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Unisys Enforcing GIF Patents

justin++ posted more than 14 years ago | from the its-png-time dept.

News 483

ESR writes "Remember the flap back in 1994-1995 about the GIF format, with Unisys behaving like jerks over the LZW compression method and threatening to charge license fees for use of their bogus patent? Well, brace yourselves. It just got worse. Under Unisys's new policy, they've gone beyond shaking down software authors. They're now threatening to sue even noncommercial websites that carry GIFs for a $5000 license fee, regardless of whether the GIFs were generated by licensed software or not. The gory details are at Don Marti's Burn All GIFs Day site. Time to convert all your GIFs to some other format. I like PNG better than JPEG, as it's lossless. The PNG site carries a gif2png tool that does a good job; I just used it to clean up my personal website. GIF animations won't survive the conversion, however...uh, wait. Maybe Unisys just did us a favor after all... " Here is the Unisys page that started it all.

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GIF's are almost useless anyway (1)

mdmbkr (14384) | more than 14 years ago | (#1718780)

It's about time someone got this format killed off.

It does have it's niche for small size web graphics. But there are other, newer, better, more open formats that can do the job just as well.

I think the biggest potential negative effect this might lead to is the appearance of multiple new formats. We already have way more than enough; I don't think there's much need for more than 2 or 3 bitmap and 2 or 3 vector formats. (BTW it sure would be nice for browsers to support a vector format or two).

mdm

Upgrade or else... (2)

jdub! (24149) | more than 14 years ago | (#1718783)

This doesn't disappoint me too much - gif was way outdated as it is.

Hold on? Perhaps they ARE being nice to us after all - I mean, it takes so long to get old deprecated crap out of the worlds computers (Win3.1, etc) - maybe this is the fast track way out of the whole "backwards compatibility" bind!

UPGRADE OR I'LL SUE!!!

Upgrade or else... (0)

jdub! (24149) | more than 14 years ago | (#1718786)

This doesn't disappoint me too much - gif was way outdated as it is.

Hold on? Perhaps they ARE being nice to us after all - I mean, it takes so long to get old deprecated crap out of the worlds computers (Win3.1, etc) - maybe this is the fast track way out of the whole "backwards compatibility" bind.

UPGRADE OR I'LL SUE!!!

Hell, that'll work for me!

Not to worry. (1)

pingouin (783) | more than 14 years ago | (#1718789)

By the time Unisys finds me (somewhere on the outskirts of the fine capital of Name of Small Island Nation Withheld), their little shakedown stunt will be history. Right?

Right?

--

As useful as this may be... (1)

198348726583297634 (14535) | more than 14 years ago | (#1718792)

the browsers I use most don't exactly deal with png in a friendly way. With just one of my sites regularly passing out over 1700 gifs, what kind of solution is there besides telling hundreds of people every day, "hey, go upgrade to something even I don't have!" blah, if netscape 4 for linux supports PNG, i haven't seen it.

PNG viewable in browsers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1718795)

But AFAIK, PNG is still not viewable in latest browsers? Not on the Mac at least.

Xah
xah@best.com
http://www.best.com/~xah/PageTwo_dir/more.html

GIFs are so out of date (2)

Rayban (13436) | more than 14 years ago | (#1718797)

It's a format with a whopping 256 color palette. It's so out of date right now that I'm surprised its survived as long as it did. I assume that people keep them around because of the possibilty of animated gifs (hooray -- annoying banner ads and cheezy clip art).

PNG is far superior in most respects. I'm surprised its taken so long to catch on. I assume that this new Unisys move is going to help it get bigger. :)

PNG/MNG (1)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 14 years ago | (#1718799)

Maybe this means we can fianlly get decent support for PNG/MNG in IE/Mozilla w/out needing those lame ass plugins. Maybe PNG will become popular and MNG will actually reach real people! Oh my GAWD I'm breaking a sweat! Please, please, do it!

Animation (2)

ElJefe (41718) | more than 14 years ago | (#1718800)

As nice as it might sound to get rid of those damn animated GIFs as banner ads, this might lead to something far more annyoing and evil: Java banner ads.

(shudder)

Besides GIF, are there any other formats that support animation? From what I understand (which may be false), animation was tacked on to the GIF format after a while; could the same thing be done to PNG (or even JPEG)?

-ElJefe

Use JPEG (2)

Eric Green (627) | more than 14 years ago | (#1718901)

Use JPEG. Netscape 4 for Linux does support PNG, by the way -- see http://www.estinc.com for an example. The little menu images on the left side of the screen are little PNG files.

-E

Re:Animation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1718904)

It has been, to both... the PNG version is called MNG, and the JPEG version is called, um, JFIF, maybe? It's on xanim's list of supported formats, anyway.

Yeah, right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1718909)

Any actual evidence?

Neither the site references, or the one on the site referenced give any evidence that Unisys are doing anything.

I don't think that a patent on an algorhythm can be used to complain about a file, even if the file happens to be in the output of that alogryhtm.

Re:Animation (1)

enterfornone (7400) | more than 14 years ago | (#1718913)

I thought mpeg was basically an animated jpeg. What I really want is decent browser support for transparant png, that will make me ditch gif for good.

Re:Animation (1)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 14 years ago | (#1718918)

They have MNG which is sort of animation tacked onto PNG. They have further information on it in their web sites. I believe they say that Paint Shop Pro's (about $60) animation studio uses MNG as it's internal format already so bringing it to the world shouldn't be to hard a jump.

