[Foundation-l] File format policy
Robert Scott Horning
robert_horning at netzero.net
Sun Feb 12 17:10:26 UTC 2006
> 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.
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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