back to article Google open codec 'not open,' says OSI man

A board member with the Open Source Initiative (OSI) — the organization that approves open source licenses — has warned that there are "some serious questions" surrounding Google's swashbuckling efforts to create an open and royalty-free codec for web video. Hoping to defend the VP8 codec against patent attack, Google has open …


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  1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Euphemisms, James. They confuse people.

    "patent-backed" H.264 codec?

    More like "patent cancer codec", am I right?

  2. Mark 65

    Title Required

    Although it does create a new license I can certainly see the point of it - if you're going to be an arsehole and file for patent infringement then you're certainly not going to carry on using the code. A reasonable condition I'd have thought.

    Seems to be a flaw in the Apache 2 license if you ask me. Not that anyone is mind.

    1. frymaster

      there already are licenses out there that are similar

      like, for example, microsoft's own, ms-pl, which seems specifically designed for patent immunity

      however, it's not especially designed for open source - in that it doesn't enforce derivatives to be open - so google rolling their own makes sense

  3. Zolkó Silver badge

    "show me the code"

    In my understanding, open-source is not so much about license or even less about talks, but about code: "show me the code" is the motto, and Google has shown the code. Once the cat is out of the box, if can't be put back. If the code is good, it will be adopted. Patents or not.

    1. frymaster

      what you mean is, _YOU_ won't get sued

      ... it'll be the large companies that do (microsoft or google)

      Microsoft's been through this before - so their reluctance is understandable... ditto apple, which leaves google out in the cold

      but more importantly, it means it won't work on your portable media players and your set top boxes, and while it works in firefox just now, it's liable to disappear once the submarines start surfacing

  4. paulc

    oh for heck's sake...

    bring on the patent armaggedon... IBM & Google, you're both big enough to take on these tosspots... just pull the trigger... stop pansying around with cross-licensing, sue the pants off anyone who tries to sue an open source developer/customer who uses your technology.

    In the meantime, still waiting for re. Bilski to bring about the death of software and business method patents...

    I just love the tortuous dancing Microsoft does when they are defending themselves against a software patent... fighting like mad to get a patent overthrown, but dancing all round the fact that software shouldn't be patentable in the first place as it would render their own patent warchest useless...

  5. Mage Silver badge


    H.264 is the standard. If everyone used it how easily would revenues be charged?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Patent licences

    I've pretty much given up trying to understand all the unexpected implications of the patent provisions in free software licences. For example, the GPLv3 seems quite reasonable when you read the FSF's explanation of it, but some corporate lawyers are terrified of it, with the result that engineers working in those companies find it difficult to get permission to use GPLv3-licensed code.

    Just abolish software patents, please.

    1. Terry012395214785 << There's a lot of us called Terry


      "Just abolish software patents, please."


  7. A J Stiles

    Should have been LGPL

    Using a BSD-like licence is handing your enemies the opportunity to hang you, on a plate. Anybody could make a small change, produce a codec which is backward-compatible but adds new features, and cage it up. If they can persuade enough people to use the incompatible version quicker than the Open Source version can catch up feature-wise, then Open Source loses out.

    It should have been licenced under the LGPL, with some optional components under the full GPL. Eventually, as new material was added under the full GPL, it could have been made essentially unusable without releasing the Source Code.

    Whenever people slag off the GPL, it's because they want to do the exact thing that it doesn't allow. Which it doesn't allow for a reason.

  8. The First Dave


    'Phipps said that until Google wins OSI approval, VP8 "is not currently open source." '


    1. A J Stiles

      There's open, and then .....

      Open Source doesn't just mean that you can read the Source Code (and therefore take Freedoms 1 and 3 forcibly, as Freedoms 0 and 2 can be taken forcibly even when the Source Code is withheld). It means that you are *explicitly* granted all four Freedoms.

      * Freedom 0: The freedom to run the program for any purpose.

      * Freedom 1: The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish.

      * Freedom 2: The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbour.

      * Freedom 3: The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements (and modified versions in general) to the public, so that the whole community benefits.

