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Patented Oddness... - Jef"I am the pusher robot"Spaleta
ramblings of the self-elected Fedora party whip
Patented Oddness...
So looking back over the last few months of all the coverage concerning ooxml and how very bad it is... it seems to me that a lot of people have made it a point to question whether the ooxml specification has patented bits. Even in countries where software patents aren't so very important...yet.. the very issue of patents on bits of the ooxml specification made some sort of press.

Compared to the situation we have for patent encumbered audio/video standards..i find such interest in talking about the ooxml patent issue quite out of proportion. Why does the world, the free world, the world where innovation is yet to be shackled by the constraints of enforced software patents care so very much about the patentability of ooxml, but for audio/video format specifications, its barely on anyone's radar at all as something to be up in arms about?

Why is that? Why does the "wrongness" of patents on bits of ooxml get significantly more global press, but the known "wrongness" of patents on standard audio/video formats get far less scrutiny? Why do people care so much more on a global scale about the openness of their text and presentations, then they do about their audio and video? In the parts of the world where software patents are not the law of the land yet...why do patents in ooxml matter any more than patents in a/v software matter? In those places you are as free to ignore the issue and develop and use ooxml decode/encoding software as you are to develop and use an mp3 codebase. But for some reason the patent issue in ooxml hasn't been completely ignored. So why the uproar over ooxml when there's no wide spread passion to do the right thing when it comes to a/v and replace mp3 and mpeg with something unencumbered by patents?

Does it come down to the bottom line pressure of business to business economic needs instead of the liberty of personal freedoms? Do we need businesses and governments to start doing more audio/video interactions before a compelling reason to drag the industry forward into using an unencumbered a/v encoding standard? Do individual retail users matter at all in these sorts of standard setting conversations? Or are we simply consumers to be placated with shiny gadgets tied to the end of multi-year service and content delivery contracts? Is a/v still so much just a toy that if we lost all our video and audio encodings tomorrow the world wouldn't even skip a beat and we'd just go on buying the next re-mastered version of The Beatles White Album in whatever the next format is the media industry wants to sell us. Why does the world care so very much more about the issue of open accessibility of "documents" over the non-issue of accessibility of "media" ?

2 comments or Leave a comment
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 8th, 2008 03:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Both mp3 and mpeg have been "replaced" in the Foss community by Ogg Vorbis and Theora. There are also a number of other A/V codecs out there that were specifically designed to be patent un-encumbered.

I think it comes down to a producer/consumer thing. Most people consume Mp3 and there has been no will on the side of Thompson/Frauenhofer to sue the end-user for playing an mp3 file (with say mplayer). Plus both Mp3 and Mpeg are well documented with multiple 3rd party implementations.

Whereas most people don't tie up their personal audio in a patent encumbered format the problem with OOXML is that they will be tying up most of their data in a patent encumbered format. The only way to import/export data from OOXML is via a licenced interface. This has two effects. One; it ties up all my data, that I've paid for in a container owned by someone else. Two; I can't do anything interesting with my data that someone else hasn't already thought of and provided an interface for (think developing some competitive advantage). Both of these are bad things.

Having most of the office documents in the world readable by the kind permission of any company is a bad thing (even if that company were Google, RedHat, Sun or people that you personally would trust). And having to licence anything from a 3rd party to be able to communicate with my government is reprehensible.

Anyway, there are more eloquent speakers on the matter than I.

From: ext_91580 Date: July 8th, 2008 04:18 pm (UTC) (Link)

ooxml == microsoft

I think the vast amount of the press is because Microsoft is the great boogeyman. The fact that Microsoft also "bought" their way by paying various countries governments also got press.

I think the patent scare is because it affects the ability to do business. Economics are always higher in a persons mind than personal freedoms. A poor person will give up any freedom to feed their kids.. but trading away the ability to feed their kids gets an immediate "what?". A rich person will do the same for different levels of "feeding", and will balk more about not eating tomorrow versus not 'speaking' tomorrow.
2 comments or Leave a comment