Re:Animation (1)

jflynn (61543) | more than 14 years ago | (#1718922)

The PNG web site linked to by ESR contains a statement that a format MNG supporting animation is under development.

http://www.cdrom.com/pub/mng/

Jim

The 95% solution. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1718926)

According to my logs, 95% of all visitors to my web pages have Netscape 4.0, MSIE 4.0, or later. All these browsers support PNG. The time to dump GIF is now.

Re:GIFs are so out of date (2)

198348726583297634 (14535) | more than 14 years ago | (#1718930)

I can think of at least one site that relies heavily on GIFs, despite their lackluster palette performance.. in fact, I can't think of another format that would serve this site any better. It's listed in your sig file. Mine too. Three hundred and two comic strips, comprised of over 1700 individual frames, take up less space than a single mp3 (of average length)

JPGs are total overkill for this comic (>10 colours/frame, no antialiasing, etc.) PNGs would work, except they're not supported nearly as far-spread as gifs.

Re:"Yeah, right" my ass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1718932)

wipe you glasses and read the article with links again.

Xah
xah@best.com
http://www.best.com/~xah/PageTwo_dir/more.html

Uhhh.... read Unisys's page, guys (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1718935)

Not that Unisys is showing the brains God gave rocks, but the issue here is not whether your site has GIFs or not, but whether your GIFs were created with programs that didn't license the LZW algorithm. If you used Photoshop, no big deal, in other words. The problem for Unisys is that this is unenforcable; GIF doesn't include the program used to create the file in the format. In court, this wouldn't hold up for Unisys, although some large sits may just pay the fee because they don't want the legal hassle.

I was rather disappointed in ESR for spreading this crap.

follow GNU (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1718951)

for once I'm with /.'ers.

People, remember GNU. Go to their site and read it.

We must unite and kick the unisys fuck out for good.

DO NOT CHICKEN OUT! for one reason or another. Get rid of gifs on your site. I have a large site with tons of gifs. It may be a problem for me.

Xah
xah@best.com
http://www.best.com/~xah/PageTwo_dir/more.html

Re:Yeah, right. (1)

Trevor_Sky (83347) | more than 14 years ago | (#1718955)

Can a plain format be patented, or can one only patent the means to achieving format?

If I understand correctly, UniSys has a patent on their compression algorithm, but not on the output... any lawyer types out there?

Re:The 95% solution. (1)

198348726583297634 (14535) | more than 14 years ago | (#1718958)

According to my logs, you stink!!

As long as humanly possible, I plan on supporting as many browsers as possible.. hell, I've even got some lynx readers! Does the command-line graphics viewer of their choice support PNG? who knows! Maybe what I should do is convert the US-based mirrors to PNG and leave the offshore ones as GIF.. and direct the PNG-inhibited users to the GIF-enabled sites.

It wouldn't be too hard to script.. :)

Re:Animation (1)

Masa (74401) | more than 14 years ago | (#1718963)

Java banner ads aren't the problem because it's possible to turn Java support off from the browser. This will be better than with animated gifs because, as far as I know, there isn't any option in Netscape Communicator (or other browsers) which will prevent loading animated gifs.

And all kinds of animations are just annoying and useless. Or am I wrong?

Actually, only good thing with gifs is that it has that transparency option in it.

Its un-enforcable... really. (2)

Pengo (28814) | more than 14 years ago | (#1718965)


Go to all of the government websites.. offshore websites.. private websites...

the courts would be FILLED... I don't believe ONE thing will come of it.

Dies.... (1)

Bud^- (70689) | more than 14 years ago | (#1718969)




It Pissed me off that decnt, good or sometimes even great Techonigies get killed/stunned because of greedy ass companies trying to squezze an extra cent out of their product.

Sure companies have to make money, that is life.

See it from my point of view for a second, I enjoy computers, not for the money involved (like I make any, anyways) but for the almost spritytually benfeit and joy I get from them.

Companies do have to make money, that is a fact of life, but they don't have to be such assholes about it. You can do what is right, or do what is "the right thing" the first will make you more money, but does Bill Gates or any of these other b/millions NEED that much fucking money anyways.

It sickens me, I spent alot of time working (playing) with computers, not because of the money involved with the computer industy, but because I enjoy it. Because I know others like it, for the "ZEN" like state for configuring a highly secure system, or writing a tight peice of code.

When you sit at your computer after your work day, do you sit at it because it is your job, or because you truely enjoy computers?

Companies suck when it comes to the hobbies. Companies suck when it comes to the common people. Companies suck when it comes to everyone but them. Companies are defined as people that are in it for the fincail benifits instead of the euphoia they get from it.





GIFs made with Licensed software OK? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1718973)

All admit I'm a little short on sleep at the moment, but if I read the Unisys web page correctly you need the license IF you're using GIF's created with software that isn't licensed. It sounds to me like they're targeting users of software from programmers that ignore their patent.

So my question is, if my site is created totally with Adobe products (Photoshop and Pagemill) am I effected by this?

In any case this does help show how stupid software patents are!

Dies.... (1)

Bud^- (70689) | more than 14 years ago | (#1718975)


RANT DISCLAMER=STANARD DILUATED=ON

It Pissed me off that decnt, good or sometimes even great Techonigies get killed/stunned because of greedy ass companies trying to squezze an extra cent out of their product.

Sure companies have to make money, that is life.

See it from my point of view for a second, I enjoy computers, not for the money involved (like I make any, anyways) but for the almost spritytually benfeit and joy I get from them.

Companies do have to make money, that is a fact of life, but they don't have to be such assholes about it. You can do what is right, or do what is "the right thing" the first will make you more money, but does Bill Gates or any of these other b/millions NEED that much fucking money anyways.

