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Firefox Patents Software Your Rights Online

Firefox With H.264 HTML 5 Support = Wild Fox 477

Posted by kdawson
from the join-the-fun dept.
Elledan writes "Two countries have software patents which make it impossible to freely use video codecs such as AVC (H.264). This has led to projects such as Firefox not including AVC support with the HTML 5 video tag in their releases, which makes the rest of the world suffer indirectly the effects of software patents as well. To rectify this situation at least somewhat, I have created the Wild Fox project, which aims to release Firefox builds with the features previously excluded due to software patents. This software will be available to those in non-software-patent-encumbered countries. Any developers who wish to join the project are more than welcome."
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Firefox With H.264 HTML 5 Support = Wild Fox

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  • by Unfocused (723787) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @02:15AM (#32225280)

    "Only two countries in the world have software patents"

    That's not exactly accurate - MPEG LA has been granted patients in numerous countries: http://weblogs.mozillazine.org/bz/archives/020400.html [mozillazine.org]

  • Re:End of Firefox? (Score:3, Informative)

    by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Sunday May 16, 2010 @02:16AM (#32225288) Journal

    3D support next?

    Google WebGL.

    Pass it to the OS or build against external libraries and let something else figure that out.

    Also see WebGL. I agree that external libraries should be used, but there needs to be some amount of integration, or at least standardization. The browser doesn't have to implement OpenGL itself, but it helps that it's specified to be OpenGL and not DirectX.

  • by Elledan (582730) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @02:22AM (#32225320) Homepage
    That's why I specifically mention on the site that this version of Firefox is not meant for anyone in a country which has such patents. No American, South-Korean or anyone from another country which has or will get such software patents can not, is not allowed to and shall never use Wild Fox. Period. Unless they cough up the licensing costs for using a h.264 decoder.


    Maya (Wild Fox maintainer)
  • by GigaplexNZ (1233886) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @02:28AM (#32225340)
    Chromium does have addons now, and since it is an open source project it'll be rather difficult for Google to hide snooping mechanisms in it. Also, I highly doubt that Ubuntu will decide to stick with Firefox as the default purely because one user who knows how to uninstall software and install an alternative expressed that they will change from the default.
  • Grammar note (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 16, 2010 @02:45AM (#32225424)
    Split the damn infinitive! You are allowed to do that, stuffy English teachers be damned!
  • Re:End of Firefox? (Score:5, Informative)

    by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Sunday May 16, 2010 @02:46AM (#32225434) Journal

    Because it would violate patents in many countries, unless you stripped out all of the infringing codecs, including h.264.

    Also because it's the wrong way to go about this. Why bundle the codecs when you can call out to native, shared systems like GStreamer and have them provide the codecs for you? That'd handle the legal issue, too.

  • Re:End of Firefox? (Score:5, Informative)

    by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @03:44AM (#32225682) Homepage Journal

    Two things:

    1. Forks of good* projects have it hard:
    Wild fox will not be able to keep up with the good infrastructure of Firefox (developers, build system, connections). Mozilla is pretty big and provides a excellent service. Wild fox will have a hard time to keep up with upstream.

    2. Mozilla has a bigger target. They aim for a free Internet (and free software). They have been quite successful against IE in these terms (correctness regarding CSS, HTML4 & XHTML, inclusion of HTML5, JS speed).
    The FSF, GNU & Red Hat have the same goal for free software. The Linux kernel has the same goal too (no closed source modules).
    Ubuntu does not. Wild Fox has not.

    It is shortsighted to find the "tolerant", "pragmatic" projects better. It is not just puristic zealots against "I just want it to work". The availability of free software increases the options users have.
    Projects that cut the corner slow down the OSS development of free replacement packages, and can damage the upstream process.

    Don't get me wrong. It is nice that we can view Flash videos. This binary blob comes with security issues, memory bloat and crashes. At the same time Gnash ran out of funding and most developers had to abandon it.
    Contrary to what Ubuntu users** believe, good free software doesn't come from screaming loud enough, but actual, continuous work.

