Burn All GIFs Day in the News
- Patches to
Interactive Week patent article by Raph Levien. 8 November
- First, when faced with a choice between patented and unpatented
technology, choose unpatented. If people had been more vigilant about
this, the entire GIF fiasco
could have been avoided. There are a number of analogous issues before
us today, including MP3 vs Vorbis, the
development of a high quality autohinter
to replace proprietary manual hinting techniques such as TrueType, and
MNG, JNG and Mozilla M17 by Greg Roelofs. 26 June 2000
- Unlike (LZW-based) GIF, in which the compression is basically
deterministic--that is, you end up with pretty much the same data
regardless of who does the compression--PNG's scheme leaves a
lot of room for optimization. Some programs do a good job, some
don't. The GIMP happens to be one of the good ones, as is pngcrush. Photoshop traditionally has been one of
the not-so-good ones, although version 5.5 includes a "Save for Web"
option that presumably invokes ImageReady. ImageReady 1.0 was mediocre
and reportedly isn't much better in its current release (i.e., pngcrush
beats it by 15% to 25%), but it is better than Photoshop's normal "Save
Absurd by Philip E. Ross. Forbes, 29 May 2000
- The U.S. Patent Office is withering under some of the fiercest criticism it has endured in 200 years of existence. It has simply been overwhelmed by the rapid pace of change on the Internet and an explosion of patent applications by companies seeking to string barbed wire around innovation. One patent for a Compton's CD-ROM covered any method for retrieving data from a disk; another company's patent protected the very notion of letting buyers use the Internet to bid on things like airline tickets. Gailly is right: When patents are issued for sweeping claims or obvious applications, they don't foster innovation, they crush it.
- Unisys comes out
against friendship and freedom Ditherati, 25
- "They want everything to be free and let's all be friends. But
fortunately, this is not the American way." -- Mark Starr, Unisys patent
- The Latest GIF Tiff (The Standard, 25 April 2000)
- "The GIF patent, as you may know, is at the end of its useful life. It expires in 2003. And there are new things out there. We're looking at the PNG format, which has better resolution and better color transmissibility and several other advantages across the board." -- Barry Myers, executive VP of AccuWeather
- Patent demands may spur Unisys rivals in graphics market (CNet News.com, 18 April 2000)
- Accuweather, which sells meteorological data to news outlets and
other organizations, said in a memo to its customers on Friday that the
switch to PNG will take full effect May 12, although Accuweather will
continue to hold the rights to use GIFs on its own Web site.
"We decided to change because it looks like things are going that
way," said Brandi Say, the Accuweather customer service
representative who authored the memo.
- Patently Absurd by James Gleick. New York Times, 12 March 2000.
- In ways that could not have been predicted even a few years ago, the patent system is in crisis. A series of unplanned mutations have transformed patents into a positive threat to the digital economy. The patent office has grown entangled in philosophical confusion of its own making; it has become a ferocious generator of litigation; and many technologists believe that it has begun to choke the very innovation it was meant to nourish.
This is the article USPTO doesn't want you to read. Q. Todd
Dickenson, US Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, called the editors
of the New York Times, then the newspaper's lawyers, in an attempt to suppress the
- O' Reilly Network Patents
- Current news articles on the software patent crisis.
- The Netwebly Guide to the Internet (10 February 2000)
- The Unisys plan could not have had worse timing. The end result will probably be the extinction of what was the most popular graphics format on the web.
- Burn All Gifs: An Interview With Don Marti (ahref.com, 22 December 1999)
- The Burn All Gifs website advocates, among other things, converting all GIFs to a newer, more advanced, format - PNGs. In this interview, Don talks a bit about the background of the Burn All Gifs movement, and about software patents in general.
- Fugitive From Justice (Lincoln Stein's "Webmaster's Domain" column in WebTechniques, December 1999)
- Unisys' network services division distributes a remote network management tool that uses GD.pm to display network status graphics. GD.pm, of course, uses libgd, which in turn uses an unlicensed version of the LZW encoder. Perhaps Unisys should negotiate some site-licensing terms with itself?
- GIF Tiff (Business 2.0, December 1999)
- "I saw a huge surge of interest in PNG at the end of August when the [Unisys licensing] story first broke," says Greg Roelofs, a member of the PNG developers group and author of PNG: The Definitive Guide. "Now a big groundswell of user interest - in the form of direct feedback to software vendors - would probably do the most good."