It sickens me, I spent alot of time working (playing) with computers, not because of the money involved with the computer industy, but because I enjoy it. Because I know others like it, for the "ZEN" like state for configuring a highly secure system, or writing a tight peice of code.

When you sit at your computer after your work day, do you sit at it because it is your job, or because you truely enjoy computers?

Companies suck when it comes to the hobbies. Companies suck when it comes to the common people. Companies suck when it comes to everyone but them. Companies are defined as people that are in it for the fincail benifits instead of the euphoia they get from it.

/RANT> /DISCLAMIER /DILAUTED

FREE_TO_FLAME=ON

Re:PNG viewable in Netscape 4.61 without pluger3.0 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1718977)

PNG is viewable in Netscape 4.61 without plugger3.0 enabled for x-png (preferences/browser/applications) i had to delete the plugger 3.0 entry because it crashed the browser... but i think few people use plugger anyway --- humanisme http://www.chez.com/happ/

Re:The 95% solution. (1)

chrisbolt (11273) | more than 14 years ago | (#1718979)

Those browsers support PNG, but how well? The list of bugs [cdrom.com] in Netscape and IE's PNG support is enough to keep me with GIFs for a little while (but not much longer by the looks of this Article)

Innerstin' Situation (1)

Velox_SwiftFox (57902) | more than 14 years ago | (#1718989)

Emperically testing:

Netscape 4.61, on a Windows 98 box, ploinks up the "Do you want to buy Quicktime now or keep on being pestered each day until the end of time" box, and displays a test PNG in the center of the window.

MS Internet Explorer just puts up in the center of the screen. Treats a PNG rather differently than a GIF or JPG file, anyway.

However! Netscape 4.51 on a Red Hat 6.0 Linux box displays the PNG image exactly as it does an identical image compressed into a GIF.

If websites were forced to switch to this format that is evidently only supported by a major web browser on that OS (by my quick check), I applaud the positive effect for Linux. But is the world ready to have every websurfer a sysadmin?


Hrmm..... (5)

kato (5369) | more than 14 years ago | (#1718993)

After reviewing this site:

http://corp2.unisys.com/LeadStor y/lzw-license.html [unisys.com]

It looks like this thing is for real, but there's a bit too much confusion. Essentially, it looks like a web site operator would need to get one of these licenses if they either write their own gif-making software or if the people/products that they use to get GIF's make the images without giving Unisys a piece of the cake. So, if you use Photoshop, you're fine. However, I'm not sure what the implications would be for something like the GIMP. Since I'm not sure if the creators of the GIMP paid Unisys their "fair share," I think it would be on me to pay the fee. Damn.

My best advice is for everyone (and I do mean everyone) to contact the Unisys Licensing Department at 215-986-5693 (or fax at 215-986-3090) to ensure that you're safe. If they expect me to pay anything, I'll be sure to keep whoever answers the phone talking for a couple hours. I'm sure they'll have enough people to handle a phone slashdotting. Or maybe not. We'll see.

What about PostScript and PDF? (3)

jbuhler (489) | more than 14 years ago | (#1718999)

I scanned Unisys's page, and it appears they are claiming their licensing fees from everyone who uses any LZW-using formats. That includes PDF and PostScript files with compressed bitmaps.

I could care less if GIF bites the dust, but I'm more than a little perturbed about PDF. Does the PDF format define any alternate compression schemes?

however... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1719002)

some sites that use "unlicensed" freeware (such as the old libgd) to generate GIF's on the fly, and are stupid enough to mention this, will probably get dinged. At $5000 a website, it's worth Unisys' while to trawl the web for violators. Or at least, popular websites, cause that's where the money is.

A simple way to prevent them from suing (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1719005)

First: I'm not a lawyer.

The Unisys patent is only on the process of compressing or decompressing via LZW. Images aren't covered. The reason they are going after websites, are to "protect" the website against liability if they use unlicensed products to create their GIFs.

Their website license is outlined here: Stupid Unisys page [unisys.com]

There's several solutions:

  • Go with PNG or JPEG. Long term, this is of course the best, to show Unisys we don't like assholes with software patents...
  • Use a program that has licensed LZW for creating images for web content (notice that Unisys operate with very restrictive licenses, so a program may have been licensed for too restricted use for web usage of the images)
  • Refuse to give out details on how you create your GIFs. Also make sure that there's no comment in the GIF saying what program you used. May be risky, but if Unisys can get a court order to get you to reveal what software you've used to compress the images, then it's time for a revolution...
  • Find someone with a machine outside the US. Create PNG's, and get them to convert the images to PNG with unlicensed software in a country where the patent isn't valid, and make sure you document the process... Then refuse to give out details to Unisys if asked, and piss them off, get them to sue you for infringement without any proof, find a good lawyer who does pro bono work, and slap them with a counter suit for frivolous lawsuit...
  • Keep your gifs on a server somewhere the patent isn't valid...

Re:Animation (1)

turbohavoc (79880) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719010)

There are two different formats for "animated jpeg". One is MJPEG and is most often not used as a file format but a codec for Quicktime/AVI and often used by hardware video editing cards. Each frame is built from a jpeg image.

The other one is MPEG and is the regular movie/videocd/dvd format which differs from MJPEG in that only every 12:th is a keyframe ( =jpeg image ) and the frames between only keeps update information.

Re:GIFs are so out of date (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719012)

Heck, I'd have switched to .png and .jpg for everything a year ago, it's just that damn Nutscrape couldn't do .png until like 4.5 - and .jpg is, well, lossy.

Especially for commercial sites, the felt that supporting a wide range of browsers was more important than using the most appropriate image format.

