[Theora] Theora, great stuff!

Jack Moffitt jack at xiph.org
Mon Aug 22 21:10:21 PDT 2005

> > 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.
> Doing so would also raise the barrier to entry for people wanting to use 
> our formats in proprietary applications, both software- and hardware-
> based. Network effects are extremely important in file format success, 
> and we have generally felt that licensing our reference implementations
> under a BSD license to encourage the broadest possible adoption of free
> formats is a more important goal.

To get back to basics here, if free formats end up as the standard ones
everyone uses, Free Software as a whole benefits and there are some
greedy corporations that get a piece of code for free on the communities
"dime".  However, if free formats don't succeed, Free Software will be
locked out of most content in the world.  

It is more important for us to win at all costs by making as little
barrier as possible than it is for us to enforce freedom in this

Some history:  The decision for BSD originally came up from the game
industry, which had two complaints:  1) the LGPL is sort of weird, and
lawyers don't really like it all that much. (perhaps not very
compelling, but it was an issue they raised), 2) Sony and other console
vendors require NDAs to see the APIs for the machines.  So if someone
modified Vorbis or Theora to run there, those changes would need to be
made public, which would violate their NDA.  It is necessary (if we want
any support on consoles and some other locked devices) that we allow
proprietary changes to be made. The alternative is that they will use
proprietary formats.

Also, the decision and logic behind it was heavily debated internally,
and we even asked for Stallman's opinion on the matter, just to double
check our thinking.  He agreed that the best thing for Free Software
would be if we licensed the codec parts under the BSD.


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