Free the Web! Burn all GIFs! Bay Area Web developers march for software patent reform
GIFs are now patent-free, but you can learn from
the GIF fiasco and protect the digital information
you create from patent attacks. Things you can do:
- Put your content in formats unrestricted by
software patents. The
Xiph.org Foundation is a non-profit corporation
dedicated to protecting the foundations of Internet
multimedia. Visit their site for information on how
to keep your audio and video content unencumbered
- Oppose the expansion of software patents to your country,
if such patents are not available there now.
- Insist that standards organizations in which you participate require an
"innovation compatible" patent license, which allows for implementation in
Free/Open Source software.
- Develop and support software that works with non-patented file formats
and network protocols, instead of patent-encumbered ones, where available.
Please do not mail the maintainers of this site to ask if the
LZW patent is still in effect in a certain country. We
do not advise on patent law. If you are concerned about needing
a patent license to do your work, please support patent reform.
Sign the petition against
software patents in Europe.
Which browsers support PNG?
Most of them,
including Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer.
I'll just use GIFs without a license, and give those patent
weasels the finger!
By switching your site to PNG, you
encourage users to upgrade to PNG-capable browsers, and show
big-budget sites that they don't have to pay multi-million-dollar
royalties to Unisys. Helping make Unisys lose a GIF licensing
deal is a better way to give them the finger than just using GIFs
on your site.
Unisys is only going after software vendors,
right? Web sites with GIFs on them have nothing to fear, right?
Two words. Contributory
infringement. Do we have your attention now?
Apple has a patent on PNG too, right?
"PNG alpha is identical to the version described in Porter
and Duff's 1984 SIGGRAPH paper, which precedes Apple's filing by
8 years." -- Greg Roelofs, PNG Group
Forgent claims to hold a patent that covers JPEG, right?
Yes, but it wouldn't stand up in court, so ignore Forgent. "This
JPEG patent will neither stand the test of time or the scrutiny
of some good patent litigators. Any concerns are much ado about
nothing." -- Greg Aharonian
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.
The Unisys LZW patent expires in the USA on June 20, 2003.
However, according to Unisys, they hold LZW patents outside the
USA that expire in 2004.
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 charging web sites $5000 or more to use these now-obsolete
GIF graphics if the software originally used to create the GIFs
was not covered by a Unisys license.
Unisys claimed that patents
on LZW are in force in the United States, Japan, Canada, France,
Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.
The catch is that it appears to be difficult or impossible to get a Unisys
license to use LZW in free software that complies with the
Open Source Definition
or in low-volume proprietary
is an example of a package that can no longer support GIF because of
Unisys's LZW licensing terms.
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 story problems in a math or computer
science textbook! However, Unisys's actions are 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, or MNG format for
Despite the title, PNG Tips for
Cartoonists is a good intro for all web artists who want
to use PNG effectively.
study conducted by James Bessen and Eric Maskin shows that:
Through a sequence of court decisions, patent protection for
computer programs was significantly strengthened. We will show that,
far from unleashing a flurry of new innovative activity, these stronger
property rights ushered in a period of stagnant, if not declining, R&D
among those industries and firms that patented most.
Didn't they already settle this?
Unisys has changed their position on GIF licensing (see below) and they can change it again.
|Unisys does not require licensing, or fees to be paid, for non-commercial, non-profit GIF-based applications, including those for
use on the on-line services.
Concerning developers of software for the Internet network, the same principle applies. Unisys will not pursue previous inadvertent
infringement by developers producing versions of software products for the Internet prior to 1995. The company does not require
licensing, or fees to be paid for non-commercial, non-profit offerings on the Internet, including "Freeware".
| ||Unisys has frequently been asked whether a Unisys license is required in order to use LZW software obtained by downloading from the Internet or from other sources. The answer is simple. In all cases, a written license agreement or statement signed by an authorized Unisys representative is required from Unisys for all use, sale or distribution of any software (including so-called
"freeware") and/or hardware providing LZW conversion capability (for example, downloaded software used for creating/displaying GIF images).