Re:Uhhh.... read Unisys's page, guys (1)

Omega Hacker (6676) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719014)

Not exactly. If you read Unisys' page carefully, you'll find that it's a slick, rather transparent way of saying the following:

"If you use GIF in *ANY* way (software, or just posting GIFs on your site), you must have the license covered. If all the software used to create/edit/view your GIFs is licensed, you're covered. If not, we can/will sue you upside-down and sideways. Just to be safe, why don't you give us $5000 anyway so we'll leave you alone."

This is called a "racket", boys and girls. If tested in court, Unisys would go down in flames. Would someone please bother to take these dumbasses to task on this crap?

And NO, I will NOT stop using GIFs just because Unisys thinks they own them. They're good for a fair number of things, and globally readable. PNG isn't (yet...).

Run Pokey, Run!!! They're gonna come after you!!! (1)

Cptn Proton (29372) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719015)

They're gonna make an example of you're butt. By the time they're done with you, you'll wish you had converted to PNG. The long arm of UNYSIS is reaching out to grab your neck! Convert!! Convert I say!! Mosaic users be dammed! Better their worhtless hide for not upgrading than yours for resisting the UNYSIS_MAN

TIFF, PDF too??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1719019)

Check Unisys' site again. They mention PDF's and TIFF's. Ummmm, should I be scared yet?

Re:Animation (1)

Myopic (18616) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719031)

My version of Internet Explorer (4.5) has an option to turn off "Animated GIFs" or you can even just turn off the looping feature of the GIFs so that the animation will run once then stops. Nice feature.

Peace

Re:Animation (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719033)

I personally like animated gifs.. but I'd like to see some software that allows you to have more control over the bounding boxes and such.. I guess this software has not been developed (or I'm just ignorant of it) because of the patent problems.

This is such a non-issue (2)

the_rayster (83349) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719037)

I'm not an intellectual property attorney but it seems to me this is the ultimate unenforceable stance. I've been cranking out GIFs for years and I defy you to tell me what software created the file and which software merely modified the file, and to prove that you can do squat about it even if you can prove how I made the file.
And everyone had who said it was time for a new vector based graphic format was correct too. However, how many such formats have those of us who pay attention to such things seen come and go. At current we have Flash and Shockwave for vector based graphics WITH animation (the only reason i use GIFs)AND interactivity. But everybody's dragging their feet about making them the standard, so they won't be. And 5 years from now GIF will still be around.

Bad Unisys! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1719042)

I wonder how many other assholes will pop up, seeing this as a cue to cash in on their exploitation of the patent system.

When does the LZW patent expire? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1719045)

It is a bogus patent to begin with. But there should only be about 5 years or so left on it. Does anyone know when it is due to expire? The money grubbing US Congress which is bought and sold like street whores could always extend it. They have twice violated the law by retroactively extending copyrights (how would you like to sign a contract only to have congress change the rules retroactive?). At the moment, high paid lobbyists are trying to have the patent on the allergy medicine Clariton extended. The patent is due to expire in 2002 and it will cause the price of Clariton to drop from $90/month to $15/month. But the greasy fat lobby is plying congress with dollars and whores so that they will extend the patent. Every congressman is a scurvy dog.

-Some- websites won't care... (4)

jesdynf (42915) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719048)

Like, you know, RMS. Ever taken a look at http://www.gnu.org? Sorta funny.

Every blasted picture has the same silly tag attached, "no gifs due to patent problems".

It links to http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/gif.html, and talks about how they think GIFs suck and that they won't use them for various and sundry reasons, the gist of which essentially states that not doing so is both a defensive measure and a protest of the patent.

"RMS is an alarmist." "RMS is a fanatic." Looks like he hit it square on the head, folkses -- Unisys has officially Cracked Down on the use of their patent.

Not that I can figure out how this is going to profit Unisys one single dime. Is someone spiking the water?

This is dissapointing (1)

semis (14252) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719051)

The misuse of intellectual property and patents in the computer industry sickens me.


We have Apple and Microsoft patenting GUI's. We have intel patenting CPU's. We have Frauenhoff with their MP3's, and we have these guys patenting compression. It's more that these companies choose to exploit their patents by having an unfair advantage on competitors, while having full reign on the consumers that use their technology.


Well, all I can say is that I am thankful of open standards, because it gives me the choice to bypass the restraints that these patents cause. But then its never impossible to escape the intellectual property, as companies try to fork open standards into their own propietry model (does html and Java ring a bell?)


Patents and intellectual property are backward. They don't help discovery - they merely hold the other guy back. Information is such a powerful thing, and to put locks on information that is benefitial to humanity is really quite selfish and evil.

I'm glad that all the important scientific discoveries were made before we had patents and intellectual property. Imagine going to your calculus exam and getting charged to use binomial approximation to solve a problem. Imagine your faculty not being able to teach you Newton's laws because they couldn't afford the royalties.


This is why things like free software and open source will go down in history on a good note, whearas Microsoft will go down in history on a bad note. Would Newton be as respected had he tried to charge people for his science? I think not.

Re:This is dissapointing (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719054)

IP sux. Check this totally cool article:
http://old.law.columbia.edu/my_pubs/anarchism.ht ml
(which is also the thing in my signature.. but I just found it today and I'm still pretty stoked at how good it is)

Intellectual Property Blows (2)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719057)

Someone replied to one of my comments before and directed me to this site [infoshop.org] .. I just wanted to say thank you to that person and share this url with anyone else who is interested in the downfall of Intellectual Property. Some of my friends have made (and continue to make) a lot of money off IP. Hell, my own father is a composer, but as much as I try I still don't fathom the justification of IP. Share your ideas.

