Standards and Intellectual Property

I am sitting here, working with my PC: My keyboard and my mouse are connected wirelessly via Bluetooth and my monitor is hooked up through DVI. The graphics card is sitting in a PCI slot, main memory is DDR-SDRAM, and my optical drive can do CDs and DVDs. While my internal hard disk speaks the SATA protocol, my home directory is actually sitting on an SD card that is connected through a USB reader. My internet connection is done through DSL. On the software side, I am using GNU/Linux and browsing the internet with Firefox. No way I would ever watch a video in H.264 format.

9 thoughts on “Standards and Intellectual Property”

  1. Never commented here before (been a regular follower through RSS though).

    Do I sense a /sarcasm in the end? As in, are you talking about the double standards that people adopt in their attitude towards H264 while using so many other license technologies? Or, do you feel that licenses and standards must pertain to hardware products only and not algorithms?

    Sorry for being a noob :)

  2. @Kroc Camen: And none of the components in his “open” laptop uses any proprietary standards like the ones listed in the post, yeah?

  3. Thinking about this, I came to this conclusion. A user could use a computer that didn’t have any of those hardware specifications. He could use any computer at all and still access the web in an equal measure to proprietary hardware, but software patents like those of H.264 make it very difficult to interact with the web freely, regardless of hardware.

    In short, all those proprietary hardware standards cannot absolutely prevent someone contributing to the computing field, but proprietary software can.

  4. This is so true. I, too, don’t like people complaining without thinking about the “bigger picture” so to say. Your blog post sums it up nicely.

    “So you don’t want to watch h.264? But you *do* have an MP3 player?” etc.


  5. If you’re writing these lines with a keyboard connected over Bluetooth, it doesn’t matter to me; these lines come wrapped into a HTML page that is transferred over HTTP, which is encapsulated in TCP/IP frames, which in turn are encapsulated in Ethernet Frames when they arrive at my computer.

    My monitor is hooked up over LVDS, but even if it would be DVI, HDMI or DisplayPort, it wouldn’t really matter – at the time the information arrives at my eye, it was already converted into light.

    Sure, the ethernet-frame went across my PCI(express) bus, eventually the payload was stored in DDR3-SDRAM, but even that doesn’t really matter, since the bits haven’t been touched – they are still identical to those which left your computer.

    I might store your blog post on a storage device attached via SATA, SD or USB, but in any case it’s abstracted as a block device, stored in a file system that is not VFAT.

    But video data is kept encoded in H.264; it’s transmitted as H.264, and the information, that is (as a byte-stream) openly available on the net, is useless without a H.264 decoder. It’s is not a temporary encapsulation that is only used in the production environment.

    Right, H.264 (or MPEG in general) patents and license terms are clearly documented, easily obtainable, and don’t have any hidden drawbacks. Stories like are entirely fictitious.

  6. At first, I thought you had a point. But the thing seems
    to go deeper. There was a time when, apparently, Amis were
    sued over usage of GIF images (LZW compressed) on their
    private websites due to a patent.

    There’s no way around patents other than to not use it.
    Softwarw patents are even less avoidable.

    The issue at hand seems to be that, when you want to produce
    an image or movie, you cannot use GIF or MPEG without paying
    for licences, and as these are per piece, subscriber, etc.
    it’s almost impossible to produce things as unrestricted.
    For GIF there’s PNG, but the alternatives to MPEG are currently
    being endangered, or so I read. Someone offered M-JPEG (which
    is basically a bunch of almost independent JPEG pictures which,
    AFAIR, are not encumbered by any patents).

    The thing with usage licences on digital camcorders is ridiculous.

    PS: I wanted to comment using Lynx, my standard browser, and
    had issues with the captcha (why don’t you use a text-only one
    like – source code at*checkout*/trunk/gforge_base/evolvisforge/gforge/common/include/captcha.php?content-type=text%2Fplain&rev=6562&root=evolvis
    and uses FIGlet or TOIlet), and the sound alternative did nothing
    but throw PHP errors… so I had to resort to using Konqueror which,
    at work, I have.

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