[Linux-aus] Fwd: Ogg Vorbis and Theora removed from HTML5

Jon 'maddog' Hall maddog at li.org
Sun Dec 16 21:51:48 UTC 2007

> Which begs the question: Can any open source compatible codec meet the
> 'no additional patent risk' requirements without having that
> opensource code infringe on known patents?  Obviously it cannot.

For all practical purposes, correct.

> Are there any large opensource companies willing and able to pay
> royalties to patentholders on behalf of myriads of opensource
> projects/users?

This is impractical.  First of all, as you pointed out, you can not
identify all the potential patents.

Secondly, different patents are licensed different ways.  Some allow
paid-up licenses (i.e. any number of copies for a fixed fee).  But most
sell licenses on a per-unit cost.  This is the killer for Free Software.
Think about all those CDs that people have which never get installed.
All the downloads that happen over and over again for a particular
system.  Or the fact that one CD downloaded can be installed 10,000
times.  Do I pay a software patent royalty every time I download a
particular distribution, or only the first time?  And what if the
royalty is really infringed by OpenOffice?  Do I pay each time I install
a different distribution, even if all of them include OpenOffice?

Closed Source, commercial operating system vendors paying the codec
royalties, then including the codecs in their distribution provided a
"service" for their customers, albeit a "service" for which they in all
probability helped to create the need.

Bottom line, in the free software space it would not only be impossible
for a company to measure how much royalty it could pay, but would be
fiscally suicidal for any company to offer to pay it from its own
coffers to the benefit of its competitors.

> Can there really be a sustainable middle ground in this quagmire?

There were no software patents before the 1980s.  The computer industry
seemed to be pretty innovative in the period of 1943 to 1980.

> Is 42 really the meaning of life, the universe and everything?

I do not know about that, but I am fairly sure that software patent
litigation is no[t|w] the meaning of life.


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