[linux-elitists] Rick Moen uses gifs on the sly (but don't feel to proud)

Heather star@betelgeuse.starshine.org
Thu May 10 10:48:33 PDT 2001


> Apache is non-free.
> 
> The standard Apache distribution includes (apache-common on Debian) 84
> GIF icons. 
> 
> I discovered this after noting that Rick Moen's webpage was serving me
> up gifs I couldn't read through a sanitized graphics viewer.
> 
> Rick quickly owned up to running Debian on the box, so I've done my own
> inventory of packages including GIF formatted images on my own box.  I'm
> coming up with a nice, round, 100 packages (of 783 installed), having up
> to 649 GIFs apiece (mswordview).  Not all of these are free packages
> (yes, I do have realplayer installed - 145 GIFs).
> 
> I'm concerned about the free status of the software that's shipping with
> GIFs.  I've already reported a bug against apache-common, I've withheld
> reporting the other 100 packages.  However there are several
> implications:
> 
>   - Users of these packages may be infringing the UNISYS LZW patent,
>     requiring a $5000 licensing fee, payable to UNISYS.

UNISYS only needs to be paid once, so if the original images were cooked
by a LIcensed User of UNISYS bla blah (bleeeccch)

... then the "end users" who recieve a copy of the result, including debian
users worldwide, can FUTB.

Apache's been around awhile - most of those icons began life as XPMs, but
few browsers correctly handle XPM code anymore.  (Someday one might hope
the same fate for GIFs, no?)

There are enough Licensed Softwares out there that UNISYS can no longer 
fundamentally prove that most given GIFs have not been through at least 
one licensee.  This brings FUTB to an interesting new level.

Not to mention the usual free software way of dealing with it, which is
(1) that there's no one person responsible for a given chunk of code and 
    therefore "responsible" to pay up.  
(2) even if you thought you could pin it on someone, the folks with the
    most time to pour into a longterm coding project are poor students.
    If you take 1/8th of all they own, you now owe <their respective gov>
    N thousand dollars :)
(3) Most companies will avoid a PR scandal like going after poor students
    instead of big pocket companies, and financial sinkholes like spending
    lawyer money just to get a place in line behind a student's 3 or 4 other
    high dollar creditors.

Call this one the Cats Have No Lord approach.

Of course this is directly counter to the FSF "yeah it's Ours and what
are you gonna DO about it?  Sue us?  <dirty harry theme> go ahead.  Make
RMS' Day."  The poster child for the F*TB approach.

For my own part I'd have to say that NS' sucky handling of PNG's transparency
capability is the main culprit so far.  Most webdroids wouldn't give a rats
ass what file format it is, but they want either or both of GIF's two main 
features:
	1) animation
	2) transparency

Flash and Shockwave are going after [1].  PNG is going after [2].  Who's
going after both?

* Heather * "Truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction has to make sense."



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