    * you could also say: projects that don't sufficiently suck
    ** Enough Ubuntu bashing :-) They are very good at taking an end-user view on projects, which is valuable feedback.

  • by Billly Gates (198444) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @03:46AM (#32225692) Journal

    As we saw with Decss it doesn't matter if other countries support the law. Us law is international law due to corrupt treaties paid by lobbyists. They can have the president issue an order like they did to poor Jon Johnsen for daring to have people watch their own dvds that they own on their own computers with Linux.

    Unfortunately, this is not going away [msn.com] anytime soon.

  • Re:the point? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Sunday May 16, 2010 @04:24AM (#32225814)

    It's actually a reasonably common idiomatic expression, especially w.r.t. computers, despite not making a lot of sense. See these examples [google.com]. I've also seen "dog-slow". My guess is that they're slips from "sick as a dog" and "dog-tired", respectively.

  • Stupid. (Score:3, Informative)

    by RichiH (749257) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @04:35AM (#32225858) Homepage

    Firefox has a large enough install base to actually stop or at least slow down H.264 adaption. IIRC, the Mozilla Foundation is in large part responsible for H.264 not being part of the offical HTML 5 standard, same as Apple & Nokia are the main players behind stopping Ogg Theora.

    Having Firefox refuse to move to the patent- and licence-encumbered time-delayed scatter bomb that is H.264 has been very important. Software patents will be around for some more time and every user (in the broadest sense; i.e. everyone touching H.264 in any way) is required to get a licence. Sure, there are some limited free-as-in-beer rules, but that will not help anyone if the MPEG LA changes the licence terms in 2015 (I think that's when the current licences expire). Also, that will not help any FLOSS project they decide to smash into the ground. And of course, no large company like MS or Apple would ever indirectly fund such a thing. Unheard of! And yes, I know that this part is speculation and what-if.

    Anyway Ogg Theora has lost the race as

    1) it has slightly larger file sizes meaning significantly more cost to large companies deploying it (they scale to a _lot_ of video)
    2) there is (almost) no hardware support, meaning that it drains batteries, can not be played on cheap mobile devices etc due to higher CPU usage
    3) it has no 500-pound gorilla behind it; merely a 200-pound one.

    Well, Ogg Theora is based on VP3 by On2 Technologies which they released to the Xiph Foundation a few years back. VP6 was good enough to be the default in Flash 8, VP7 was supposedly better than H.264 in 2005 (no idea if that is true) and recently, google bought the company.

    Rumour has it that google will release VP8 to the public under a Free Licence at their I/O conference which will start next tuesday, May 18th 2010.

    So imo the project is a bad choice in the first place, has really bad timing, no consideration for the underlying issues at all and is generally a bad idea.

  • by FlorianMueller (801981) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @05:00AM (#32225982) Homepage

    Despite the typo with the excessive "i", the post was right on: those patents exist all over the world. It's not just that they exist, they also get enforced. Even in Germany, despite the fact that we (I founded the NoSoftwarePatents campaign in 2004) defeated a proposal for an EU software patent law, those kinds of patents get enforced quite aggressively. Every year at CeBIT, there are dozens of search warrants and confiscations [blogspot.com], most of them related to MP3 and presumably an increasing number related to MPEG video codecs.

    In recognition of the unfortunate realities that those patents exist and get enforced, I believe the proponents of other formats than H.264 -- be it Theora or be it VP8, in case Google opensources it -- would have to make some well-documented patent clearance effort and explain -- at least with respect to the patents held by the MPEG LA pool -- why their proposed codec doesn't infringe. I proposed so in a recent blog post, "Video codecs: Food for thought" [blogspot.com].

    It may appear unfair and yes, it's harder to prove that there's no infringement than to prove that there is one, but I believe those propagating certain formats should accept responsibility for all third-party developers who might use their code and incorporate it, on open-source terms, into their projects and then run into serious legal problems. I wouldn't expect this kind of effort from a small open-source project but if there are large companies involved, or a deep-pocket non-profit such as the Mozilla Foundation, then I believe it's not unreasonable [blogspot.com] to ask them to do so instead of putting people at risk who would be unable to perform that kind of analysis.