Damit Jim!!I'm a country programmer, not a lawyer! (1)

Cptn Proton (29372) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719069)

So will someebody explain to me why if I have GIF's all over my site, and I unkowingly use a program that is not a "licensed" gif maker, why I'm liable for something that the program creator may or may not have done??? Am I liable for someone elses defective product?? Is that fair? Isn't that over reaching?? Isn't there a law protecting consumers from such stuff??

Why there are no GIF files on GNU web pages (1)

ole (19909) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719072)

This issue has been known for quite a while. These patents make it impossible to have free software to generate proper GIFs. See www.gnu.org/philosophy/gif.html [gnu.org] for an explanation.

Re:"Yeah, right" my ass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1719076)

I see that Unisys has a page. I see no evidence that Unisys is going after anyone.

Show me a Unisys lawyer's letter, or something similar if you want to claim that.

Re:PNG viewable in browsers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1719078)

Netscape Communicator 4.6 for Linux correctly displays all of the test PNGs that are included on the PNG site listed at the top of the article. -Jeff Mings

Death by Litigation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1719080)

Do you *really* think that Unisys will sue everyone that uses GIFs on their website? It wouldn't take many cases before it really hits their bottom line. Especially when they'll lose most of their cases.

Its kindof like Ford suing *me* because I own a GM car that uses unlicensed Ford technology.

If Unisys is going to do anything, it would be to collect royalties from programs that create and display GIFs. Thats a MUCH smaller set of parties and MUCH easier to prove. (yes, I know thats not what the article implied)

Besides, as I understand it, the LZW patent just covers the algorithm. Compuserve defined how the LZW compressed data was to be stored. Unisys didn't do that.

Another thing, the Unisys article said that LZW was patented just 10 years ago. I *strongly* suspect that someone will be able to show public domain - especially if they sue alot of people.

Tom

Re:When does the LZW patent expire? (2)

TeddyR (4176) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719083)

according to http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/gif.html

the patent should expire in 2003..

https://www.mav.net/teddyr/syousif/ [mav.net]

Stock Price (1)

BooRadley (3956) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719085)

If it wasn't crazy, I'd say that Unisys has just found a sure-fire method for driving down its stock price in a hurry. Makes you wonder what they're up to over there.

They used to be known for systems and management, but lately they seem like an "anything for money" company.

Either way, their position seems pretty much unenforcible, right or wrong. I just hope they push it far enough to tear a gaping hole in the patent system as it stands. :)

Dont bash GIF on its technical merits (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1719087)

Now, for all those lusers who are just trolling auround here not having a single clue: Please, before you post, go to *any* web building site and educate on the matter first. GIF has a technical advantage over the other formats. Here is a little wrapup:
  1. GIFs allow you to choose the color depth, even below 256 colors. this is great if you have technical drawing like images with just a few colors, as it allow you to compress the image even further. This is very important for professional sites and saves quite a little time and bandwidth. <8-bit color is not possible with PNG. So the corresponding PNG files are quite a little bigger.
  2. GIFs allow one color to be transparent. I know, PNG also has an alpha channel, but alpha'd PNGs dont compress as well and browser support is lousy - at best.
  3. GIFs allow for easy animation. Not possible with PNG, and MNG is not quite there yet. I know, the animation feature is mostly abused these days, but there are counter examples.
So don't go around saying "GIF sux, PNG r00lz". You will only look stupid.

Test PNG support in your browser with this link: (1)

Erik Rossen (30409) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719088)

http://graphicswiz.com/png/pngnow-test. html [graphicswiz.com]


Netscape 4.05 for Linux supports PNG, by the way (but slightly broken.)

Paranoia Alert (1)

Krnel (83355) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719090)

When browsing MS Office documentation you will notice that (as far as I noticed) there is no way of storing a GIF file in any office product. All GIFs will be internally stored as JPG, BMP or, preferrably, PNG (sic!). This favor seems to be finally something RMS and MS share besides two letters of the alphabet ;-)

Except, I wouldn't expect RMS to force stupid companies to enforce their patents, btw...

Oh, so we wanna talk about patent conspiracies (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719100)

Remember in the eighties (or was it early nineties) when they made the link between CFC's and the ozone layer and they spent millions of dollars on advertising compains to stop everyone using CFC's and move on to a different propellant? Well that new propellant was made by the people who owned the patent on CFC's and the patent on CFC's was due to run out exactly one year before the advertising compain started. No-one really talks about the ozone layer anymore.. but they don't use nearly as much CFC's as they do this new chemical. In 50 years time when the patent is due to run out on, Freeon is it?, will we see "Freeon causes ***" where *** is something that everyone on the planet can agree is a *bad* thing. I think I remember seeing a show on tv that explained how elementry the CFC=ozone layer killer chemistry was and how the trivialization was leading chemists to doubt the "hole in the ozone layer" studies.. so yer.. this isn't my own deluded paranoid fantasy.. this is someone else's paranoid fantasy who managed to get on tv back when this was topical.

Re:As useful as this may be... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1719102)

Netscape for Windows and Linux do support PNG. Many servers though do not set the mime type properly and that is the cause of the problem. View a local PNG and see it come up nice and snazy from 4.06 at least and on.

Trever

Re:GIF's are almost useless anyway (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719105)

The only thing that gif has that is realy neat is animations. Mabie we can get the W3 to come up with a "Animated PNG" file format.

There's already enough file formats out there that new ones showing up shouldn't be a problem. PNG for non-lossy compression, and JPEG for complex images where a little bit of lossy compression won't hurt.

A good vector format would be neat, but... someone'd have to come up with a good open standard... and well, I'm not holding my breath

can someone explain this? (1)

pos (59949) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719107)

This is from the Unisys definitions [unisys.com] page.

