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godsenddeath

File format legalities

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godsenddeath    182
When it comes to patented file formats/algorithms such as MP3, what exactly does this restrict? Reading the file format? writing to it? using that type in a game/app? all of the above?

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frob    44972
The file format itself is not an issue.

The encoding and decoding algorithms have legal protections in various countries.

Several companies claim ownership to different parts of the algorithms.

There have been both actual lawsuits and threats of lawsuits for those who "distribute and/or sell decoders and/or encoders".


You are best avoiding the format. There are more reasons than just the legal protections. The MP3 format is relatively old, and there are more efficient encoding algorithms out there.

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godsenddeath    182
Quote:
Original post by frob
The file format itself is not an issue.

The encoding and decoding algorithms have legal protections in various countries.

Several companies claim ownership to different parts of the algorithms.

There have been both actual lawsuits and threats of lawsuits for those who "distribute and/or sell decoders and/or encoders".


You are best avoiding the format. There are more reasons than just the legal protections. The MP3 format is relatively old, and there are more efficient encoding algorithms out there.


Thanks,
I was just using MP3 as an example, the real question is, can you develop a piece of software that can read, write, or in any other way use a proprietary format, if you write your own reading and writing algorithms?

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Kwizatz    1392
Depends on the format, you'll have to be more specific on which one(s) do you have in mind.

IANAL, As long as the interpretation algorithm (encoding/decoding for example) is not patented you can write and use your own implementations, however, reverse engineering a private file format may be against the EULA of the entity which produced said format, using the format (even if you didn't do the reverse engineering yourself) therefore could be a violation of said EULA I think.

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Grafalgar    548
I think you have more to worry about with the DMCA than EULAs. EULAs arguably require you to agree to it. The DMCA affects us all, regardless.

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lmelior    325
Quote:
Original post by Kwizatz
Depends on the format, you'll have to be more specific on which one(s) do you have in mind.

This. Different patents cover different codecs in different countries, so you won't have anything near a one-size-fits-all answer. Even if you write your own encoder and decoder, most patent-encumbered codecs like MP3 and H.264 require you to pay license fees.

This highlights the evil of software patents: their very existence opens developers up to litigation even if the developer is completely ignorant of the patented software and develops their software independently. Lawsuits are prohibitively expensive, so even if no infringement is occurring the independent software developer has no choice but to give in. Not to mention patents are granted for very trivial inventions. For example, Apple recently sued HTC for patents on aspects of their user interface, one of which is the method in which an icon moves across the screen at a variable speed. I wish I was making that up.

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