[Foundation-l] File format policy

Robert Scott Horning robert_horning at netzero.net
Sun Feb 12 17:10:26 UTC 2006

Delirium wrote:

> Erik Moeller wrote:
>> "It is allowed to upload files in patent-encumbered formats like MP3 
>> or the MPEG-4 codecs only provided that a version in a non-encumbered 
>> format is also uploaded. Files which are only provided in 
>> patent-encumbered formats should be deleted."
> I don't see any reason not to allow that.  The point of the "no 
> patent-encumbered formats" restriction, as far as I understand it, is 
> to keep all our content available in fully free formats for both 
> viewing and editing.  *Also* providing a video in MPEG-4 doesn't make 
> the Theora version any less free or available.
> -Mark
It is more than that.  Most of the patent encumbering file formats, 
notably GIF and JPEG, but MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 are suffering from this as 
well (as well as the MPEG audio codec layer 3 spec even in MPEG-1, aka 
MP3) all require royalty payments by the file hosting service.  That 
means the Wikimedia Foundation is directly liable for this royalty 
payment, and it is simply being responsible by not permitting file 
uploads in these formats.  The GIF patents have expired in the USA, but 
it still has some sticky issues in other countries.  Less now than it 
was even a year ago, but it can still cause grief if we are not careful. 
 This is royalties for simply distributing files in these formats, not 
necessarily the creation or playback of data in these formats, which is 
a whole other issue.

As far as I know, there are really only two different "video" file 
formats that are without patent encumberance that wouldn't require 
royalty payments for data distribution:  Ogg Theora and MNG (derived 
from the PNG spec).  MNG is mostly a glorified replacement for animated 
GIFs, so that may not really count either unless you use timing chunks 
and non-standard audio inclusion.  That is the reason for the 
restrictions on the file formats of what you can upload to a place like 
Commons, and a reason to encourage people to purchase software or video 
devices that can use the Theora file format.

Robert Scott Horning

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