(The following is reprinted from Unisis without permission ;-)


A Billboard Web site

1.is fully open to the general public without cost or other consideration
(that is, no restricted access or user cost of any kind or form)
2.does not display any third-party advertising
3.does not require any membership, access code, password or business
relationship with the user for access to any portion of the Web site
4.does not provide for the online ordering or purchase of goods or
services via the Web site


My question is.... What does #2 mean? If you display 3rd party ads then your site is not a "billboard" site and desn't have to worry about a liscence? Seems like they wouldn't want to have one banner ad nullify an entire site from their liscence but that's the way I read it.

Correct me if I'm wrong.

-pos

Re:Dies.... (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719110)

But like, it's ok when music companies exercise every possible way to milk money out of people. Both of these examples make money the same way, Intellectual Property.

Re:Use JPEG (1)

Ratface (21117) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719112)

Hellooo! Reality check.

Since when do Jpeg's make a nice job of graphics with large flat areas of colour? Have you ever seen what Jpeg compression does to an image that has uniform colour areas?

Why on earth do you think that people use gifs AND jpegs on websites?

Re:This is dissapointing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1719115)

Absolutely, I mean, if I spent several years developing an algorithm like MP3 - I shouldn't have ANY right to make money off my sweat and blood. I should be elated that someone came along, read my code, and distributed it to the whole world. My family didn't need to be fed this year. Tom

Hello? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1719117)

What are you people yelling about gif for? This mockery of the web will end. (The dumb company that is.) The web would fall apart without gif. 90% of all designs depend on those little clear squares. What the whould happen without them? Hello? W3 tries to make microsoft/netscape use simple standards. Where's CSS2? Where did the idea go of slowly getting rid of for style sheets? The people who make browsers don't care about new technologies. Why don't they add things in new releases? Did MSIE5 add anything really on the backend? I don't think anything useful. But not I have a "GO" button. I don't know how I got by with Enter. Stability and legacy stuff keeps it stagnate. The web is too big for everything to be incorporated asap. It could be done faster though. The web isn't evolving as fast as it could.

Re:This is dissapointing (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719119)

If you didn't develop it someone else would. You should develop a format like MP3 because you want to be able to compress music, not because you would really like to have something that you could hold the world to ransom with.

We need a free alternitive to PDF anyway. (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719120)

Adobe's PDF format may be good, but I think an open format could end up being better, mabie one that uses JPG and PNG compression for images?

Re:GIF's are almost useless anyway (1)

mill (1634) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719130)

http://www.w3.org/TR/SVG/

Raph Levien has written a viewer - gill (depends on the gnome canvas).

/mill

i'm with you... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1719132)

15 years (a considerable amount of that time using GIFs) and still for the pure enjoyment of it, lucky thing it pays ;)

Re:The 95% solution. (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719134)

With free software image tools, support for PNG is more common than support for gif.

Re:GIF's are almost useless anyway (1)

Sehnsucht (17643) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719136)

There's a variation on PNG, called MNG (Multiple Network Graphics format) that is to PNG as animated gif is to gif..

Altho, when I looked at the spec a year or so ago, it didn't specify how to treat them as animations (time between frames, etc) IIRC. Maybe that's changed, maybe I just don't RC..

gif2gif (3)

dermond (33903) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719140)

hmm.. if unisys only wants money from people who have created it with programs that are not licensed... then someone should write a gif2gif program and pay the $50000.-- licence for that and then give away the gif2gif programm for free on the web.. the program would convert gif with or without lzw into gif with lzw. if we collect the $50k that should be easy and we would not have to worry about gif anymore.. or maybe someone with money would want to sponsor this.. (redhat? ibm? ..) one would not even need to have downloaded the gif2gif as one could always claim that it was mad with that..(thus the gif2gif should leave the "createy by" string of the original program..)

just an idea..

greetings from vienna, austria.

mond.

Re:can someone explain this? (1)

jflynn (61543) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719142)

Also from that page:

"If you use any of the types of images specified above on your Web site that you received from an unlicensed software developer or service, you should have a license from Unisys to use the LZW patent."

This seems to imply that the restrictions you name are what qualify you for the "cheap and easy" $5k license. Those that don't, like commercial sites, have to negotiate with Unisys for a license. Sounds like they want *more* money if you don't qualify.

Jim

LZW 'sucks' anyways... (1)

Sehnsucht (17643) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719145)

No, not trying to be flamebait (but any post on /. is ^_^)

Did a little hunting around and found several things..

Yes, the LZ part of LZW was published back in the late 70's - and Unisys's patent says 85 (issued - requested in 83).

There's a publication on the method, dating 84, by Terry Welch (The W in LZW) and since he stilled worked for Unisys, this is probably not considered prior art (and must it be prior to issue or request?).

However, all over the web in various LZW info pages, it is stated repeatedly that LZW was intended for speed, not optimal compression.

These days we have plenty of speed - so why not drop the W modifications and stick to old LZ ?

After all, even Welch said that LZ77/78 were better compressors than LZW!

Which brings to mind the question: Is it possible to create a LZ compressor that outputs data that a LZW decompressor would be able to decompress correctly? We could then avoid the whole problem.

Make GIF compressors that use LZ or some variant but output in a form that LZW decompressors decompress properly.

Anyone wanna give it a try?