  • Re:Not quite. (Score:3, Informative)

    by joaosantos (1519241) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @05:04AM (#32225990) Homepage
    Scripting, showing and hiding controls, and I doubt that you can apply css3 transformations to an embed plugin.
  • by jonbryce (703250) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @05:43AM (#32226162) Homepage

    HTML 5 doesn't specifify any codecs. You could use .wmv on your html 5 page if you really wanted to, and it would be valid html 5. Nobody has a browser that could watch such a video, but that is another issue.

  • Re:Not Valid? (Score:3, Informative)

    by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @06:54AM (#32226404)

    Whether or not a patent is valid in a country is not necessarily related to whether or not the patent was or could have been issued there.

    Oh, how come? When the local law states that algorithms, math etc. can't be patented, what bearing on it has whether there is or isn't a patent on that in, say, the US? If a patent hasn't been issued here, then there is nothing to break here.

  • Re:End of Firefox? (Score:4, Informative)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday May 16, 2010 @07:58AM (#32226624) Homepage Journal

    This ABI could be supported across several browsers.

    It already exists. It's called mozilla plugins, and for the most part they work in Chrome/Chromium. My about:plugins in Chromium now:

    Plug-ins (7)
    Shockwave Flash
    Description: Shockwave Flash 10.0 r32
    Location: /opt/flash10amd64/libflashplayer.so

    iTunes Application Detector
    Description: This plug-in detects the presence of iTunes when opening iTunes Store URLs in a web page with Firefox.
    Location: /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins/librhythmbox-itms-detection-plugin.so

    MozPlugger 1.13.3 handles QuickTime and Windows Media Player Plugin
    Description: MozPlugger version 1.13.3, maintained by Louis Bavoil and Peter Leese, a fork of plugger written by Fredrik Hübinette.
    For documentation on how to configure mozplugger, check the man page. (type man mozplugger)
    Configuration file: /etc/mozpluggerrc
    Helper binary: mozplugger-helper
    Controller binary: mozplugger-controller
    Link launcher binary: mozplugger-linker

    Windows Media Player Plug-in 10 (compatible; Totem)
    Description: The Totem 2.30.0 plugin handles video and audio streams.
    Location: /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins/libtotem-gmp-plugin.so

    DivX® Web Player
    Description: DivX Web Player version 1.4.0.233
    Location: /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins/libtotem-mully-plugin.so

    QuickTime Plug-in 7.6.6
    Description: The Totem 2.30.0 plugin handles video and audio streams.
    Location: /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins/libtotem-narrowspace-plugin.so

    Interesting, mime types are shown when you C&P, but don't display on the page. I deleted them to pass the filter though. Stupid slashdot.

  • Having a patent doesnt do anything by itself, it gives the holder of the patent specific options.

    Specific options that I don't want anyone to have over me; options they won't have if I don't encode anything with H.264.

    Let me ask you, how many people has the MPEG-LA sued over h264 ... there are OSS implementations ... how many of them have been sued?

    I don't trust the MPEG-LA. Past performance is no guarantee. Frankly, if their US licensees have any inkling that x264 is cutting into their profits, as publicly traded corporations they are legally obligated to push the MPEG-LA to enforce those patents anywhere they are valid. Apple and Microsoft both qualify. They have a legal obligation to their stockholders to push H.264 over Theora since they get money whenever a H.264 encoder or decoder is sold.

    I suppose the fact that Novell, Redhat and Canonical all are patent holders just slipped your fucking mind too right?

    Redhat grants use of their patents.
    http://www.redhat.com/licenses/ccmpl.html [redhat.com]

    2. GRANT OF RIGHTS

    a. Subject to the terms of this Agreement, each Contributor hereby grants Recipient a non exclusive, worldwide, royalty free copyright license to reproduce, prepare derivative works of,publicly display, publicly perform and distribute and sublicense the Contribution of such Contributor, if any, and such derivative works, in source code and object code form.

    b. Subject to the terms of this Agreement, each Contributor hereby grants Recipient a non exclusive, worldwide, royalty free patent license under Licensed Patents to make, use, sell, offer to sell, import and otherwise transfer the Contribution of such Contributor, if any, in source code and object code form. This patent license shall apply to the combination of the Contribution and the Program if, at the time the Contribution is added by the Contributor, such addition of the Contribution causes such combination to be covered by the Licensed Patents. The patent license shall not apply to any other combinations which include the Contribution. No hardware per se is licensed hereunder.

