From the makers of Windows Refund Day, Burn All Gifs DayAug 29, 1999, 03:27 (36 Talkback[s])
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From their website:
Why are you people going to this company called Unisys to burn a bunch of GIFs? What's Unisys, what's a GIF, what's the problem, and why should I use my time and lighter fluid to do something about it?
Unisys (blue line on chart), once a well-known computer company, holds a patent on a method of data compression called LZW. Other, much better, methods of data compression are not covered by any patent.
LZW is used in an obsolete graphic format called GIF, which many web sites use in order to be compatible with old web browsers. Unisys is now demanding that web sites pay them $5000 or more to use these now-obsolete GIF graphics.
Unisys is not asking for royalty payments on products they developed, or even on software based on their products. They are demanding payment from web sites that use independently developed software to create GIFs.
The fact that Unisys was able to patent LZW is due to a flaw in the US patent system that makes even pencil-and-paper calculations patentable. You could violate some US patents just doing the the story problems in a math or computer science textbook! The League for Programming Freedom is working to fix the US patent system to harmonize it with those of other, more sensible, countries. In the meantime, Unisys's actions are perfectly legal under US law, so the only reasonable alternative to paying the "Unisys tax" on the web is to upgrade graphics from GIF to PNG format.
On Burn All GIFs Day all GIF users will gather at Unisys and burn all their GIF files, freeing the web of this silly patent and this useless, litigious company once and for all. The Unisys/CompuServe GIF Controversy stops now.
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