Gif Proxy (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719146)

Hmmmm.. I don't think this would have much merit but if you had a machine that you sent a gif request to (much like a proxy) and it went and grabbed the gif and converted it to some neural format (PNG) and then cached that conversion, you would be serving the gif (from the original host) only once. Then, as a content server, you should only have to pay one "royalty". I assume that the $5000 license figure came about as an estimate of how many times the patented algorithm is executed per web page. Really this stuff need not be too ad-hoc. It's not like we don't have the technology to count the number of serves of a gif are made from a page.. we do it all the time with advertising stuffs (pay per impression). So if they were serious about enforcing their patent they could say "you will pay us 10 cents for every serve of every gif from your web page" because to display the gif you would have to use their algorithm. At that point you could introduce your Gif Proxy so that every web server doesn't have to set up the system to pay the royalties.. they could just be billed by whoever runs the Gif Proxy. I'm really starting to think that they could manage a system that those who think we should have to pay for the use of this patented algorithm (not me) would consider fair. And that is more frightening than rampant claims of suing people.

Re:HA HA AH (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1719147)

A joke is an understatement. And their new TV ads, 'we eat drink and sleep this stuff' or whatever (gee, is this phrase copyrighted?), makes it look like the preface for dumb and dumber. They are, in my opinion, absolute fools, even for a greedy company. In the past years, UNISYS, (hardly something of a great financial success) has been able to leave a bad taste in the mouth of just about anyone even remotely related to computers due to the compuserve thing a few years ago and now this. I'm still in the big iron world. Do they even THINK i'd take a second look at anything they produce since the only trust I have for them would be non-existant? The only use I'd have for their literature would be if I owned a bird or had a puppy I was trying to paper train. I'd be too afraid they'd try and find a way go gouge me down the road. (And yes, I have already rejected consideration of one software product because it was bundled with one of their machines which I stated was unacceptable. We searched and found something as good or better that didn't require bundled hardware AND insured not a penny went to UNISYS.)

Re:-Some- websites won't care... (1)

Ratface (21117) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719149)

From an interview with RMS at http://www.linuxworld.com/linuxworldtoday/lwt-inde pth7.html


"Richard Stallman: I use Lynx. I'm not terribly interested in pictures anyway. I consider eye-candy distracting and annoying in Web pages. It makes them hard to read and the ads are likely to be graphical, and I don't want to see the ads. "

So the person who has raised "the alarm" over this issue is also someone who would have their whole browsing experience improved by a sudden rush to remove gifs from the web.

Hmmmm.

Seriously, I wouldn't believe that RMS thought that way, but the notification of this issue is *way* too alarmist. Simple solution - get a cheap but licensed product that creates gifs and saves a header ID string and run all the gifs on your site through it.

.PNG (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1719150)

Hrmm... I was using .png, then I found out IE doesn't read em so I switched back over to .gif. What shall I do? **** Microsoft and all thier minions/followers.

Congratulations... (1)

rnturn (11092) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719153)

I particularly enjoyed the second paragraph of the Unisys page:

``If...

...you qualify''

You qualify for the privilege of having our legal department harass you. You qualify for the right to send us a check for US$7500.

You may already be a wiener!

Re:Animation (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719166)

Yer.. excite doesn't allow loops in their banner adds but they reserv it every minute or so using javascript. You can turn off javascript I guess. I personally appriciate ads that have some motion. They're completely ineffectual but try telling marketing people that.

Re:Innerstin' Situation (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719168)

IE 5 and Netscape-4.x-for-*NIX cleanly and correctly support PNG, at least in my testing.. whereas Netscape for Windows only picks up PNG support later in the 4.x series (Newest 4.6x does support PNG on all Platforms, AFAIK)

What we all should do. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1719170)

WE should e-mail every stinkin GIF we have to UNYSIS. And mebbe their servers will die a horrible death by crashing.

Re:Oh, so we wanna talk about patent conspiracies (1)

Sehnsucht (17643) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719172)

On CFCs...
Guess what? the Earth puts out more CFCs in a year than we do by far - volcanic eruptions and the like. Last I heard, we were producing about 18% or so of the world's CFCs.

CFCs may destroy the ozone layer.. but ozone is a regenerative thing. Know what happens when ultraviolet light hits loose Oxygen atoms? The form ozone..

The whole CFC thing was a hoax, to be blunt.

Remember all the panicing about the ozone at the poles?

Now we've noticed that it tends to come and go in cycles...

We've only been able to observe the ozone layer for about 50 years. what kind of idiot 'scientists' jumped to the conclusion we were causing the ozone fluctuations? It's likely been going on for 1000s of years!

I've got a 3 year old pickup, used, but it beats my dad's new SUV in the comfort department. His SUV (with the newer, 'cleaner' AC coolant) takes about 10 times as long to cool off the inside as my older, CFC coolant equip'd, truck does..

Before you comment that the SUV has more spce to cool than a pickup, my pickup is extended cab. Yes, that's still not as much space - but the SUV's back half is cooled by its own seperate AC unit, with seperate temp controls. With both of those at max cool it takes the SUV longer to cool than my truck... and my truck is black, whereas his SUV is a sort of teal color.

*cough* (1)

sdt (7606) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719173)

Open http://corp2.unisys.com/Images/unilogo.g if [unisys.com] in The GIMP (1.0.4) and you'll see what I mean. This whole thing is so terribly silly. I wish patents would stop being used in such a way as many large companies do. My 2 cents.

Re:GIFs are so out of date (1)

Cebert (69916) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719175)

There's only one way to increase the popularity/support of PNG's...and that's to use it despite less-than-GIF-(yet) popularity. :)

Have any of you USED png? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1719177)

PNG implementations in both authoring tools (such as the GIMP, Photoshop, ImageMagick, etc) and browsers are badly flawed. I particularly hate the "color correction" feature, which, just like every other "color correction" system ensures that colors get screwed up every time. Many authoring tools don't allow you to turn it off. With "color correction", PNG is far from lossless, since gamma correction always causes a loss of precision at either the high or low end of intensity depending on if you're correcting up or down.

