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Please do not shoot: ASF read support

Subject: Please do not shoot: ASF read support
From: "Xavier Duret"
Date: Fri, 5 Jan 2007 16:21:48 +0000
This email might be a bit controversial because it concerns ASF-WMA. I have 
read on Umesh Shankar webpage that there is some hostility to the idea of 
adding support for ASF-WMA in taglib. It seams that there has been a discussion 
on the topic somewhere in 2003. The problem is that the mailing list archives 
do not go so far back in time so I do not have access to the full exchange. So 
I do not know all the arguments that have been exchanged on the topic. Please 
bear with me while I play the mediator.

As far as I can see, there can be 5 arguments against the inclusion of ASF-WMA 
support in taglib:
1 - The maintainer does not want to have to maintain such an ugly format.
2 - The maintainer has some ethical or political problems with Microsoft.
3 - The origin of the code itself is doubtful.
4 - The code itself is not up to the standards of the project.
5 - The functionality involved is patented.

I would like to answer those points one by one. The first four are the easiest 
to solve.
1 - Given that this project is open source, it should be easy to make it clear 
who is responsible for maintaining the ASF-WMA functionality and avoid bugging 
the main maintainer about it.
2 - I am just going to hope this is not the case.
3 - I have read there 
"http://mail.kde.org/pipermail/taglib-devel/2005-March/000096.html"; that Scott 
wants to avoid having anything to do with code from mplayer. Fair enough. If 
the functionality came from another source, would it be okay then?
4 - This should be easy to fix.
5 - This is where it pays to start being specific. I have seen a lot of 
statement from people about the fact that the format is patented. It seams that 
the "P" word is being used to close all discussion. The fact is that patents 
can be worked around. I am going to make a list of precise statements, let's 
see if some actual evidence of the contrary can be found:

Statement 1: To defend yourself against a patent it is sufficient to prove that 
none of the the claims apply to your project.
Statement 2: The only patent people worry about is US Patent 6,041,345 assigned 
to Microsoft.
Statement 3: This patent contains 21 claims.
Statement 4: Claims 1 to 8 refer to creating an ASF stream for transmission 
(this protects against streaming on the fly).
Statement 5: Claims 1 to 8 do not apply to taglib at all.
Statement 6: Claims 9 to 12 refer to creating an ASF file for storage (this 
protects against creating the file and then streaming it on another machine).
Statement 7: Claims 9 to 12 do not apply to taglib reading metadata from an ASF 
file.
Statement 8: Claims 13 to 15 refer to creating an ASF stream for transmission 
(this protects against file servers that contain a program that embodies claim 
1 to 8. It is subtle. It is how you block open source. The subversion server of 
a ASF streaming project would trigger this set of claims.)
Statement 9: Claims 13 to 15 do not apply to taglib at all.
Statement 10: Claims 16 to 19 refer to owning an ASF file (for example an usb 
stick with a ASF file on it triggers this set of claim).
Statement 11: Quite obviously, there is nothing one can do about that. If 
Microsoft wants to sue you because you have an ASF file on your computer then 
there is nothing to prevent it from doing so.
Statement 12: Claim 20 refers to an ASF stream player (actually the part of the 
player that receives the stream and apply error correction on it. Can also 
apply to the server containing the source of the program itself)
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