Burn all GIFs.

Burn All GIFs

A project of the League for Programming Freedom.

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US Department of Defense finalizes plan to burn most of its GIFs.

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Please do not buy from Amazon. Amazon boycott page at the Free Software Foundation site.

It's a completely trivial application of cookies, a technology that was introduced several years before Amazon filed for their patent. It's even more ironic that in private conversation, one of the authors of the "cookies" spec mentioned to me that they considered the idea "too trivial to patent." To characterize "1-Click" as an "invention" is a parody. -- Tim O'Reilly


Other patent reform sites

Petition for a Software-Patent-Free Europe
The League for Programming Freedom
The O'Reilly Network patents page is up-to-date with coverage of the software patent issue.

Say yes to freedom of speech. Say no to Unisys. Protect your right to create Web graphics and software.
Weather at Unisys
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Free the web!  Burn all GIFs!  Free the web!  Burn all GIFs!
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:

  1. 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 by patents.
  2. Oppose the expansion of software patents to your country, if such patents are not available there now.
  3. Insist that standards organizations in which you participate require an "innovation compatible" patent license, which allows for implementation in Free/Open Source software.
  4. 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?
Wrong. "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



Why are web comics going GIF-free? "Switching over to the PNG format has given me about a 4K reduction in size per panel." says Christopher B. Wright in An Open Letter to All Web Cartooonists. Also read PNG Tips for Cartoonists by Drake Emko, and check out some of the web comics in our Spotlight on GIF-free sites section.


About burnallgifs.org

Unisys, once 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 software. gd 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 animations.

Despite the title, PNG Tips for Cartoonists is a good intro for all web artists who want to use PNG effectively.

A A 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 1995
emphasis added

 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).

Unisys 1999
emphasis added

A very detailed article on the history of GIF is The GIF Controversy: A Software Developer's Perspective

Spotlight on GIF-free sites

Chiral Software dynamically converts web images for mobile phones, and unless the phone can only display GIFs, it converts to JPEG or PNG.

The Dolphin's Encyclopedia offers 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.

The Freedom Technology Center is an IT training facility in Mountain View, California.

Free World Syndicate is a network for sharing political commentary and for writers and cartoonists to gain exposure to progressive publishers and to the general public.

Green Crescent Translations offers quality Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Haitian Creole translation at an affordable price.

Political Hell is a political site about the USA.

Web 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 beginning.

SCO vs IBM is a summary of the information techology industry's most bizarre legal case.

Anti-Marketing 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, Washington.

file-insider.com 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.

Winicur Consulting offers professional documentation and research services for technology-based companies.

The Moss Piglets play "freaky folk funk" in Minnesota.

Eric's home page has TV and VCR adjustment notes, Java drawing code, tips on converting imported TVs for New Zealand use, and a JavaScript 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.

Got Phonebooks? 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.

wApua (in development) is a WAP browser written in Perl/Tk.

Fat Chuck's Corrupt CDs lists CDs that are deliberately broken to prevent you from playing them on your computer or DVD player. Check before you buy.

TnT's Buttonstampede makes buttons and magnets for all occasions.

Hackles (thanks to Jen Brodzik for the "Web comics are going GIF-free" graphic)

The Web 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.

Annie's Artistry: Fine handmade (GIF-free) leather articles.

Free 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, California, USA.

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.)

High Tech: 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 work.

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 Microsystems.

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 REC-png.html <http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-png.html>.

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 Incorporated.

Source: U.S. Department of Defense Joint Technical Architecture (JTA), version 3.0, 15 Nov 1999, section

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

gif2png is 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 of charge.)

EZ Optimizer 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.

eMNGma is a Microsoft Windows application to create MNG animations. (Shareware)

PNG/MNG 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)

Image-Conversion Applications with PNG Support: other conversion utilities.

Applications with PNG Support: list of browsers and graphics programs that support PNG.

Applications with MNG Support: list of browsers and graphics programs that support MNG.

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.

Developer Information
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.

libpng: C library for PNG support

Image 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 Webhostinggeeks.com.
Contact us
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 suggestions regarding this web site to Don Marti: dmarti@zgp.org.

Don Marti
Silicon Valley Linux Users Group

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Editor, Microsoft Windows Refund Newsletter
GNU and Linux professional based in San Francisco

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Web Activist

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Eric S. Raymond
President, Open Source Initiative

Please do not mail us at the address ronandtim@zgp.org. It feeds directly into an abuse reporting system and will not be read by a human being.