One of the Netscape 4.0X browsers was the first Netscape browser to support PNG, however, they didn't make an entry in the applications table which would have made it possible to embed it with an OBJECT tag, the same way you can put a gif or jpg in an OBJECT tag. This would provide an easy way to provide backwards compatible images.

I wouldn't be too worried about being sued. I mean, with millions and millions of web sites out there, it will take them forever to sue even a fraction of them before the patent runs out. Unless they've got a brilliant business plan to get a lot of capital, and hire a million lawyers. This still will fail as it will clog the courts and the patent will be long expired by the time any of the cases reach the bench.

Netscape 3. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1719180)

Fuck, Netscape 3 for Linux displays all these PNGs as a broken icon. What can I do?

No worries. (1)

abiessu (74684) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719182)

By the time Yahoo/Geocities has found out and has contacted ALL its members and received a response back from them, the world will have forgotten Unisys, and Y.G. will not have had time to disable GIF's without giving its users fair warning. Then there's TheGlobe, AngelFire, etc etc . . .
Having the standards for web pages raised through this would be nice though, and maybe force some development for higher-level animations . . .

PNG logo is a gif? :) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1719183)

http://www.cdrom.com/pub/png/img_png/pnglogo-blk-s ml1.gif

Re:This is dissapointing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1719196)

So how EXACTLY do I feed my family then? Explain that one.

And don't you DARE say "just sell support for the algorithm" Its an algorithm, ya just read the code - support is probably VERY minimal.

And you know perfectly well that that model won't work. There are bills to pay for my development expenses and my next door neighbor could start selling support for the same code (after all, its free) - effectively cutting my marketshare in half overnight.

Not to mention that the goal of a program usable by everyone is that you DON'T need a support staff.

Tom

Try being a vendor and dealing with these guys... (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1719197)

My company makes software that uses GIFs... you would not BELIEVE the bullshit these guys put you through.

Because of our license agreement with UNISYS, all of our customers are required to register with them before they can use our software. (We did this because we could not afford to license the technology out right.) Basically they have to get a special code to enter into our software before the GIF stuff will work. They also require some of our customers to pay an extra fee WHICH THEY DETERMINE ON A CASE BY CASE BASIS! "Hmmm, how much you got?"

The worst part is most of our customers are non-profit government entities who don't have a lot of money to start with. In these cases UNISYS says that they can get the code for free, but requires them to pay a 500 dollar processing fee.

grr....

Re:Ozone Hole is real, or why are the frogs dying? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1719198)

If the Ozone Hole were a hoax, how can you explain that frogs are disappearing worldwide? You don't hear about it much in the news because it's not news: "Ozone Hole Still Getting Worse"? Global warming, likewise, is real and getting worse.

Why?! (1)

bert (4321) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719199)

Does anybody understand _why_ Unisys persues this? I might understand if they were a tiny setup and just somehow acquired the LZW patent in hopes to become really rich.

But Unisys is a very big player, they do al sorts of things. This gives them a lot of bad press, over (for them) a smallish non-issue! The way I see it it could make more sense to give LZW to the world, in order to get themselves some nice ride-the-open-source-wave publicity.

Of course, if the cash they virtually counted would really stream in, it _would_ probably worthwhile. But there's little chance of that, for reasons named all over this discussion: GIF is becoming outdated about _now_, there are alternatives and it's hard to enforce this anyway.

Short Unisys (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1719200)

man, what an under-performing stock. Short this sucker.

Re:Oh, so we wanna talk about patent conspiracies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1719201)

They link between CFC's and the ozone layer being diminished has been verified by scientists all over the world. But you probably believe they've payed off everyone, don't you?

By the way: Patents lasts 17 years from the date of issue, or 20 years from the date of application, depending on which country we are talking about, and when the patent application was filed (the US at least now has patents that run 20 years from the date of application), not 50 years.

AMEN! :D (1)

Cebert (69916) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719203)

The Open Source movement is a perfect example of what comes of people who do things for their sheer love of the craft, rather than being motivated by finances.
Thankfully, for every commercial Unix, there is a Linux. For every GIF, there is a PNG. And for every Windows that rears it's ugly head, there is a Wine. :)

Re:Oh, so we wanna talk about patent conspiracies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1719204)

That it is regenerated does not mean that the ozone layer can't be diminished. By increasing the rate of destruction of ozone, without increasing the rate at which it is regenerated, you WILL reduce the ozone layer. Now, the effect may not have been as big as some people suggested, but we're nowhere near being able to conclude that the current reduction aren't caused by humans, or that it is just a temporary fluctuation.

I can turn your question right back at you: What kind of idiots will extrapolate data from 50 years of observation that show reduction to say that fluctuations has likely been going on for thousands of years, and it's no worse now? Sure, there are ways to verify fluctuations, but we have no numbers to back up any assumption that this is just a normal fluctuation, and that we don't have anything to do with it. Neither do we have any data to back up any assumption that ozone levels will rise again naturally without changes in human pollution.

Re:This is dissapointing (1)

warmi (13527) | more than 14 years ago | (#1719207)

Yeah, That is the problem it seems GPL doesn't have a good answer to.

Perhaps, this is the reason most of the GNU tools are so frigging criptic and very user unfriendly ... that's the only way to make money, sell support.

Re:The 95% solution. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1719209)

>hell, I've even got some lynx readers!
I bet they're gonna miss the GIFs cause lynx can't show them nasty PNGs...
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