[Foundation-l] Why don't we re-encode proprietary formats as Ogg?

Tim Starling tstarling at wikimedia.org
Mon Jun 8 03:25:57 UTC 2009

David Gerard wrote:
> It would be a simple matter of programming to have something that
> allows upload of encumbered video and audio formats and re-encode them
> as Ogg Theora or Ogg Vorbis. It would greatly add to how much stuff we
> get, as it would save the user the trouble of re-encoding, or
> installing Firefogg, or whatever.
> So why don't we do this? Has it been officially assessed as a legal
> risk * (and I mean more than people saying it might be on a mailing
> list **), has no-one really bothered, or what?

It's been discussed since OggHandler was invented in 2007, and I've
always been in favour of it. But the code hasn't materialised, despite
a Google Summer of Code project come and gone that was meant to
implement a transcoding queue. The transcoding queue project was meant
to allow transformations in quality and size, but it would also allow
format changes without much trouble.

Personally, I think we should do whatever we need to do to be able to
transcode popular video formats, even if that means paying license
fees. Others in the organisation might not have the same view, but I'm
sure there's space for compromise.

I did a brief review of both MPEG LA and Windows Media license terms a
few months ago. Both seemed to exclude web-based content providers
from the need to pay patent licensing fees. If we bought commercial
transcoding software, there might be a small patent fee embedded in
the price, but there's no scheme in place to allow users to pay for
FFmpeg. MPEG LA only deals with software distributors, not software users.

Some people in the community take the view that supporting proprietary
standards, as an option alongside free standards, weakens the ability
of the free standards to compete for mindshare and client support, and
thus that it shouldn't be done. We would have to have that discussion,
and possibly a vote on the issue, before deployment of any software
solution. But the software should come first, at the very least it
will be useful to support alternate free formats such as Dirac, Speex
and FLAC.

-- Tim Starling

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