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Mark Nelson

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Growth Market in Theora FUD

May 02, 2010

In my last post, I mentioned one of the big problems for the Theora video codec: an active whisper campaign regarding its potential for patent infringement.

It certainly wasn't surprising to hear that people in the MPEG-LA licensing group were trying to trash talk Theora's vaunted IP-free status, but this week the group of Theora haters picked up an unexpected new member: Steve Jobs.

A blogger named Hugo Roy posted a piece called An Open Letter to Steve Jobs in which he picked on Steve a bit about the openness of H.264. A few valid points were made, but most interestingly, Hugo then posted an email response he says came from Steve himself, which included the following inflammatory quote:

A patent pool is being assembled to go after Theora and other ";open source"; codecs now. Unfortunately, just because something is open source, it doesn't mean or guarantee that it doesn't infringe on others patents.

If this is true, it is bad news for Theora indeed. Can the Mozilla foundation afford to hang a giant "Kick Me" sign on the next version of Firefox? Can they afford to litigate against even a single patent lawsuit, much less this consortium Steve is quoted as knowing of?

Defenders of free and open will no doubt be working hard on a strategy to handle this supposed threat, but it looks very bleak from where I sit.

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