Ming the Mechanic:
Boycott Software Patents

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Boycott Software Patents2001-08-17 13:38
2 comments
pictureby Flemming Funch

I received an invitation from Peter de Jager to join with other futurists in a Global Future Forum, organized by the Unisys company. I strongly declined. Basically because Unisys is on my list of greedy, destructive, anti-social companies. In brief because they've tried very hard to get license fees from anybody who's using GIF pictures. After the Internet had caught on as a big phenomenon, and everybody were using GIF pictures in their webpages, Unisys showed up and claimed a patent on a compression algorithm used in GIF files. They of course didn't mention anything when GIF was originally chosen on the basis that it seemed to be free to use. At any rate, a number of open source software efforts either had to be halted, or GIF support was removed from some of the key software libraries used on the Internet. Simply because they were being developed for free, and given away, and the developers couldn't afford the exorbitant licenses Unisys was asking for. That has personally as a programmer cost me many hours of grief and wasted work. Here are some links about the Burn all GIFs! movement, and about the evils of software patents, and . Unisys has later moderated their position somewhat, but the damage is mostly done, and the licensing terms are still not compatible with open source software.


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2 comments

4 Apr 2005 @ 19:18 by Michael @66.92.17.118 : Unisys patent
Hi,

I just wanted to pass on some happy news. For years, we've been oppressed by a long-standing Unisys patent related to GIF files and a variety of other file formats that used the LZ compression algorithm. Having just hung up with the USPTO, they confirmed that this patent has expired. It is now public domain technology and may be used without paying royalties.

I see from your website that you (and many others have taken the "GIF sucks, use something else" approach). I must admit that I myself thought this at one time. But now I feel that this is something we should celebrate. We should all create tons of GIF graphics and rub it in the faces of the people that prevented us from doing so. To embrace other technologies and never return to use something we can now legally and freely do would be counter to the cause, if you will. Instead of not creating GIF content, we should include it now in every product that produces graphics, because we can. It would be a celebration of not only our rights but in some way a vindication that we could succeed in avoiding Unisys's tyranny and yet now create those same graphics that we would have been extorted over in earlier years.

Patent: 4,855,302
Duration of patent: 17 years
Filing: June, 1985
Expirated: June, 2002  



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