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Sad day... GIF patent dead at 20

By it certainly is in Internet
Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 11:20:58 AM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)

I just heard some sad news on talk radio - GIF patent US4,558,302 was found expired in its patent office filing cabinet this morning. There weren't any more details. I'm sure everyone in the internet community will miss it - even if you didn't enjoy the litigation, there's no denying its contribution to bandwidth conservation. Truly a compression icon.

On Friday, 20th June 2003, the death knell sounds for US patent number 4,558,302. Having benefitted its owner, the Unisys Corporation for 20 years, the contents of the patent are entered into the Public Domain and may be used absolutely freely by anyone.

Officially titled "High speed data compression and decompression apparatus and method", it is more commonly known as the LZW patent or Unisys's GIF tax.


A timeline of the GIF/LZW patent saga runs like so:

  • May 1977: [LZ77] published. Most popular compression techniques build on this technique and most archivers (e.g. ZIP, ZOO, ARC, gzip, LhA, CAB, Arj, RAR, StuffIt) include it in their compression methods. I only mention this to tell you it's unrelated to LZ78 or LZW.
  • September 1978: [LZ78] published. Virtually nobody uses the technique given directly (or the implementation given in [US4,464,650]), but the LZW derivative is widely used.
  • 20th June 1983: LZW patent filed. Terry Welch has been working for the Sperry Research Center and invents a derivative of LZ78 with much simplified, faster dictionary handling. He calls it LZW, after the names of the inventors, Lempel-Ziv-Welch.
  • June 1984: Terry Welch's article A Technique for High-Performance Data Compression appears in IEEE Computer magazine. If you're reading these links, you'll note that the article is very well written, much more readily understandable than the math-laden monstrosities that are [LZ77] and [LZ78]. The article includes a justification for data compression, an overview of common methods, and a detailed explanation and runthrough of the LZW algorithm. At no point does it mention the pending patent application!
  • 5th July 1984: UNIX compress version 1.2 is released by Spencer Thomas, after the LZW article was published but before LZW was patented. Like many IEEE Computer readers, Spencer decided to implement the LZW algorithm he read in the magazine, completely unaware that there was a patent pending on the technique. compress later replaced pack as the de-facto UNIX compression tool, at least until gzip took the throne.
  • 10th December 1985: LZW patent is granted.
  • September 1986: The Sperry Corporation (owners of the Sperry Research Center) and the Burroughs Corporation merge to form Unisys.
  • 15th June 1987: Bob Berry and the team at Compuserve release a new graphics file format called GIF (Graphics Interchange Format). It can handle anything from 2 to 256 colours -- wow! -- and the graphics data is compressed with LZW. Just like Spencer, they had read the LZW algorithm in a magazine and had wrongly assumed that it wasn't patented. Unisys does nothing.
  • 1988: Unisys does nothing. The GIF format becomes even more popular.
  • 1989: Unisys does nothing, although Raymond Gardner tries to bring up the issue in public. Unisys have been ensuring hardware manufacturers (e.g. V.42bis modem manufacturers and Postscript printer manufacturers) are licensed. The GIF format becomes even more popular.
  • 1990: Unisys says nothing. The GIF format becomes even more popular.
  • 1991: Unisys says nothing. The GIF format becomes even more popular.
  • 1992: Unisys says nothing. The GIF format becomes even more popular.
  • 1993: Unisys says nothing. The GIF format becomes even more popular.
  • 1994: Unisys says ... no, wait, on 24th December 1994, Unisys and Compuserve jointly announce that any developers writing software that creates or reads the GIF file format will have to license the LZW patent from Unisys! It's a GIF tax! Burn all GIFs! Merry Christmas!
That's enough history. I didn't even mention IBM's duplicate LZW patent. You can get a similar chronology from lzw.info or burnallgifs.org.

One down, seven to go:

So the US patent has expired. What does this leave?

  • The European patent EP0,129,439 covers Germany, France, Britain and Italy and expires on the 18th June 2004.
  • The Canadian patent CA1,223,965 expires on the 6th June 2004.
  • The Japanese patents 2,123,602 and 2,610,084 expire on the 20th June 2004.
This creates an interesting legal situation where LZW-based sofware is legal to distribute in the United States, but risks patent infringement claims in or when exported to Europe, Canada and Japan.

Oh no! The world's going to end! What can be done?

Calm down. Firstly, the persistent threat of expensive litigation just for having GIF images on your website hasn't diminished GIF's popularity in the slightest. Webmasters are completely and utterly unwilling to move to the replacement PNG format. What happened to the "BURN ALL GIFS" rallying cry? It has been forgotten. There are all sorts of excuses; "It's too much hassle to convert all my graphics and their links", "Internet Explorer doesn't support PNG properly", "PNGs can't do animation and nobody supports MNGs". The best one of all: "Unisys will never sue me!".

I wish Unisys a happy year squeezing the very last drops out of their monopoly.

