Re: Ah, another patent encumbered format @JDX
This is always about software patents, not the code itself. OK, you write a nice implementation, your code should be protected, I totally agree. But the algorithm used should be open, so that someone can provide an alternative implementation
This is worth examining. The above would be correct if the effort and work producing this was on the coding side, but it is actually largely on the algorithm side. I haven't looked at the algorithm, but I am a C++ programmer (or I was for some years) and I have some background in mathematics. I'm not at all trivialising the work that goes into implementing this, but if I look at the algorithm, my educated guess is that it wouldn't be that hard for me to turn it into code, just a little time because I'm rusty. But could I come up with the algorithm? I doubt it. I understand the principles detailed in this article and I dare say I could follow a more detailed version too, but my maths simply is not good enough to have done what these people did and nor do I have the large amount of time and effort these people were paid to put in.
What I'm saying, is that your suggestion that the code is what needs protecting, that "ripping off" involves copying the code, mistakes where the effort takes place, and thus where the protection should occur.
If someone creates a computer game where I am a gun running round shooting aliens in first-person view, well that's a simple idea, but the code will be huge and complex. Thus copyright law prevents me just copying it and calling it mine. But I can freely make my own version. If someone creates a complex series of sophisticated algorithms for video encoding/decoding, then the idea is the complicated part, but the implementation will be (relatively) simple in that I'm just taking the maths and turning it into code (with some parallelization if I want it to be a [I]good[/I] implementation. Thus the latter case isn't looking to copyright law to ensure the creators are fairly recompensed, but to patent law.
As you said at one point, the problem is that it becomes a standard. There are only three ways out of that. Either
* An Open Source alternative is created that is as good as the proprietary one.
* Users pay a very small sum to licence it directly.
* Someone pays it on behalf of the users.
The first has not happened, unfortunately. That would be the ideal.
The second would probably be the fairest second option but it requires more prevalent and easy micro-payments amongst users, so it's a solution for five years down the road. Though you can do it with some success today, so I would advocate this one.
The third is all nice and lovely, isn't it. In practice, it probably means Google showering you with ads and mining your data as free services usually do. Though Ubuntu maybe has enough revenue that they will do this in their case, it doesn't help the rest of the distros.
What isn't an option, imo, is simply throwing out the patent protection and saying you can just give other people's efforts away for free. The licencing terms are actually already quite generous in that you can give it away a 100,000 times before it is an issue. But surely if you are making money from other people's work (and Ubuntu *is* a business, as are others), then surely those others should have a right to recompense. I mean I actually could legally roll my own h4rm0nix distribution (you heard the name first here) and legally distribute the codec with it up to a 100,000 times. That's pretty cool. But move to a large business like Ubuntu, it's a different story, imo.