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Fri, 31 Dec 2010 19:45:21 +0000
Module name: www
Changes by: Karl Berry <karl> 10/12/31 19:45:21
philosophy : gif.html
remove <abbr> and questionable links; fix other links, typos, following
RCS file: /web/www/www/philosophy/gif.html,v
retrieving revision 1.44
retrieving revision 1.45
diff -u -b -r1.44 -r1.45
--- gif.html 29 Jul 2010 08:44:07 -0000 1.44
+++ gif.html 31 Dec 2010 19:45:16 -0000 1.45
@@ -3,24 +3,24 @@
<!--#include virtual="/server/banner.html" -->
-<h2>Why There Are No <abbr title="Graphics Interchange Format">GIF</abbr>
files on GNU Web Pages</h2>
+<h2>Why There Are No GIF Files on GNU Web Pages</h2>
<strong>While this story is a historical
illustration of the danger of software patents, these
particular patents are now no longer a concern (see
-<a href="#venuenote">footnote</a> below). For details of our website
+<a href="#venuenote">footnote</a> below). For details of our web site
-regarding <abbr>GIF</abbr>s</a>, see our <a href="/server/standards/">web
+regarding GIFs</a>, see our <a href="/server/standards/">web
-There are no <abbr>GIF</abbr>s on the GNU web site because of the
+There are no GIFs on the GNU web site because of the
patents (Unisys and IBM) covering
-the <abbr title="Lempel-Ziv-Welch">LZW</abbr> compression algorithm
-which is used in making <abbr>GIF</abbr> files. These patents make it
-impossible to have free software to generate proper <abbr>GIF</abbr>s.
+the LZW compression algorithm
+which is used in making GIF files. These patents make it
+impossible to have free software to generate proper GIFs.
They also apply to the <strong>compress</strong> program, which is why
GNU does not use it or its format.
@@ -31,7 +31,7 @@
places whose patent databases we were able to search, the latest
expiration date seems to be 1 October 2006.
<a name="returnnote" href="#venuenote"><sup>1</sup></a> Until then,
-anyone who releases a free program for making <abbr>GIF</abbr> files
+anyone who releases a free program for making GIF files
is likely to be sued. We don't know any reason to think that the
patent owners would lose these lawsuits.
@@ -46,13 +46,13 @@
Many people think that Unisys has given permission for distributing
-free software to make <abbr>GIF</abbr> format. Unfortunately that is
+free software to make GIF format. Unfortunately that is
not what Unisys has actually done. Here is what Unisys actually said
about the matter in 1995:
<blockquote><p>Unisys does not require licensing, or fees to be paid, for
-non-commercial, non-profit <abbr>GIF</abbr>-based applications,
+non-commercial, non-profit GIF-based applications,
including those for use on the on-line services. Concerning
developers of software for the Internet network, the same principle
applies. Unisys will not pursue previous inadvertent infringement by
@@ -65,18 +65,18 @@
Unfortunately, this doesn't permit
<a href="/philosophy/free-sw.html">free software</a> which can be used
in a free operating system such as GNU. It also does not
-permit <em>at all</em> the use of <abbr>LZW</abbr> for other purposes
+permit <em>at all</em> the use of LZW for other purposes
such as compression of files. This is why we think it is still best
-to reject <abbr>LZW</abbr>, and switch to alternatives such
-as <a href="/software/gzip/gzip.html">GNU zip</a>
-and <abbr title="Portable Network Graphics">PNG</abbr> format.
+to reject LZW, and switch to alternatives such
+as <a href="/software/gzip/gzip.html">GNU Gzip</a>
<a href="/philosophy/selling.html">Commercial redistribution of free
software</a> is very important, and we want the GNU system as a whole
to be redistributed commercially. This means we can't add
-a <abbr>GIF</abbr>-generating program to GNU, not under the Unisys
+a GIF-generating program to GNU, not under the Unisys
@@ -85,7 +85,7 @@
non-commercial, non-profit organization, so strictly speaking the
income from our sales of <a href="http://shop.fsf.org/">CD-ROMs</a>
is not “profit”. Perhaps this means we could include
-a <abbr>GIF</abbr> program on our CD-ROM and claim to be acting within
+a GIF program on our CD-ROM and claim to be acting within
the scope of the Unisys permission—or perhaps not. But since we
know that other redistributors of GNU would be unable to include it,
doing this would not be very useful.
@@ -94,41 +94,41 @@
Shortly after Unisys made its announcement, when the net in general
was reassured thinking that Unisys had given permission for
-free <abbr>GIF</abbr>-generating software, we wrote to the Unisys
+free GIF-generating software, we wrote to the Unisys
legal department asking for clarification of these issues. We did not
receive a response.
Even if Unisys really did give permission for free software to
-generate <abbr>GIF</abbr>s, we would still have to deal with the IBM
+generate GIFs, we would still have to deal with the IBM
patent. Both the IBM and the Unisys patents cover the same
-“invention”—the <abbr>LZW</abbr> compression
+“invention”—the LZW compression
algorithm. (This could reflect an error on the part of the US Patent
and Trademark Office, which is famous for incompetence and poor
-Decoding <abbr>GIF</abbr>s is a different issue. The Unisys and IBM
+Decoding GIFs is a different issue. The Unisys and IBM
patents are both written in such a way that they do not apply to a
-program which can only uncompress <abbr>LZW</abbr> format and cannot
+program which can only uncompress LZW format and cannot
compress. Therefore we can and will include support for
-displaying <abbr>GIF</abbr> files in GNU software.
+displaying GIF files in GNU software.
