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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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  • End of Firefox? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Sunday May 16, 2010 @01:36AM (#32225100) Journal

    Now first of all to the Wild Fox project maintainers, this is the right move. Fight to win the whole war, not one battle. Don't die as a martyr and lose it all just by demanding something to happen right now.

    Additionally, it looks like Firefox is actually starting to lose support even from the Open Source front. Even Ubuntu is probably changing to Chronium [crunchgear.com] and dropping Firefox. It kind of looks like Firefox lost the track of what they were doing a long time ago.

    Apparently Ubuntu, the most popular Linux distribution, is considering dropping Firefox for Chrome. ...
    it could be a sign that people are starting to feel less, um, “loyalty” to Firefox.

    Not that I'm anymore happier Google's products taking over everything...

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

    by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Sunday May 16, 2010 @01:42AM (#32225124)

    As far as I can tell, they aren't actually proposing a wholesale fork, with a new community to do general browser development and replace Firefox. It looks like it's just a project to release variant builds of Firefox with additional features added, and will otherwise track mainline FF development.

  • by optikos (1187213) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @01:44AM (#32225138)
    what to still watch out for: making Wild Fox available in the USA could be an infringing importation http://www.managingip.com/Article/2400437/Foreign-infringement-of-US-patents.html [managingip.com]
  • For <audio> tag (Score:4, Interesting)

    by figleaf (672550) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @02:30AM (#32225350) Homepage

    Please include support for mp3 and aac.

    Thanks for creating this project. Support H.264 for the <video> tag is the right thing to do.
    Good luck for your effort.

  • by intrico (100334) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @02:42AM (#32225408) Homepage

    Hopefully, the supreme court recognizes this as well. The landmark Bilski vs. Kappos case decision is expected to be released by the U.S. Supreme Court any day now. Depending on what that decision is, thousands of patents could be invalidated.

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

    by ChunderDownunder (709234) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @03:22AM (#32225568)

    Who cares how fast it is if it looks bad?

    Some of us just prefer gecko's rendering over webkit. Always have, always will.

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

    by Draykwing (900431) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @03:30AM (#32225618) Journal

    ..could Firefox devs not offer a means to pipe the video stream to the player of the user's choice? Eg, vlc or mplayer running as a content-transparent plugin?

    There's a patch floating around if Firefox's bugzilla that uses GStreamer as the backend for the <video> tag, see https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=422540 [mozilla.org]

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

    by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Sunday May 16, 2010 @04:45AM (#32225906) Journal

    Just because you have FF does NOT mean you can play Theora, okay? I'm typing this on my "nettop" which is a circa 2005 Sempron 1.8Ghz, and I'm typing this in FF. I can watch full screen SD H.264 flash and it plays beautifully. Theora? Even in a window it is a jerky mess. And this Sempron is certainly more powerful than those single core Atom netbooks I see everyone carrying.

    So I'm sorry, but Theora sucks on older or low power devices. Not to mention I can slap a $50 AGP card and get full hardware accelerated H.264, and many devices from cell phones on up have hardware H.264 support. Is there ANYBODY offering hardware Theora support?

    While I don't like MPEG-LA, I'm also a realist. The only chance we have to tell MPEG-LA to shove it is Google releasing the On2 codecs, because VP6 plays nicely on low power and slower devices like this Sempron, and I'm betting VP8 will be even better. Theora is just gonna end up another Vorbis, a teeny tiny niche nobody but a few FOSS geeks use, just like how everyone plays MP3s even though they are patent encumbered.

  • by FlorianMueller (801981) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @04:51AM (#32225938) Homepage

    It's true that the new <video> tag in HTML 5 would suggest that a standardized codec be used by all browsers claiming to be fully HTML 5 compatible.

    However, the new tag could also be used (even though in a less useful way than otherwise) if there is, which is unfortunately the most likely scenario, no industry consensus on a single codec. Assuming that there are two camps (H.264 and Theora; or maybe three if Google pushes for VP8), web servers could then provide different Uniform Resource Identifiers for the files, based on the browser that makes the web page request; or the file names (thus the URIs) could be identical but dependent on which browser is in use, a different file could be provided.

