[Theora] Independent implementations?

Christoph Lampert chl
Wed Jul 14 14:07:05 PDT 2004

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On Wed, 14 Jul 2004, Maik Merten wrote:
> Hmmm... I fail to see how _any_ of the software-licenses we are talking
> about could be of relevance for a completely new, written-from-scratch
> implementation.

Exactly my point.

> Example: I could happen to live in a cave. With a computer.
> I feel lonely and bored.
That's no wonder if you live in cave with just a computer ;-)

> So I write a video-codec for recording a video-message
> (Possible message: "I am lonely and bored"). This codec amazingly
> happens to be compatible with Ogg Theora.

Now, that's a coincidence ;-)

> I think I can put any license I can think of on this amazing, completely
> new, written-from-scratch software.


> 3rd-party licenses don?t apply.


> Any negotiations between On2 and Xiph seem to be irrelevant to me. Any
> source-code transferred between On2 and Xiph seem be irrelevant. Is this
> really the case?

In principle, anything related to source code between On2 and Xiph is
irrelevant to you as a cave man. Copyright and patent are completely
different stuff, although people often tend to get that mixed up.

> However, On2?s patents surely _do_ apply.

Hm, do they? I still haven't seem what they patents actually are about.
Do they cover parts of the binary format? Or a way of encoding? Or
decoding? Just because yours video message is binary compatible to Theora
doesn't make contain patented routines from other systems binary
compatible to theora. You would have to check item by item what really is
patented and how.

> How could a passage in a license that doesn?t apply to my software
> protect me?

It could indicate that On2 gave a free irrevocable license to everyone to
use the routines which they have a patent on _for every purpose you wish_.
But they didn't, they just gave permission to use those routines for VP3
and derived works of that. This is much less, because now you will have
two choices. Either you declare your software to be independent. Then you
don't have permission to the patents, or you declare it derived works,
then you have to obey the license that VP3 came with!

> So, you?re right! The details of the negotiations between On2 and Xiph
> seem to be relevant. If On2 granted a licencse to all humanity (not
> being bound to a specific codebase) (I assume they did) they should
> document this outside of a license which may or may not apply...

Hm, if On2 did such a thing, they would advertise with it. Advertising
effect and admiration from the community would be the only positive effect
such a step would have for them. Why else should they? The gave a free
license to use their patents for a free open source video codec, based
on VP3. That's a noble thing to do, and it would create the possibility to
have a royalty free codec, namely theirs.
But their patents could apply to many more situations than video encoding
in VP3-like fashion. By giving a free license for _every_ purpose, they
might just as well give up the patent claim itself, then all the
difficult software license stuff wouldn't be necessary anymore.


P.S. Btw. did anyone try to simply _ask_ them what the status is?

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