- Are the days of GIF numbered? (IT@AsiaOne)
- Apparently, if you store and distribute GIF files that were created by unlicensed copy of LZW software on the Internet, you are also guilty of "contributory infringement". Unisys's solution to this is by introducing a "lower-cost, one-time license fee" of US$5,000. But that is only for starters. If your Web site carries third-party banner ads, has password-protected areas or conducts electronic commerce, you'll have to bargain for your own license with Unisys and that is definitely not going to be US$5,000 only.
Think about this: If Unisys get its way, what will be next? Patents for HTML and HTTP? What will Internet be if we are to 'degrade' to that stage?
So, are you ready to burn your GIFs now?
- A GIF Horse with Nothing But Mouth (Boardwatch, November 1999)
- Nobody needs to pay for the privilege of using outdated, patented .gif technology when there are better, free alternatives. Even if you know for sure that all of your .gif files were created by a Unisys-licensed program, you should convert your images to jpeg format, or use the new .png format.
- Chris DiBona's Burn All GIFs Day photos
- sendmail.net's Burn All GIFs Day photos
- Aus für GIFs?
(tecChannel, 17 November 1999)
- Mike Burns, GIF Mourns (Chimp News Network, 8 November 1999)
- Real fire photos from Burn All GIFs Day in Canada!
- Time to
liberate your website - burn your GIFs (Boot, 5 November 1999)
- In 1995, Unisys made their position clear. They were looking to extract licence fees from software developers who supported LZW compression, but had no particular gripe with the end users. "The company [Unisys] does not require licensing, or fees to be paid for non-commercial, non-profit offerings on the internet, including 'Freeware'," declares a Unisys press release dated January 10, 1995.
However, if you try to access this document on the Unisys website, you may be in for a surprise. It now states that: "The typical Unisys licence for standalone software does NOT permit copying, modification, resale, use on a server or in a network, or use for internet/intranet/extranet or website operation."
The document had been updated earlier this year to reflect "changes in the use and marketing of GIF and other LZW-based products", while still carrying the date of the orginal press release.
- Unisys Heats Up Over GIFs (PC World News, 5 November 1999)
all GIFs? (Borland Developer News, 5 November 1999)
- Developer News spoke to Oliver Picher, spokesman for
Unisys. Picher is in charge of fielding questions about the LZW
patent and is a friendly fellow who's clearly fascinated with the
ramifications of patents in the real world. We posed a question to
him: "Let's say I have a Web site and someone sends me a file that
was compressed using an unlicensed copy of the LZW algorithm -- a
GIF for example -- and all I do is allow others to download that file
from my site. In other words, I neither compress nor decompress the
file; I simply make it available. Do I need a license from Unisys?"
Picher laughed, "Great question!" He explained
that such an action is considered "contributory infringement" because
you're helping an infringer. He went on to downplay the official
Unisys position by observing, "If you ask a highway patrolman if
you can speed he'll say no, even though the odds are you won't
- Webmasters Push for Switch from GIF (InternetNews.com, 5 November 1999)
- Organizers have started a campaign against the fee by creating banner ads urging Webmasters to eliminate GIFs from their sites and using word-of-mouth to spread the word against Unisys. Some protesters are going so far as to physically burn paper copies of GIF files outside Unisys' California office Friday.
Protest organizers said the issue is about open standards, not specifically the GIF format, which is slowly being replaced by other image formats such as the Joint Photographic Experts Group, or JPEG, and Portable Network Graphics, otherwise known as PNG files.
- Stor bojkott mot gif (ComputerSweden, 4 November 1999)
- Das Ende der GIFs? (Spiegel Online, 4 November 1999)
- Am Freitag "feiert" die Open-Source-Gemeinde des Internet den "Burn all GIFs Day". Nicht, weil die Surfer plötzlich ihre Liebe zu bildlosen Textwüsten entdeckt hätten, sondern weil Patenthalter Unisys für die Nutzung von GIFs Geld sehen will.
