source of income, which makes him angry



  23. After the FTI Consulting-EPO Reputation Laundering Deal's Expansion in Germany Süddeutsche Zeitung 'Forgets' That the EPO Even Exists

    Relative apathy if not complete silence regarding the EPO at Süddeutsche Zeitung following reports of FTI Consulting's deal expansion (media positioning in Germany), with hundreds of thousands of Euros (EPO budget) thrown at the controversial task



  24. Benoît Battistelli and Persistratos

    Reminds you of someone?



  25. Whistleblower Protection Desperately Needed at the European Patent Office

    EPO scandals are not publicly accessible or known to many people and not many such scandals are known at all because people are afraid of Battistelli's Fabius Maximus strategies



  26. Microsoft and Its Patent Minions at Nokia Still Have Patent Stacking Ambitions Against Android/Linux OEMs

    Weaponisation of European companies for the sake of artificial elevation of prices (patent taxes) a growing issue for Free/Open Source software (FOSS) and those behind it are circulating money among themselves not for betterment of products but for the crippling of FOSS contenders



  27. [ES] ¿Que si la EPO Bajo Battistelli Se Arruina Sin Posibilidad de Reparación Como la UPC?

    La última evidencia alrededor del hundimiénto de la reputación de la Epo y su calidad de trabajo, así como la caída del sistema que Battistelli trata forzadamente de imponer (una carrera al fondo)



  28. [ES] La EPO de Battistelli, Quién Quiebra la Ley, Subvierte el Curso de la Justicia y Rechaza Obedecer las Ordenes de la Corte Dice lo Impensable en Medio de los Actos de Terror

    Los terribles ataques hace un dia en Francia están siéndo explotados por el caradura de Benoît Battistelli para comedia negra o un verdaderamente absurda afirmación en la sección de “noticias” de la EPO



  29. [ES] La EPO de Battistelli Continúa Cortejando a Officiales de Países Pequeños y su Propaganda de Beneficiar a las “PYMEs de Aquellos Países”

    El caradura de Benoît Battistelli prosigue desfilando en los países pequeños que tienen delegados al Consejo Administrativo (CA) y los explota para propaganda barata, no sólo para que lo apoyen en las reuniónes del CA



  30. Links 17/7/2016: Lithuanian Police Switches to GNU/Linux, Blockchain on LinuxONE

    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