-Given this situation, we could still include <abbr>GIF</abbr> files in
+Given this situation, we could still include GIF files in
our web pages if we wanted to. Many other people would be happy to
generate them for us, and we would not be sued for
-having <abbr>GIF</abbr> files on our server.
+having GIF files on our server.
But we feel that if we can't distribute the software to enable people
-to generate <abbr>GIF</abbr> files properly, then we should not have
+to generate GIF files properly, then we should not have
other people run such software for us. Besides, if we can't provide
-software in GNU to generate <abbr>GIF</abbr> files, we have to
+software in GNU to generate GIF files, we have to
recommend an alternative. We ourselves should use the alternative
that we recommend.
@@ -139,12 +139,12 @@
<blockquote><p>Unisys has frequently been asked whether a Unisys
-license is required in order to use <abbr>LZW</abbr> software obtained
+license is required in order to use LZW software obtained
by downloading from the Internet or from other sources. The answer is
simple. In all cases, a written license agreement or statement signed
by an authorized Unisys representative is required from Unisys for all
use, sale or distribution of any software (including so-called
-“freeware”) and/or hardware providing <abbr>LZW</abbr>
+“freeware”) and/or hardware providing LZW
conversion capability (for example, downloaded
@@ -155,7 +155,7 @@
-A further issue is that the <abbr>LZW</abbr> patents—and
+A further issue is that the LZW patents—and
software patents in general—are an offense against the freedom
of programmers generally, and all programmers need to work together
against software patents.
@@ -163,69 +163,61 @@
So even if we could find a solution to enable the free software
-community to generate <abbr>GIF</abbr>s, that isn't really a solution,
+community to generate GIFs, that isn't really a solution,
not for the problem as a whole. The solution is switching to another
-format and not using <abbr>GIF</abbr> any more.
+format and not using GIF any more.
-Therefore, we don't use <abbr>GIF</abbr>, and we hope you won't use it
+Therefore, we don't use GIF, and we hope you won't use it
It is possible to make non-compressed images that act
-like <abbr>GIF</abbr>s, in that they work with programs that
-decode <abbr>GIF</abbr> format. This can be done without infringing
-patents. These pseudo-<abbr>GIF</abbr>s are useful for some purposes.
+like GIFs, in that they work with programs that
+decode GIF format. This can be done without infringing
+patents. These pseudo-GIFs are useful for some purposes.
-It is also possible to create <abbr>GIF</abbr>s using a patent-free
+It is also possible to create GIFs using a patent-free
run length encoding but this doesn't achieve the compression that one
-normally expects in a <abbr>GIF</abbr>.
+normally expects in a GIF.
-We decided not to use these pseudo-<abbr>GIF</abbr>s on our web site
+We decided not to use these pseudo-GIFs on our web site
because they are not a satisfactory solution to the community's
problem. They work, but they are very large. What the web needs is a
-patent-free compressed format, not large pseudo-<abbr>GIF</abbr>s.
+patent-free compressed format, not large pseudo-GIFs.
+The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portable_Network_Graphics">PNG
format</a> is a patent-free compressed format. We hope it will become
-widely supported; then we will use it. We do
-have <a href="/graphics/graphics.html"><abbr>PNG</abbr> versions</a>
-of the images on this server.
+widely supported; then we will use it. We do provide PNG versions of
+most of the <a href="/graphics/graphics.html">images on this server</a>.
-For more information about the <abbr>GIF</abbr> patent problems,
-see <a href="http://progfree.org/Patents/Gif/Gif.html">the League for
-Programming Freedom <abbr>GIF</abbr> page</a>. Through that page you
-can find more information about the problem of software patents in
+For more information about the GIF patent problems,
+see <a href="http://www.progfree.org/Patents/Gif/Gif.html">the League for
+Programming Freedom GIF page</a>. Through that page you
+can find more information about the <a
+href="http://endsoftpatents.org/">problem of software patents in
-<a href="http://www.libpng.org/pub/png/pngapbr.html">The browser
-support page</a> lists browsers which are compatible with
-the <abbr>PNG</abbr> format and comments on how well they support it.
-There's a library
-called <a href="http://ca.geocities.com/libungif/">libungif</a> that
-reads gif files and writes uncompressed gifs to circumvent the Unisys
+There is a library called libungif that reads gif files and writes
+uncompressed gifs to circumvent the Unisys patent.
<a href="http://burnallgifs.org">http://burnallgifs.org</a> is a
-website devoted to discouraging the use of <abbr>GIF</abbr> files on
+web site devoted to discouraging the use of GIF files on
@@ -235,9 +227,9 @@
Union. The Unisys patent expired on 20 June 2003 in the USA, in Europe
it expired on 18 June 2004, in Japan the patent expired on 20 June
2004 and in Canada it expired on 7 July 2004. The U.S. IBM patent
-expired 11 August 2006, The Software Freedom Law Center says that
+expired 11 August 2006. The Software Freedom Law Center says that
after 1 October 2006, there will be no significant patent claims
-interfering with employment of the <abbr>GIF</abbr> format.</p>
+interfering with employment of the GIF format.</p>
@@ -263,7 +255,7 @@
-Copyright © 1997, 1998, 1999, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 Free
+Copyright © 1997, 1998, 1999, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010 Free
Software Foundation, Inc.,</p>
<address>51 Franklin St, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02110, USA</address>
<p>Verbatim copying and distribution of this
@@ -274,7 +266,7 @@
<!-- timestamp start -->
-$Date: 2010/07/29 08:44:07 $
+$Date: 2010/12/31 19:45:16 $
<!-- timestamp end -->
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