On 3/6/07, David Gerard <dgerard(a)gmail.com> wrote:
> In a related question, how free is PDF? The format may not be altered
> and still called "PDF", but everyone including the FSF can live with
> that. There's plenty of non-Adobe PDF creators and readers. What there
> is a lack of is editors, but it's essentially a write-once format in
> any case.
PDF is a mystery meat format. You never know exactly whats going to be
inside, so you can't speak about PDF as a whole coherently.
There is a subset of PDF which is free by almost any reasonable
standard (as you note, most people don't regard the name control issue
to be material).
Subset PDF is effectively equal to gzipped postscript. It's been
around forever, and shouldn't have any serious problems. With subset
PDF I think the biggest freedom related risk is non-free authoring
tools smuggling in non-free content without the authors knowledge. (We
see this with SVG too, Illustrator loves to embed non-free fully
hinted TTF fonts in the SVGs... At least they are easy to remove since
our rasterizer ignores them anyways)
However, PDF can be a *very* non-free format, and I would be surprised
if some of the PDF's we host were not pretty much maximally non-free.
First there is the patents issue. Modern commercial PDF plugins
contain a JBIG2, and a Jpeg2k codec. Some of the open-source PDF
readers can read these, but not all. JBIG2 clearly requires a patent,
Jpeg2k is just an ambiguous ugly patent mess. There may be a other
ways that non-subset PDF is a patent minefield, this is just the first
that comes to mind.
Non-subset PDF also includes encryption and digital restrictions
management. The free software PDF tools includes support for the basic
(old) PDF encryption and can be easily modified to ignore the
restrictions. However, using such modified tools is illegal in the US
as is distributing them, under the DMCA.
There are also a TON of features in non-subset PDF that free tools
don't support (acrobat forms), or which present other accessibility
and security related concerns.
Like I pointed out with flash, to really talk about these things we
need to know the application.
For imaged documents especially high resolution bitonal (black/white)
documents, DjVu is a compelling alternative which is gaining adoption
even outside of the world of free software. We have great support for
DjVu in mediawiki, including on the fly transcoding which should
dramatically reduce concerns related to client compatibility.
Play with the page controls on the right side. :)
For vector illustrations, SVG is a much better choice.
But for PDF as a compatible version of gzipped PS is still a reasonable tool.
We need better ability to check files for evilness. Ideally we could
have a client side upload tool that knew how to transcode things into
acceptable formats (using codecs built into your OS) and which could
test for problems like the one I discussed for PDF.
How non-free do we consider Flash to be? The Gnash player appears to
be making good progress. Would it be acceptable to permit useful Flash
files which work in Gnash and don't require non-free codecs to be
I did not see any issues with patents mentioned in the relevant
Wikipedia article. The old Macromedia Flash website lists a US patent
on "creating gradient fills", but that seems so bizarre as to pose no
(Let's keep this separate, for now, from the question when a format
like Flash would be appropriate, content-wise. I'd like to fully
understand the "freeness" first.)
Peace & Love,
DISCLAIMER: This message does not represent an official position of
the Wikimedia Foundation or its Board of Trustees.
"An old, rigid civilization is reluctantly dying. Something new, open,
free and exciting is waking up." -- Ming the Mechanic
On 3/4/07, Tim Starling <tstarling(a)wikimedia.org> wrote:
> Bryan Tong Minh wrote:
> > Dear Wikimedians,
> > The Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Year 2006 competition is now
> > over, and the winner has been selected. Thank you for voting.
> > Of the 662 Wikimedians who voted, 83 selected 'Aurora Borealis' 
> > as the 'Wikimedia Commons Picture of 2006'.
> Has anyone attempted to contact the photographer, Joshua Strang? He
> probably didn't even know it was on Commons; he might be interested to
> know it was voted picture of the year.
I can't wait to find out he created it while off-duty thus it isn't
public domain... and that he expects licensing fees! :(
The daily-image-l mailing is now fully functional. :)
To join and receive one daily mail with information about the
Wikimedia Commons' Picture of the day, please visit
It now has 100 subscribers. Of these 100 subscribers, their language
(the subscriber list is only available to the list administrator, myself)
To find out more about how pictures become Picture of the day, or how
to provide caption/mailman translations in your language, please see
Two legal changes in France, one working for us, one against us:
1) Wartime copyright extensions
Before 1995, the normal duration of copyright in France was 50 years
after the death of the author, or after publication in the case of
collective or anonymous works. However, there were special extensions
meant to compensate the world wars. Due to European "harmonization" of
laws, the normal duration was extended to 70 years (following Germany, I
think). The lingering question was whether the war extensions still
applied. The French Court of Cassation
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Court_of_Cassation> said they didn't (at
least in the case where extensions didn't start to elapse before 1995,
but those who did will be over in 2009 or so). A yet unsolved question
is the case of the 30 year extensions for authors killed in action (the
only major author that comes to mind is Antoine de Saint Exupéry
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antoine_de_Saint_Exup%C3%A9ry>, of /Little
Wikimedia France is having its counsel investigate the exact
implications of this evolution. In any case, it seems that the situation
is better for us.
For the curious, the relevant articles are in the Code of intellectual
property, L123-1, -8, -9 and -10, and in rulings 280 and 281 of the
Court of Cassation, first civil chamber, for 2007.
2) Repression of 'happy slapping'
The French parliament has just passed a law aimed at preventing
delinquence. Among a gazillion of measures on diverse issues more or
less related to delinquence, the Senate passed an amendment aimed at
repressing 'happy slapping'. 'Happy slapping' is basically youngsters
beating up people, filming the scene with cell phones, and broadcasting
the movie in order to humiliate the victim.
Unfortunately, the wording of the amendment was broad, and basically
criminalized against filming or broadcasting the film of certain kinds
of violences, unless one does so for gathering evidence for legal
proceedings, or as part of the normal work of a *profession* whose goal
is to inform the public.
In short, they have outlawed normal citizens (not professional
journalists) video reporting on certain kinds of violences. This could
prove a problem for Wikipedia, Commons and Wikinews contributors; for
instance, if reporting on police violence.
Wikimedia France contacted officials, who claimed that this was not the
intent; the only target was happy slapping, and that if we had called
them earlier they would have the amendment altered.
Now, several good things can still happen :
* The opposition has had the law sent for constitutional review. It is
possible that this article will get constitutional "reservations of
interpretation" that will clarify the situation of non professionals.
* The government will perhaps clarify the issue; that is, make it clear
that the intent of this article is not to punish non professionals
reporting on events with a goal to inform the public.
* Even if the law is accepted as is, prosecutors may get orders not to
enforce it against non professionals who merely meant to inform.
* Judges may also decide the same, if they feel there is a superior need
of freedom of speech.
Finally, do not forget that there are legislative elections 3 months
away or so, and this law may go 'pschitt' if the current opposition wins.
In any case, I don't expect actual prosecution of "citizen journalists",
though I envision as a credible possibility that overzealous police may
want to get rid of undesirable reporters using this law. Even if you are
prosecuted or sentenced in the end, being taken into police custody is
Wikimedia France tries to get informed on that issue.