[Theora] Theora, great stuff!

Aaron Whitehouse lists at whitehouse.org.nz
Sun Aug 21 16:57:04 PDT 2005

Nick Hill wrote:
> I intend to move all video content to the Theora codec partly for
> technical reasons but mainly to promote free and open formats.
That is great to hear!

> 1) Poisoning the standard: Releasing a player which plays Theora plus a
> version with secret changes. A common non-free media editing suite
> creates Theora with those secret changes whose code is based the theora
> code base.

I believe that the additional requirements in the Xiph license over the
BSD license hinge on Trade Mark protection. I actually cannot find a
copy of the license on the site or on the opensource.org site so I
cannot tell you for sure. As long as the trade mark is enforced, I
believe that the Xiph foundation could protect against incompatible
forks calling the codec 'Theora'. Additionally, the FAQ states:
"That means that commercial developers may independently write Theora
software _which is compatible_ with the specification for no charge and
without restrictions of any kind." (emphasis added)
But I don't know on what that is based.

> 2) Hijacking the standard and code base. A player, either one of the big
> 3 or a start-up release a codec based almost entirely on the Theora code
> base.

This is a possibility, although for MS to say that Theora was better
than wmv and to start using it instead would be a big concession.

> A solution to pre-emptively defend the theora project from such games
> would be for further changes to be placed under a license which requires
> public disclosure of derivative source code. Given incompatible versions
> based on the Theora code base would no longer be secret, business plans
> based around releasing incompatible versions will be substantially less
> attractive to those so inclined. The GNU GPL would provide protection.

I don't believe that you will get very far with this proposition. The
Xiph foundation seems very committed to the most open license possible.
As I understand it, they want the standard to be widely adopted, even if
it means that others can profit from the open code. So long as these
companies cannot get patents that also cover the Xiph codecs, I believe
that they will be happy relying on what people choose to give back to
the codec.

I assume that you mean the LGPL as opposed to the GPL proper; the GPL
proper would mean that Theora libraries could not even be _used_ in
closed source programmes - a key intention. The LGPL would mean that the
libraries could be used / linked to by anything, but changes to, or
incorporation of, the libraries' code would need to be opened.

I think that this part of your argument has merit, and I think that
opinions vary as to whether these codecs should be LGPL or BSD-style. I
imagine that convincing them to change would be a challenge. The
foundation would likely want to keep all codecs under the same license
(with good reason) and so the Theora-specific list may not be the best
forum for this discussion (which I am sure must have already been had

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