      The old PINE licence curtailed Freedom 3 by restricting the distribution of modified versions; therefore, it did not meet the accreditation requirements to be called Open Source. This is in spite of the availability of the Source Code.

      1. Chronos


        What you've quoted there is the Free Software definition. Open source and Free Software are two very different things. Despite what Phipps says, open source is not dependent on the OSI. It's whatever code access conditions the copyright holder wants to set and that's what burns RMS' backside more than anything, because he can't dictate that the code /remains/ open. If you get open access to the source code, it's open source.

  9. Phil Rigby

    @The first Dave

    That was my thought exactly - he's saying "we haven't said it's open source, so it's not".

    Reminds me of a meeting I had with FAST several years ago - they guy said that unless we paid their membership fee and let them audit us, they'd assume we were using pirated software. We told them to get stuffed.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    OSI man says, "It's not open until we say it is."

    Sounds a lot like something that twat Jim Gamble from CEOP might say.

  11. Tom 7


    As I understand it H264 is free to decode until 2015. You need to pay to encode though - though some software provides the cover for now.

    What happens after 2015 - ask your local drug dealer how much he charges once you're hooked!

    VP8 will be free both ways unless some patent holder manages to bribe a judge or too.

    It should be pointed out that this also applies to h264 as we only know of the patents MPEG-LA has fronted up - their may be a lot of submarine patents lurking that we dont know about.

  12. Peter2 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Microsoft's going to love that.

    If Google uses this codec on youtube and microsoft doesn't support it then they are going to get slated by everybody for not supporting the most popular video site on the web. Consequently and they'll lose browser share.

    If they do support it, they effectively lock themselves out of being able to sue Google about patent stuff without removing support for VP8 from IE. They wouldn't like doing that because they'd get slated by everybody as well as losing browser share when Google sticks a redirect up on youtube for IE users saying "sorry, Microsoft is suing us and has dropped support for youtube. But you can use Google Chrome instead, it's a free download HERE!"

    Of course, you can read the same for anybody/everybody in MPEG LA, so Apple is similarly stuck. Adobe must love that, have they dropped support for H.264 yet to stick it to Apple?


    The $125M was probably worth it from Google's POV just for the chair throwing at Microsoft and the rage at Apple.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Now read that back without company names:

      Company X will only allow company Y to use their technology if they don't sue. Company Y agrees and makes a product that supports company X's technology. Time passes and company Y finds out that company X actually coppied a whole load of stuff for their technology that was actually owned by company Y.

      Company Y should be able to sue, but they are discouraged because comapny X run a big web site which requires the technology to run properly and the licence to use company x's technology says you can't sell our technology if you sue us.

      The upshot is Company X have effectively given themselves a licence to steal technology by using that technology in a by 'must visit' web site. Company Y can't sue because they will loose customers. To compund that, company x make a similar product which is in direct competition with company y.

      Not very good is it?

      1. Paul M 1


        Company X have made their technology open source so Company Y have no excuse in discovering that it infringes their patents only after they've made a large investment in supporting it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          It may not be obvious straight away that a patent has been infringed - companies using others' technology don't usually put comments in code they have open sourced to say that is what they have done. Indeed, in a big company with many departments, those implementing the code may not even be aware that say, a research department in their company has already designed and patented what they have received from another company.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Open Source(TM)

    "With a Monday blog post, OSI director Simon Phipps [...] urged Google to join hands with the OSI on the project, saying that before it does so, the codec cannot be considered open source."

    I'm confused, does OSI own some kind of trademark on the term "open source" such that I'm not allowed to call my software open source until they've reviewed it and given their express consent?

  14. Basic


    I can't wait until the whole patent system collapses - It does nothing to inspire new development / invention - It simply means that nobody dare use anything nowadays -even if it's widely used elsewhere - As a patent troll might appear and target you specifically.

    I'd prefer a complete overhaul of patenting (especially in the US - WTF you patent the concept not the idea?). Failing that, some sort of use it or lose it system - If you don't assert patent rights within 2 years of learning about an infringement, tough shite.

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