[vorbis] Is this just anti-Ogg FUD?

Ross Vandegrift ross at willow.seitz.com
Thu Dec 26 14:00:04 PST 2002

> [Ogg is not free from patents.] The entire concept of a phsychoacustical 
> model or a perceptual model for endcoding the material (not just the 
> encoding step itself) is covered under at least 50 different patents by 
> companies world wide, and rightfully so ...

This is one point where your friend is correct.  AT&T started the
research that lead to perceptual encoding over 50 years ago.  There's a
ton of patents in the field that cover a ton of really really technical
audio compression topics.  Ogg Vorbis tries to avoid those patents by
implementing a format that's different from the commonly known patented
ones.  However, it's quite possible that there's a patent covering some
methods used in Vorbis compression.  In fact, someone from Thompson
Multimedia was at some point sure enough of that fact to discuss it in
an interview.  I am not a patent lawyer - if you're concerned about
this, you should contact an attorny.

> Not only can you patent the 
> process of encoding the file, but the principles of how you get there. Why? 
> Because they are novel ideas, and obvious which is what patents are for. 
> They are just "creative enough" to warrant protection by government, and 
> frankly I have no problems with it having patents myself relating to next 
> generation video streaming technology and systems which relate to digital 
> cinema.

Well, now he's assulting the assumption that patented audio codecs
shouldn't be patentable.  He's missing the fact that these audio
compression codecs aren't novel in the way that patentable inventions
are - they're just mathematics.  They're remarkable mathematics, but so
is set theory.  So is addition for that matter.  If he claims
mathematics can be patented, point him to the Onion article "Bill Gates
patents One, Zero".

> However, the second that someone starts making "serious" amounts of money 
> off of Ogg, you can bet the patent lawyers will be on Xiph faster then a 
> fat kid on a smartie. 

I wouldn't be surprised if this is the case.

> [Ogg is too little, too late.] There are audio and video encoding systems 
> coming out in the next year that will futher push the envelope without 
> comprimise

Ask your friend if he can compress random data too.  He seems to miss
the fact that any compression requires compromise, somewhere.

Ross Vandegrift
ross at willow.seitz.com

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