01.27.10

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Mozilla is Fighting for Us

Posted in Apple, Free/Libre Software, FSF, GNU/Linux, Patents, Videos at 6:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Firefox

Summary: The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) goes to WIPO and Mozilla advocates Ogg

Proprietary codecs are a nasty old barrier to the adoption of Free software because they are subjected to patent law in some countries that bow to software patents. MP3 is a good example of this and it was mentioned in this new opening statement from the FSFE’s President, Karsten Gerloff. He faces a harsh (hostile) crowd which is a patent maximalist, WIPO.

This week, the WIPO Standing Committee on the Law of Patents is meeting in Geneva. From FSFE’s perspective, the two most important points on the agenda are the relation between standards and patents, and limitations to patentability.

We’ll go into details in the coming days. On patents and standards, one obvious point is that Free Software runs into all sorts of problems when implementing standards that include patented technology – just think of MP3.

The discussion about limitations to what can be patented is clearly very important for Free Software. Here, the delegates at WIPO will discuss, among other things, whether there should be international rules regarding patents on software.

“FSFE [is] not mentioning software patents in their statement, swpats are absent of the WIPO report on exceptions to patent law,” remarks President of the FFII on the above. Well, how about MPEG-LA?

A few days ago we explained why people should support GNU/Linux-oriented Web browsers and Firefox too (my primary browser), just not Chrome with the ugly EULA or Opera which is proprietary. Mozilla has just given more reasons to favour Firefox. Mozilla is fighting for all of us to make Ogg part of HTML5 (and Web sites that use HTML5), whereas Apple and Nokia did exactly the opposite. The previous post explained how Apple uses patents against Free software, including the GNU/Linux operating system.

Here are some items from the news (we have mentioned more items among the daily links):

Mozilla defends Firefox’s HTML5 support for only Ogg Theora video

But Firefox 3.6 supports only the Ogg Theora video codec and, currently, no other codecs. Mozilla had pushed for the Ogg codec to be the default for the <video> element, but this was not supported by the HTML5 working group who decided to leave the codec unspecified in the developing standard. This means that Firefox is unable to play the YouTube and Vimeo HTML5 videos.

Mozilla buries heels on un-YouTube open video

Mozilla vice president of engineering Mike Shaver has reiterated that the open source outfit has no intention of rolling the H.264 video codec into its Firefox browser, even though the likes of YouTube and Vimeo are using the patented codec with early versions of their plug-in-free HTML5 video players.

[...]

Google is working to purchase On2 Technologies, and it looks like the Mountain View giant is interested in open sourcing the outfit’s video codecs to provide a license-free option offering performance above and beyond Ogg.

HTML5 video and H.264 – what history tells us and why we’re standing with the web

Mozilla defends Firefox’s HTML5 support for only Ogg Theora video

Mozilla takes on YouTube video choice

Mozilla would have to pay $5 million to license the H.264 codec from MPEG-LA, the industry group that oversees the technology, said Mike Shaver, Mozilla’s vice president of engineering in a blog post, and that doing so wouldn’t grant rights of those such as Linux operating system companies who build products employing Mozilla’s browser.

In summary, Mozilla will not let us work for the “MPEG cartel”. It deserves credit for this. Mozilla is also actively working against software patents. In a later post we will show that Ubuntu is doing controversial new things with Firefox.

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13 Comments

  1. NotZed said,

    January 27, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    Gravatar

    “In summary, Mozilla will not let us work for the “MPEG cartel”. It deserves credit for this.”

    Sure it deserves some credit – but on the other hand, they simply have no choice. They cannot continue to publish a free browser that also uses patented software. I’d really be interested to know in which actual countries these ‘patents’ have any bite too – is it just the USA?

    The real shame is that HTML5 leaves out ANY codec specification. That the W3C let themselves be shafted by corporate bullies is a bad sign.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Apple, Microsoft and IBM are in charge now. All are proponents of software patents.

    your_friend Reply:

    They did have a choice. They could have paid and created a non free branch of Firefox. You can be sure that Microsoft and Apple would have been happy to cough up five million dollars to gain that kind of control over Firefox and to create an advantage for their platforms over GNU/Linux. Had they taken the bait, they would have created a huge advantage to using Windows a platform with a court proved history of sabotage against them. Instead, Mozilla stuck to their free software principles in a brave way. They risk their users not being able to watch YouTube and other video. I predict Google and others will move to Ogg rather than lose half of Europe. This is the kind of choice all free software users face, hang together today or be hung alone later. You can argue that what Mozilla did is in the long term best interests of Mozilla, but you should realize that Microsoft is always there to bribe individuals with deals that are hard to pass up. The executives of SCO and Novell will retire rich for their betrayals if they don’t end up in jail where they belong.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Ron Hovsepian received $6 million in bonuses for just one year, despite poor performance (and layoffs).

    your_friend Reply:

    Layoffs and bonuses go hand in hand. Money “saved” by firing people is often put into the pocket of the person who made the decision.

    Yuhong Bao Reply:

    I know, it is the reward for “maximizing shareholder value”. I have this resubmission on the problems of this, it has a lot of links for more info:
    http://slashdot.org/submission/1159318/The-problems-of-the-shareholder-value-ideology

  2. uberVU - social comments said,

    January 27, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by schestowitz: The Free Software Foundation Europe (#FSFE ) goes to #WIPO and #Mozilla advocates #Ogg http://ur1.ca/ks7r

  3. Yuhong Bao said,

    January 28, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Gravatar

    “just not Chrome with the ugly EULA”
    Actually, Firefox once made this mistake too.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    It was not as bad.

    Yuhong Bao Reply:

    And well, the current Chrome EULA was not as bad as the original:
    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2008/09/google-on-chrome-eula-controversy-our-bad-well-change-it.ars
    http://blogs.zdnet.com/Howlett/?p=477
    http://gizmodo.com/5044871/google-chrome-eula-claims-ownership-of-everything-you-create-on-chrome-from-blog-posts-to-emails

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Yes, but the assessment we have is of the latest revision.

    Yuhong Bao Reply:

    Yes, but my point is the original one was worse.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Everything is relative. I still get a better deal with KDE (Konqueror) and Firefox.

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