[Theora] Theora, great stuff!

Nick Hill nick at nickhill.co.uk
Mon Aug 22 03:11:33 PDT 2005

Hello Ralph

Ralph Giles wrote:
> 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.

This boils down to a common GPL/LGPL/BSD argument which itself boils 
down to:

Assuming a BSD style license increases the use of a given piece of code, 
which in some cases is true (the BSD TCP stack implementation is used in 
  windows and a modified proprietary version of BSD is at the core of 
Apple's OS X) in other cases is false (The Linux kernel is more widely 
used than the freeBSD kernel [1] and the Linux kernel is widely used in 
embedded commercial devices).

Is how much a piece of code will be used the important factor in the 
decision? Do we just want to create code which is as widely used as 
possible, or do we want to write code which guarantees certain freedoms 
to the user.

I accept the L/GPL does take away certain freedoms from the integrator 
of the code, but pays back by defending other freedoms. It is a bargain.

There are also other considerations. For example, if someone builds on 
our work, do we want them to let us use the improvements? Will the 
quality of our code base improve faster if those otherwise secret 
improvements are fed back to the code base? Will adoption of the codec 
be even faster if those improvements are fed back to the code base 
accelerating development? In many cases, for many projects, the answer 
has been yes. The linux kernel has benefitted many times where code 
would otherwise have been witheld from Linux kernel developers.

So the argument that a BSD style license will in future increase 
adoption of a specific piece of code is unsafe, and ignores the reasons 
why many might want to make free code in the first place.

Whichever of the free software licenses you use, the Theora project has 
provided an excellent free video codec. Thank you!

[1] I am distinguishing between FreeBSD and a modified proprietary fork 
of BSD. Also, there are no reliable figures of how many GNU/Linux based 
devices and machines are in use compared to Apple OS X.

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