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

Karsten M. Self kmself@ix.netcom.com
Thu May 10 12:53:22 PDT 2001


on Thu, May 10, 2001 at 10:48:33AM -0700, Heather (star@betelgeuse.starshine.org) wrote:
> > 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)

In which case an audit trail needs to be established, including an
affadavit of the creation software and the license it operated under, or
other explicit authorization granted the image creator.  And this audit
trail needs to be reflected in the appropriate Debian copyright file.
Which, in this case, it's not.

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

No, they're not FUTB, their BTTGOU -- bowing to the god of Unisys, as
they've already come into compliance.

> 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's a bit of the audit trail.  I bvi'd a bunch of the icon files, a
typical header looks like:

00000000  47 49 46 38 39 61 14 00 16 00 C2 00 00 FF FF FF GIF89a..........
00000010  CC FF FF 99 99 99 33 33 33 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 ......333.......
00000020  00 00 00 00 00 21 FE 4E 54 68 69 73 20 61 72 74 .....!.NThis art
00000030  20 69 73 20 69 6E 20 74 68 65 20 70 75 62 6C 69  is in the publi
00000040  63 20 64 6F 6D 61 69 6E 2E 20 4B 65 76 69 6E 20 c domain. Kevin
00000050  48 75 67 68 65 73 2C 20 6B 65 76 69 6E 68 40 65 Hughes, kevinh@e
00000060  69 74 2E 63 6F 6D 2C 20 53 65 70 74 65 6D 62 65 it.com, Septembe
00000070  72 20 31 39 39 35 00 21 F9 04 01 00 00 01 00 2C r 1995.!.......,

...so, did Kevin Hughes create the XPMs or the GIFs?

> 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.

I believe this neatly sidesteps the problem by walking into the freight
train.  The problem isn't that a GIF need be traceable at one point in
its life to licensed software, but that it be directly produced by
licensed software.  So you haven't solved the problem at all.

> Call this one the Cats Have No Lord approach.

Fine if you're a stray cat, but there's an awful lot of owned cats out
there.  I'm with Don:  this doesn't work for companies using, selling,
distributing, or otherwise making use of free software.

> 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

Non seq.

If a site wants to use GIFs, Flash, or
FredsGawdawfulWebMarketingProprietaryFuckedFileFormatOfTheWeek, that's
their problem.

If a site wants non-free software, park it in non-free within Debian.

While I'd prefer GIF disappeared from the face of the planet, it won't,
not by tomorrow at any rate.  However, we _can_ get GIF correctly
identified as non-free within Debian.

And, reiterating Don's advocacy point, by promoting the PNG standard,
compatibility *will* improve.  One of the fallouts of the KeenSpot web
comic site's switching to PNGs was that several folks found PNG plug-ins
for older (3.x) versions of Netscape.  So, even users of older
proprietary software have options.

-- 
Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>    http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?       There is no K5 cabal
  http://gestalt-system.sourceforge.net/         http://www.kuro5hin.org
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