    Novell licenses their contributions under the GPL version 2 (they are still carrying notices to this effect, not difficult to locate.) It does not permit redistribution if patent claims prevent it. Novell cannot simultaneously distribute Linux and make patent claims against it.

    The Canonical contributor agreement requires that you promise that no patent claims will come from your contributions to canonical, and they make the same promise back to you. Further, Canonical submitted a letter to the European Patent Office arguing against the granting of software patents for EPO EBA referral G3-08 [swpat.org].

    Or, in short, you are using three companies which have promised not to sue over software patents in comparison to a group which exists specifically to handle licensing and lawsuits of a group of patents encumbering a supposed standard. This is so wrongheaded I just can't even begin to figure out where you're coming from.

  • by Cimexus (1355033) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @09:18AM (#32226962)

    On what planet is 'anticompetitive' a noun? O.o

  • Re:End of Firefox? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Tarquin Sidebottom (239733) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @10:11AM (#32227226) Journal
    Currently if Firefox comes across a html5 video using an unsupported codec, it already allows you to play the video in an external player or save the video. The problem is the HTML5 Javascript function canPlayType(); things like the Youtube trial detect that h264 isn't natively supported so the javascript never dynamically creates the VIDEO tag.

    Downloaded the Firefox source and edit content/html/content/src/nsHTMLMediaElement.cpp.
    Change the line

    case CANPLAY_NO: aResult.AssignLiteral(""); break;

    to

    case CANPLAY_NO: aResult.AssignLiteral("probably"); break;

    If you recompile the browser then join the youtube html5 beta, it will now try to serve you video via html5. At this stage the video is "protected" behind a transparent DIV so you can't right-click it. Use Firebug, or the following Greasemonkey script to delete the DIV.

    // ==UserScript==
    // @name youtube anti-div
    // @namespace html5hackery
    // @include http://.youtube./*
    // ==/UserScript==

    // video-blocker
    function addGlobalStyle(css) {
    var head, style;
    head = document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0];
    if (!head) { return; }
    style = document.createElement('style');
    style.type = 'text/css';
    style.innerHTML = css;
    head.appendChild(style);
    }

    addGlobalStyle('#video-player .video-blocker { display:none;');

    You now have a version of Firefox 'compatible' with Youtube's HTML5. Currently it doesn't work with Vimeo's HTML5 beta and I haven't bothered to find out why.

  • Re:End of Firefox? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 16, 2010 @10:52AM (#32227464)

    I don't understand how firefox can run so poorly for anyone. I run it with maybe 3 or four addons, leaving the window open all day, with maybe a gig of RAM (or was it two?) with zero problems. Even when I open up two hundred tabs at once, there's only a little slowdown as things first load, and then I'm fine and dandy like sour candy.

    I guess I'm just better at the internet than most people.

  • Re:End of Firefox? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Tellarin (444097) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @11:57AM (#32227838) Homepage Journal

    But these count hardware patents, not only software patents. Remember that both are wildly different beasts.

    The guy proposing Wild Fox is focused on going around software patents. It would be pretty hard to add hardware to Firefox. :)

  • Re:End of Firefox? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Teun (17872) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @02:58PM (#32229118) Homepage
    The MPEG-LA can claim all they want but in the end it's the local law that rules. Here in The Netherlands (computer) algorithms cannot be patented, period.

    Some misconceptions may be caused by the fact we, as others European countries, have farmed out the registration of patents (octrooien) to the European Patent Office.

    As a commercial entity they have allowed the registration of anything worth a fee but that is well short of being able to legally enforce such a registration in one of the participating countries.

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