A very detailed article on the history of GIF is The GIF Controversy: A Software Developer's Perspective
Spotlight on GIF-free sites
Software dynamically converts web images for
mobile phones, and unless the phone can only display
GIFs, it converts to JPEG or PNG.
information about the delfinariums of the world, taxonomy of each
member of the delphinidae family and news.
Omni Graphics Ltd.
offers quick turn printed circuit board fabrication.
Technology Center is an IT training facility in Mountain
Free World Syndicate
is a network for sharing political commentary and for writers and
cartoonists to gain exposure to progressive publishers and to the
Translations offers quality Spanish, Portuguese, French, and
Haitian Creole translation at an affordable price.
is a political site about the USA.
Colors Homepage is a visual guide to choosing
colors for web pages, including interactive palettes
to experiment with the colors. Find out how you can pack 65,536
different colors into a 678-byte image, and learn other
advantages of the PNG format. Smaller file sizes are just the
SCO vs IBM is a summary of
the information techology industry's most bizarre legal case.
provides unique strategic marketing and web design services.
Protect your privacy with your favorite web filtering tool and a long list of Ad server IP addresses.
Edoceo is a full
service small business technical consulting company based in Seattle,
is an on-line tool that analyzes and displays the structure and
contents of PNG files. Free of charge.
Urban Forest Craftsman
- Hand crafting furniture from reclaimed urban trees that would
otherwise be burned, buried, or be taken to landfills.
offers professional documentation and research services for
The Moss Piglets
play "freaky folk funk" in Minnesota.
home page has TV and VCR adjustment notes, Java drawing code,
calculator that might just save you a trip to the resistor store.
CodeCon 2002 (San
Francisco, February 15-17) is the workshop for developers of
real-world applications that support individual liberties.
is possibly the largest collection of phone books on the web.
Includes full text of the world's first telephone directory published
in New Haven, Connecticut, USA in 1878.
(in development) is a WAP browser written in Perl/Tk.
Corrupt CDs lists CDs that are deliberately broken to
prevent you from playing them on your computer or DVD player.
Check before you buy.
Buttonstampede makes buttons and magnets for all occasions.
Hackles (thanks to Jen Brodzik
for the "Web comics are going GIF-free" graphic)
Prestige Project asks webmasters not to source other sites'
graphics without permission.
pngart.com features 50,000
free PNG images.
Fling is designed
to make it impossible to track down either providers or users of
information, and impossible to listen in.
Fine handmade (GIF-free) leather articles.
Fonts at Kris' Haven
Bargain hunters: Check the seven most popular on-line auctions
with one AuctionBeagle
search. (And watch the animated tail on the PNG beagle.)
Visit beautiful Carlsbad,
Smokey Bear says extinguish GIFs before leaving your campsite: Yosemite National Park is GIF-free. (Lose the amazon.com link though, people -- ALL software patents suck.)
André's 8-bit pages,
featuring GeckOS/A65, the multitasking, Internet-enabled operating system
for the Commodore 64. Here's another GIF-free C64 page just because Commodore 64s rule.
Low Tech: Oxford City
Campaign for Real Ale. Software patent reform is thirsty
Graphics Envy: CAVE
Virtual Reality System.
Our software is licensed.
Except maybe if you use it on the web.
Um, ask our lawyers.
|There may be
some limitations of use if you are using a Jasc Software product
to operate a web server, internet server or bulletin board, or
if you are an on-line vendor using the software as a means to run
your on-line service. If you have questions regarding this, please
contact us our legal department at [ADDRESS]. Thank you for using
Jasc Software products!
"Unisys License Information" page at Jasc Software
In other words, even if you pay for licensed software, you
still need a lawyer to use GIF.
US Department of Defense
plans to burn (most) GIFs
The U.S. Department of Defense recently approved mandatory
use of PNG instead of GIF for images that require lossless compression,
except for animations:
|For the interchange of very large still-raster images that have no geospatial context and where lossy decompression is acceptable, the mandated standard is:
* JPEG File Interchange Format, Version 1.02, September 1, 1993, C-Cubed
For the interchange of other single raster images that have no geospatial context and where lossy
compression is not acceptable, the mandated standard is:
* PNG (Portable Network Graphics ) Specification, W3C Recommendation
For the lossless interchange of raster images that have no geospatial context and where none of the above cases apply, such as the exchange of still-images that can be viewed in sequence (also referred to as animation), the mandated standard is:
* Graphics Interchange Format (GIF), Version 89a, 31 July 1990, CompuServe
Source: U.S. Department of Defense Joint Technical
Architecture (JTA), version 3.0, 15 Nov 1999, section 22.214.171.124.1.4.2.