- Hey Ho, GIFs Must Go! (Atlantic Unbound, 3 November 1999)
- Unfortunately, the Patent Office has had few examiners who knew anything about software. Incredibly, it has awarded patents to such simple processes as putting two windows on a screen, putting a cursor in a window in a way that doesn't erase the data beneath, and recalculating the entries in a spreadsheet -- even though all of these processes were developed by others years before the patent holders "invented" them and are sufficiently obvious to be implemented in a few lines of code.
- GIF Economy: A Cautionary Tale (sendmail.net, 2 November 1999)
With the US Patent and Trademark Office handing out patents hand over fist, a minefield is being sown that threatens anyone who develops software, with the peril inversely proportional to the developer's clout (translation: access to lawyers and vast heaps of cash). That problem's made worse by the PTO's uncertainty about how prior art (the premise that you can't patent what's already been done) should be applied to computer programs. Their way of dealing with that, apparently, is to give a patent to everyone who asks, then let the courts sort it out - an approach that has corporate legal departments grinning ear to ear, knowing as they do that it's a rare developer who can afford (or stomach) more than 45 minutes of full-on litigation, even though they might ultimately prevail.
- Burn All GIFs Day (Windows Magazine, 2 November 1999)
On November 5, webmasters all over the world will convert their sites to eliminate all GIFs. Please join this effort and show Unisys that the net will not tolerate its sleazy attempt at a $5000-per-site shakedown based on the LZW patent
By converting your site on or before November 5th, you will also send a message to hostile software patent-holders that the net will actively resist future attempts to torpedo open-source software with "submarine patents".
- Hey, Unisys: Time To Burn All Gifs (Byte.com, 8 October 1999)
- In reality, CompuServe was being squeezed through UniSys, which developed the compression technology used in GIFs, and the target of the royalty push was software developers that supported GIF files. So Adobe, Corel, Macromedia, and other vendors coughed up the license fee for the GIF compression, called LZW.
Now it's happening again; only this time, UniSys is taking the direct role and CompuServe is on the sidelines. UniSys is asking Web sites that used graphics programs that don't have an LZW compression license to create their GIFs, TIFF-LZW and PDF-LZW files to pay a one-time license fee, or remove the GIFs.
- The fast track to GIF irrelevancy (ZDNet, 13 September 1999)
Unisys is as clueless about free software concepts as any computer company I've ever come across, and they ought to get a taste of what the information technology managers of tomorrow think of them today. But beyond words, the best way to deal with the situation is to move swiftly to make GIFs -- and Unisys -- irrelevant.
- Unisys demands $5k licence fee for use of GIFs (The Register, 9 September 1999)
- The company doesn't however make it clear either how you're supposed to identify whether or not your GIF is hot, or how it proposes to determine this in order to collect its fees. Rather than generating money for the company, the net effect is more likely to be to expose it to widespread loathing, and to trigger widespread abandonment of formats using LZW.The move has already generated the aptly-named burnallgifs.org
- Open Source Graphics With PNG (LinuxWorld, 9 September 1999)
- My guess is that, since I use the GIMP for image creation and modification and then display the images thus modified on my Web site, it probably does mean me. That's why my Web site is now becoming GIF-free. All new images created for my site are saved using the PNG format. I've had a few complaints from visitors running older versions of Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator because they can't view them, but for the most part, the change has been -- dare I say it? -- transparent to the users.
- The Unisys Corporation - A Ship of Fools (metromilwaukee.com, 9 September 1999)
In closing, I do suggest we all write the software developers whose products we use and tell them we do not wish them to pay Unisys. Tell them, "Do not pay Unisys one stinking dime"! Tell them we support the removal of the GIF file from their programs and help them understand that we understand that we don't need no stinking GIF file format! Tell them we have all seen the light and will break our nasty habit of using the GIF file format just because it was the quick and easy thing to do. Tell them we realize that it is now as quick and as easy and in fact preferred for all of us to save our images using the PNG file format as it provides all of the benefits that the GIF file format "used to provide" and more, because the PNG file format is in the public domain and can be used by all without paying additional licensing fees.
- MacInTouch Reader
Reports (MacInTouch, 31 August-2 September 1999)
- (This is a selection of comments from professional graphic artists
and webmasters about the Unisys patent issue. Very worthwhile reading.)
I'm using PNG format graphics extensively in a series of commercial CD ROMs. We almost used GIF format, but when the licensing issue first came up, we decided at that point we didn't want to get involved with it. The public domain PNG code works VERY nicely and the graphics are even slightly smaller than GIF with the same quality.
