It appears that the patent trolls Sisvel are attacking the OpenMoko project, and as part of their strategy the project has chosen to pull all of their downloads whilst they remove any support for MP2 and MP3 files.
The short story is that we are in a protracted battle with some patent trolls. Google for Sisvel. In order to get ourselves in a stronger position, we want to make sure no copies/instances/whatever of patent-infested technologies like MP2 and MP3 exist on our servers. Our phones never shipped with end-user MP3 playback features, but we want to use this opportunity to make sure it’s not even in some remote place somewhere.
As Sisvel aren’t the only ones to sue over MPEG related patents (( note that Microsoft won on appeal very recently, reversing the decision )) it really does bring the message home that MPEG is not a safe technology for audio files and that things like Ogg-Vorbis and FLAC are far better (and safer!) choices in the long run.
The problem is that the patent-freeness of Ogg-Vorbis and FLAC *has not been tested in court*, and it’s actually fairly reasonable to expect that parts of both of them are vulnerable to the same patents being used here. Right now, both are too small to warrant patent trolls going after, but if they gain acceptance, the vultures *will* swoop in, and the same issues will arise, just with much muddier waters.
“and that things like Ogg-Vorbis and FLAC are far better (and safer!) choices in the long run.”
Um… in the *long run*, MPEG-related patents will have expired. MPEG-related patents are only really a problem in the *short run*.
@capnrob: I am under no illusions about that, the only way to be safe from software patent trolls on something you’ve invented is to not have software patents in the first place. 🙁
@Foo: a fair point, I’m not clear on how much longer they do have to run. I wouldn’t mind guessing it’s likely to be for longer than most lines of consumer electronics devices get manufactured for.
FLAC is lossless. I’d be surprised if MPEG patents collided with it in any way. Ogg? Maybe.
Lots of MP3 players (many of which have sold far more units than OpenMoko) have Ogg-playing abilities. Where are the submarines?
Mpeg is a patented technology requiring a license to distribute and to use, in many countries. No surprise that including MP3 playback functionality prompts litigation. This is a very serious issue (see my link above for additional lawsuits by the Mpeg consortium), but thankfully there is the Xiph.org Foundation, as an alternative. To those that say Xiph technologies may contain submarine patents, I would like to point out that the technology is maintained for the express purpose of being free from patents. Furthermore, the Xiph technologies are all open source, so people are perfectly able to point out any patented technology inside – and have not. Speex, FLAC, Vorbis, and Theora should all be used for truly open media distribution, while Flash and Mpeg are likewise shunned by web developers. We would never accept license and patent restrictions for text media, and so it should be the same with our other ways of communication.
GIF was patented, and has now expired. If it wasn’t for GIF, PNG wouldn’t exist and we’d still be looking at 256-color webpage graphics.
@Matthew: to be clear the OpenMoko phones contain no MPEG playback capability, you have to modify them yourself if you want that (and then the MPEG issue is your own to deal with).
“To those that say Xiph technologies may contain submarine patents, I would like to point out that the technology is maintained for the express purpose of being free from patents”
And your point is? You and Xiph have no better idea what a submarine patent holder has filed than I do or you dog does. The whole point is that _nothing_ is safe from patent trolls, and today there is only one defense.. Defensive patents of your own. And even then, those patents do Nothing against a Patent Troll because he is (likely) not doing anything you can threaten with Mutually Assured Destruction.
Submarine Patents can appear whenever and wherever money is _already_ being made in sufficient quantity to warrant it. Prior public disclosure is only a deterrent not a guarantee (See Rambus’ behavior at the JEDEC).
Jeff – perhaps you could explain your example further. After looking up the Rambus case, I found an article from 2006 entitled, “FTC Finds Rambus Unlawfully Obtained Monopoly Power”. This example does not seem to support your argument that disclosure is insufficient.
Also, to clarify on what I said earlier, Ogg Theora actually does use the VP3 codec patented technology, but there is also a license for free use provided.
[…] [1, 2], probably fails to identify the source of agitation and litigation. It’s not about the patent troll called Sisvel; trolls sometimes operate on behalf of larger companies that want competing products removed from […]