Register to download the
cited document as a zipped PDF.
Don't flame Unisys
Please don't flame Unisys. Unisys has had 14 years or so to develop
their position on LZW licensing, and one more flame war won't change
anything. Switch to a non-patented graphics format, burn your GIFs
to call attention to the fact that you're doing so, and avoid patent
minefields in the future.
When it comes to the web, Unisys didn't just miss the boat, they missed
the harbor and the ocean. They'll miss the next big thing too.
Free and open standards are winning. Win and be happy.
Burn All GIFs Day is about getting out of patent problems, not about
getting into flame wars.
Burn All Gifs Software
free, Open Source software to convert GIF images to PNG images under
Linux, Unix, MS-DOS or Microsoft Windows. The gif2png distribution
also includes a script, web2png, that can automatically convert
an entire website, including patching references to the converted
images in HTML and PHP pages.
A Microsoft Windows
version of gif2png is available.
SolidCapture is an
application for Microsoft Windows that lets you use a single hot key
to easily capture anything on the screen and send the screenshot to
the clipboard, a file, or your favorite image editing application.
SolidCapture uses PNG by default. (Shareware.)
Check conversions with file-insider.com, which
displays PNG structure and contents. (Online access only; free
for Microsoft Windows converts graphics on a local drive or on an
FTP server, and also corrects and optimizes HTML. (Shareware)
SlowView for Microsoft
Windows converts animated GIFs to MNGs. Available at no charge for
unlimited use and noncommercial distribution.
is a Microsoft Windows application to create MNG animations. (Shareware)
Construction Set Professional is a Microsoft Windows application to
create and manage PNG transparencies and MNG animations. (Shareware)
pngcrush is an
optimizer for PNG (Portable Network Graphics) files. It can be run from
a commandline in an MSDOS window, or from a UNIX or LINUX commandline.
Its main purpose is to reduce the size of the PNG IDAT datastream by
trying various compression levels and PNG filter methods. It also can
be used to remove unwanted ancillary chunks, or to add certain chunks
including gAMA, tRNS, and textual chunks. (Free Software/Open Source)
Irfanview is an image
viewer for Microsoft Windows that can open, save, and crop many
image formats, including converting GIF to PNG. (free of charge
for non-commercial use)
Applications with PNG Support: other conversion utilities.
with PNG Support: list of browsers and graphics programs that
with MNG Support: list of browsers and graphics programs that
Notes on how to
configure Microsoft IIS for PNG by Mike Schinkel of vbxtras.com. Microsoft IIS webmasters:
read this document if PNG images on your site are visible from Microsoft
Internet Explorer but not from Netscape browsers.
You can use freely available libraries to add PNG and MNG
support to software you create. The libraries are under a simple,
non-copyleft OSI-approved free license.
libmng: C library for MNG, PNG,
and JNG support.
library for PNG support
VPI provides PNG I/O for Verilog programs.
Read PNG: The
Definitive Guide by Greg Roelofs to learn how to create PNGs and
write applications that use the PNG format. Full text is now available online.
libpng.org offers free demo
code to learn how to write applications using PNG.
Burn All Gifs Graphics
Visit Burn All GIFs Graphics for PNG
graphics you can use to show support for this site.
This article is translated to Serbo-Croatian
language by Anja Skrba from
If you haven't actually read this page, and just like GIFs
or Unisys for some reason and want to tell us all about it, please
don't waste your time.
Webmaster: Please send any corrections or
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Linux Users Group
Editor, Microsoft Windows Refund Newsletter
GNU and Linux professional based in San Francisco
Editor, Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution
Web Design Officer, Silicon Valley Linux Users Group
Eric S. Raymond
President, Open Source Initiative
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