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sendmail.net: GIF Economy: A Cautionary Tale

[ Thanks to Don Marti
for this link. ]

“On Friday 5 November, the air will be rich with the smell of
burning GIFs. If you’ve heard about the recent scare involving
Unisys and the GIF file format, you may already be planning to turn
your GIFs to smoke and ash. If you haven’t, listen up and keep your
lighter handy.”

“Once upon a time, a company called Unisys obtained a patent on
a data compression method called LZW, used in a graphic format
called GIF. For a long time, GIFs seemed (like so much on the
Internet) to be free, and with the arrival of the Web they spread
like wildfire. Then one day all that changed. Now, to make a long
story short, Unisys is demanding that Web sites pay them $5,000 or
more to keep using these graphics unless they can show that the
software that created them was covered by a Unisys license.”

But why should that matter to us – we’re all using Lynx
anyway, right?
😉 Well, among other reasons, it matters
because it turns out to be pretty tough (verging on impossible) to
get a Unisys license to use LZW in software that complies with the
Open Source Definition. And that puts a lot of people over a
barrel. Sure, it’s legal. But it sucks.”


Complete Story