Anti-GIF protest

KDean75206 at KDean75206 at
Fri Nov 5 13:56:23 MST 1999

Webmasters Scramble to Switch from GIFs!

Elizabeth Clampet

Webmasters and Web developers who are unhappy with the current
licensing requirements for the GIF image file format are
highlighting their cause by setting aside Friday as "Burn All GIFs
Day ."

The GIF image format is reliant on LZW technology, developed by
Unisys Corp. in 1985. Unisys owns the patent for the technology and
charges a license fee for developers using the GIF format.

Web professionals are protesting a change made in August to Unisys'
(UIS) license policy, which states that those who create or post
images using the GIF format must pay a one-time $5000 license fee.

Organizers have started a campaign against the fee by creating
banner ads urging Webmasters to eliminate GIFs from their sites and
using word-of-mouth to spread the word against Unisys. Some
protesters are going so far as to physically burn paper copies of
GIF files outside Unisys' California office Friday.

Protest organizers said the issue is about open standards, not
specifically the GIF format, which is slowly being replaced by
other image formats such as the Joint Photographic Experts Group,
or JPEG, and Portable Network Graphics, otherwise known as PNG

"(The protest) calls attention to the issue of software patents and
that patents in the Internet industry are a kind of legal arms race
that threatens the future of the Internet," said Don Marti,
Webmaster for .

"There's no point in trying to get Unisys to change its policy on
an obsolete format. We can eliminate GIFs by calling attention to
superior formats."

Unisys said that the issue has been overblown because most
developers are already covered by the license. Software firms
including Adobe (ADBE) , Corel (CORL) , Macromedia (MACR) ,
NetObjects (NETO) and Visio (VSIO) already have license agreements
with Unisys. Company spokesman Oliver Pitcher said users
of those software packages need not worry about the license fee,
said Oliver Picher, a Unisys spokesman.

"Altogether, there are about 10,000 products that are covered by
the license," said Picher. "The bigger issue is that the folks
behind the effort are within the open source software movement.
They believe that software should not be patentable."

"We are not going to make GIF open standard, because we need to
protect our technology."

GIFs are still widely used, especially in animated graphics,
although there is a push for open standard JPG and PNG formats.

The PNG format was created specifically in response to the licensed
GIF format, according to Greg Roelofs, spokesman for the PNG
Development Group .

"It is a superset of GIF in almost all respects," he said, noting
that PNG supports better color resolution and transparency than
GIFs do.

"It also happens to be completely free." The only problem, Roelofs
said, is that PNG does not support animation.


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