- GIF Unisys the Boot (webdeveloper.com, 31 August 1999)
- The latest problem is that Unisys, a formerly large computer company, owns the rights to the LZW compression patent which covers things like TIFF and GIF image formats. If your graphic files are GIFs, and they were created with a program whose creator did not pay a license fee to Unisys, Unisys will be demanding a $5000 license fee from you.
- Unisys Not Suing (most) Webmasters for Using GIFs (slashdot.org, 31 August 1999)
- If you use GIF graphics created with certain freeware programs, and your chosen program uses LZW compression to create GIFs without a license to use it, you may be violating a Unisys patent. How would Unisys know what software you used to create a particular GIF? Starr says they'll ask you, and, he says, "...assuming we made an inquiry, we would expect a Web site operator to tell us what he used."
- Unisys wants $5000 if you use .gifs (UGeek Daily Geek News, 31 August
- Brennen GIF-Grafiken? (Linux BBS, 30 August 1999)
Compression Issues (Macintosh News Network, 30 August 1999)
You will never believe this but Unisys is trying to enforce their patent on the GIF/LZW file format. They are requiring a $5000 fee from websites that use the GIF file format for any image. This is regardless of whether the software used to create the image is already licensed. This may sound a bit unbelievable but just check out the detail at the Unisys web site. We for one will be converting our images over to JPEG or PNG in the next few days to protest this type of ridiculous double taxation by such a lame company.
- Unisys Is At It Again! (BrowserWatch, 30 August 1999)
...the SYSOPS (the people who ran the BBS's) en mass converted each and every .arc file they had to the new .zip format! It was an amazing thing really. It wasn't 'planned', it just happened. Within six months (or less) every major BBS in the world had killed .arc! Could we see the same thing happen again? I think so! Can you say .png?
Panic About GIFs (evolt.org, 29 August 1999)
It has been pointed out to me by Slashdot user JoeBuck (thanks for the tip) that the link to the Unisys information stating that free software products are not required to pay a royalty is actually old information. Apparently, Unisys are now requiring payment from all software manufacturers, putting the likes of The Gimp in a difficult position. Do they continue to supply their software for free, but fork out the money for a license for LZW compression, or do they drop the gif format from their products? This is perhaps the most heinous part of this whole affair and it remains to be seen how the Open Source community will react.
Demanding License Fees (About.com, 29 August 1999)
- Marti and other knowledgeable webbies say the only reasonable alternative to paying the "Unisys tax" on the web is to upgrade graphics from GIF to PNG format. The only problem with converting is that some older browsers do not support PNG.
- Unisys gets greedy
(Ars Technica: The PC enthusiast's resource)
- Unisys is a Bunch of Retards (Pigdog Journal, 26 August 1999)
- Eventually, with this pressure, EVERYONE is going to ditch GIF in
favor of PNG. Web folks will stop asking image software vendors to
support GIFs, and the software guys won't want to pay the license
fees so they'll just stop supporting GIF. Then even people who
WANT GIF won't be able to get it. GIFs will disappear!
Coming Software Patent Crisis: Can Linux Survive?
(Linux Journal, 10 August 1999)
- As you read the list of "infringements", you can't help laughing, scared as you are. The so-called infringements include procedures which programmers have used for years--maybe decades. Examples? Your program includes a "Save As" command that enables users to save a file with a different name. It accesses information from a central server. You used different colors to differentiate items in a list. You can't believe what you're reading. These are patentable?
- The GIF Controversy: A Software Developer's Perspective
- "When I reminded [Unisys] of the many freeware products that are out there using the GIF format, [Unisys] said that - and this is a quote - 'just because there are thieves out there doesn't mean that you can act like a thief'."
"For the second time in two years we had to change our plans. I am furious. [Three years ago] CompuServe and Unisys knew about the patent, and did not inform the community, leaving me and others waste our time writing this software. Now the same is happening again: I took decisions last year, based on the public 'clarifications' by Unisys, and now they are just rewriting history as if they never said those things. This feels like Orwell's 1984."
- James S. Huggins' Refrigerator Door: Burn All GIFs
- links to more articles on
the GIF patent problem and on software patents in general.