    I have discussed the HTML 5 aspects of this in a recent blog post, "Video codecs: The HTML 5 dimension" [blogspot.com]. While I am against software patents (I founded the European NoSoftwarePatents campaign in 2004, I just try to take a realistic perspective on the fact that software patents exist and get enforced all around the globe (as far as codecs go, there's aggressiv enforcement even in Europe, such as dozens of search warrants and confiscations every year at the CeBIT trade show [blogspot.com].

  • by FlorianMueller (801981) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @05:08AM (#32226008) Homepage

    As much as I regret to say it (btw, I founded the European NoSoftwarePatents campaign in 2004), I don't think this kind of resistance to H.264 is going to lead to a solution in the event some of the patents in the MPEG LA pool (just the H.264 pool contains 1,135 patents, and they have more pools under management there) get infringed by an alternative format that everyone would advocate, be it Theora or VP8. In that case, "the lawyers" would come out anyway to collect royalties and impose other terms and conditions.

    As a result, whatever alternative that infringes on those patents would end up being unfree (neither free beer nor free speech) anyway.

    The call for resistance to H.264 will make a great deal of sense if and when there is a reasonably reliable basis on which it can be assumed that a format such as Theora and/or VP8 doesn't infringe patents. While it's impossible to check on every one of the millions of software patents that exist around the globe, at the very least the proponents of Theora or VP8 (which Google might opensource very soon) should make a well-documented patent clearance effort with respect to the patents held by the MPEG LA consortium and explain why they their preferred codec doesn't infringe on those. Companies like Google or a deep-pocket non-profit such as the Mozilla Foundation could certainly do so if they wanted. I explained this thinking in a recent blog post [blogspot.com].

  • by andersa (687550) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @05:25AM (#32226082)

    One of the central patents cited is EP 0443676 which concerns the MPEG-2 codec which is granted by the European Patent Office, not the national patent offices. Had the patent application been filed in any of the member states, their patent office would likely rejected the patent on grounds that algoritms are not patentable. EPO has no such qualms, however and will happily grant software patents, even though they know they are probably not enforcable.

    There is a case running in the Danish Maritime and Commercial court regarding the MPEG-2 patents between Phillips and Danish company Dicentia A/S. Dicentia has requested that the patent be invalidated in Denmark.

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

    by ultranova (717540) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @05:38AM (#32226148)

    Why? It capitulates to a non-free standard, and if H.264 becomes the defacto standard for HTML5 it effectively destroys the ability of any free browsers without deep pockets behind them to compete in the market.

    H.264 is a free standard in most of the world. That's the point: why should the rest of us suffer from USAs bad laws?

    Google Chrome will be fine, as will Apple Safari and Microsoft Internet Explorer, but Mozilla may well be toast, and any other free alternatives that want to operate in a country that respects software patents.

    So don't operate in a country that "respects" software patents. Operate in an area where it's impossible to patent a file format, such as the EU.

    You don't fight a war by giving ground at every turn. Eventually you have to make a stand.

    Well, moving operations out of a country where the local laws inhibit competition certainly seems like taking a stand to me. It's just a stand that happens to be inconvenient to US citizens. Maybe you should talk to your congresscritters about it?

    Meanwhile, here in the free world, h.264 is an open standard, as are all file formats, so...

  • What two countries?? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Krakadoom (1407635) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @05:57AM (#32226212)
    "Only two countries in the world have software patents"

    If you mean the US and EU, then you're at least partly right. Otherwise I think you may need to bone up on your patent law. Most countries allow for software patents, but in roundabout ways.
  • Too late (Score:3, Interesting)

    by westlake (615356) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @06:16AM (#32226276)

    Why? It capitulates to a non-free standard, and if H.264 becomes the defacto standard for HTML5 it effectively destroys the ability of any free browsers without deep pockets behind them to compete in the market

    H.264 has unstoppable momentum beyond the browser:

    Cell phones. Professional production. High Definition Video. Cable, sattelite and broadcast technologies.

    CCTV (Think Medical, Industrial and Security Video.) The list goes on and on and on.

    H.264 has the support of industrial giants like LG. Mitsubishi. NTT. Philips. Samsung. Toshiba - and, quite literally, hundreds of licensees that would be considered first tier in their chosen markets.

    China-Japan-Korean support for the codec is anchored in bedrock.

