Re: Question about GIF animations

Volodymyr Babin <vb dwuj ichf edu pl> asked:
> I just want to ask: Can I use in GPL project GIF animations or no.

That's a good, simple question, with a long, complicated answer :-).
I've looked into the legal side of this, so here's what I've learned.

If you don't use GIF's compression, you can.  The claimed patent
only covers compression.  Of course, the GIF file will be _much_ larger.
That's probably fine if the file is local, and _ugly_ if it isn't.

If you use GIF's compression... it's legally risky.   My reading of
the patent suggests that the patent only covers WRITING the compressed file,
not reading it. However, I'm not a lawyer, and Unisys now claims that the
patent covers both reading & writing.
To my knowledge, this is untested in court.  You _might_ be able to
write with a non-GPL licensed program, and read it with a GPL program,
but if you do that you might need to go to court. Ugh. Not recommended.
Note that you're still obligating people to use non-free software to edit
the stuff.

Of course, you could just drop GIF. See
for good reasons for doing so.
Although "PNG" doesn't support animations, its sister format "MNG" does.
Frankly, "MNG" looks like the best (long-term) answer.

Sadly, MNG (pronounced "MiNG") isn't as accepted yet as PNG is.
You'd really do a _lot_ of people a favor by helping MNG get well-implemented
and more widely available.  MNG can do a lot of stuff that GIF can't
(more colors, gamma correction, etc.), so it's a better long-term strategy too.
I know there's at least one sample implementation, and I'm almost certain
it's open source, but I don't know if
it's been folded into any GNOME library or library easily installable and
assumed to be available to GNOME (can someone help me here?).

Currently, there are all sorts of animations (like Wanda's) which are
basicaly one big image broken into frames by the program (in a way NOT
stored in the image).  It'd be a LOT cleaner if there were
a standard, unencumbered format for animations easily available in GNOME.

Bottom line: I'd encourage you to use MNG, but you may need to help
with some infrastructure work to make it happen.


--- David A. Wheeler
    dwheeler ida org

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