    The decoder is in your HDTV. Your Blu-Ray Player. Your "Flip" Camcorder. Your cell pone. Video Game Console. Set Top Box.

    Your Mac, Windows, and OEM Ubuntu Linux PC.

    The decoder is - for all practical purposes - free-as-in-beer almost everywhere in the world. In the US licensing maxes out at $5 million a year. That is not a problem for Apple, Microsoft, Cannonical or Google.

    Not a problem for HP or Dell. For Netflix. For Adobe. For Canon. For Nintendo. For Panasonic or Vizio.
       

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 16, 2010 @07:50AM (#32226594)

    They won't help you when the government/corporations own the tubes, the clients, the servers, and the courts.

    Neither will your little Pirate Party protests on the street corner. Governments and corporations hate geeks and anyone who would campaign for openness and freedom. You say technological solutions will always lose in the endgame, but they are the only option one has. The questions are how long can we prolong the endgame, and how much relative freedom can we enjoy for the time being. Some time in the near future, encryption, onion routing and steganography will triumph in the name of freedom, for a while. When every authority in the world uses deep packet inspection, outlaws cryptography, and mandates cameras in our eyeballs and chips in our brains then we will have lost forever, but by then trivial things like finding affordable entertainment and better web browsers will be of the least concern anyway.

    Your China example is also flawed, if most people with a modicum of technical knowledge are capable of bypassing and working around every aspect of the firewall for their own ends then they have won the technological war already. Orchestrating dissidence against the current regime is another war altogether, which indeed does not have a technological solution.

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

    by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted @ s l a s h d ot.org> on Sunday May 16, 2010 @08:25AM (#32226724)

    No it wouldn’t. Your statement is just plain bogus.
    As the summary said: There are only two countries in the world with software patents. TWO.
    And frankly, I declare them the “axis of evil” and don’t fuckin’ care about their “laws”. Much less do I care on them wanting to impose them on the whole world.

    But I agree that bundling is pointless, except for Windows, where there is no concept of package dependencies, much less optional ones.
    The big advantage with ffmpeg is, that you have the same interface on all operating systems. Even mobile phone OS ones.

    Also you don’t seem to know that ffmpeg is not a codec. It is... well, it’s the other way around: GStreamer is something like ffmpeg. ffmpeg is a interface to use all codecs trough a common (and pretty good and featureful) interface.

    Again: There is no legal issue. Create a dependency on ffmpeg.
    And for the media terrorist countries, make it optional. (So people can download ffmpeg separately. E.g. trough their package manager. Since every Linux distribution known to man already includes ffmpeg, and hence already would have the “patent problem”. Or in other words: every Linux distribution known to man has more balls than the spineless Firefox team that’s kneeling to the media terrorists!. ;))

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

    by nloop (665733) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @08:34AM (#32226778)
    When a product runs faster via wine than its native code, I'm not too excited about running it.
  • Re:For tag (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted @ s l a s h d ot.org> on Sunday May 16, 2010 @08:39AM (#32226810)

    Think like a programmer: Generalize: Include ffmpeg, and be done with it. Tons of codecs. Tons of features. Works on every OS. And since it’s an external dependency, the whole “problem” vanishes into thin air. It’s beautiful! :)

  • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted @ s l a s h d ot.org> on Sunday May 16, 2010 @08:42AM (#32226824)

    Uuum, that list is clearly bogus fearmongering. There is no such thing as software patents in Germany. (Where I live.) And the same is true for pretty much all the other EU countries. The move by EU pseudogovernment to make it law, is proof that it isn’t already.

  • by leamanc (961376) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @10:45AM (#32227426) Homepage Journal

    My Macs already have a license for H.264. I assume it's bundled in QuickTime, because H.264 videos in HTML5 work in Safari.

    So since I already have a license, why can't Firefox use it on my Macs? (According to the logic of your post, that is...)

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

    by jcrousedotcom (999175) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @01:11PM (#32228282) Homepage
    That was my exact reaction - the only thing that would have made the story better is if the site would have had ads on it....

    This is a non-story rather an advertisement to the slashdot community for volunteers. While the project may (or may not be) noble or valuable and all that, if this guy wants this so bad - have him do it!, don't ask us to do it for him for free.

    Just sayin'.

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