Further information:



Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


How many GIFs do you have on your website?
o I don't have a website. 18%
o None. 46%
o I have some, but I'm changing them all to PNGs. 18%
o Unisys will have to pry the GIFs from my cold, dead fingers. 16%

Votes: 77
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Slashdot
o 4,558,302
o the Unisys Corporation
o [LZ77]
o [LZ78]
o [US4,464,6 50]
o A Technique for High-Performance Data Compression
o Raymond Gardner
o IBM's duplicate LZW patent
o lzw.info
o burnallgif s.org
o EP0,129,43 9
o CA1,223,96 5
o 20th June 2004
o the persistent threat of expensive litigation just for having GIF images on your website
o PNG home page
o Burn All GIFs
o Slashdot relaying Unisys's position on GIF-using webmasters
o Unisys's published position on GIF and LZW
o The Free Software Foundation's position on GIF files
o The League for Programming Freedom's position on GIF files
o The GIF Controversy: A Software Developer's Perspective
o Dr Ross Williams's list of compression patents
o Jean-Loup Gailly's opinion on compression patents given in interview
o A Universal Algorithm for Sequential Data Compression
o Compressio n of Individual Sequences Via Variable-Rate Coding
o Apparatus and Method for Compressing Data Signals and Restoring the Compressed Data Signals
o Also by it certainly is

Display: Sort:
Sad day... GIF patent dead at 20 | 90 comments (76 topical, 14 editorial, 0 hidden)
GIF (4.58 / 31) (#2)
by herbert on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 04:04:41 AM EST

Truly an icon icon.

can we stop pretending we are going to use PNGs? (3.60 / 10) (#3)
by mjl on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 04:15:53 AM EST

i always found it amusing that the other side used gifs instead of pngs despite bleating about how bad patents were.

Why not use PNG? (4.42 / 7) (#5)
by cgibbard on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 05:18:36 AM EST

I don't understand why anyone wouldn't use PNGs. They have more features and they compress just as well. If you want GIF-like filesizes, use palette mode. Plus there are nice freely available tools for optimising PNG (i.e. pngcrush) which can make low-color PNGs paletted and try many different algorithms to minimise the file-size of any type of PNG.

Alpha blending is certainly a plus: you can use PNGs for nice anti-aliased type when you need something more complicated than plain-text allows (for example mathematical formulas or logos). It also allows you to save the effort of manually blending design elements with their backgrounds (and reblending when those change).

If some browser implementations don't handle them correctly, then so be it - those implementations are broken and should be fixed. They are now in the minority of browsers. As far as I can tell Gecko/Mozilla handles them just fine, KHTML/Konqueror only has slight problems (can't seem to do paletted RGBA correctly, though it falls back to thresholding, also it ignores transparency in 16bpp grayscale images), apparently Opera and Safari also do well, but I don't have them, so I can't test them.

Browser support is now good enough that I'd just recommend that people start using PNG, and if a few browsers are broken then hopefully their implementors will notice and fix the problem. Most viewers will see what was intended, or a close enough approximation that it won't matter.

[ Parent ]

Related reading. (4.40 / 5) (#8)
by i on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 06:01:53 AM EST

An interesting article by our own calimehtar.

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
On gamma support (5.00 / 7) (#35)
by cgibbard on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 01:21:30 PM EST

The article referenced seems to have been written with a misunderstanding of what gamma information in images is for. I have sent the author some information on what is wrong with the assumptions made in that article, and paraphrased this below.


The purpose of gamma correction is not to make sure that #bfe024 comes out the same in the image and HTML. It's to make sure that the colour #bfe024 represents on your screen when you save the image is preserved when the image is displayed on a different device. If your browser doesn't happen to agree with the program that saved the image as to what the effective gamma should be, you won't get matching results.

Browsers complying with CSS 1 should know something about gamma. They display CSS colours in the sRGB colourspace which has an effective gamma of 2.2.

Your browser will use whatever information is available to it to get your display gamma so that it can adjust the CSS colours so that they display correctly in the sRGB colour space. A browser correctly implementing PNG will also adjust the colours so that they display correctly - the same as on the device where they were created, not necessarily in sRGB.

There's also the issue that the program that is saving the PNG might have a different concept of the effective display gamma than the browser.

Here's what really happened with the test images, I opened them up in a hex editor and read off the gAMA chunk to get this info (there's probably a nicer way, but this was convenient):

test2.png (Photoshop) - Gamma: 0.55
test2_fireworks.png - No gamma information.
test2_gimp.png - Gamma: 0.45455

The reason the Fireworks image did so well was that the browser was simply applying its gamma settings to the image colours (the same gamma settings it's applying to the CSS colours). This is because Fireworks failed to store any gamma information, which is the correct thing to do if you're trying to match PNG and browser colours, and the wrong thing to do if you're trying to test PNG gamma support.

Photoshop seems to have assumed, or discerned somehow, that your monitor's effective display gamma is about 1.82 (that is, 1/0.55) and set the gamma chunk in the PNG to reflect this. If that's right, then the image should look the same as it did on your display as when you view it on other displays. 1.82 is dark compared to 2.2. It displays a bit lighter than it should on the web page, as the PNG gamma is brightening the colours to fit them into the sRGB space. This is the expected behaviour given what we know. Safari's implementation of PNG gamma appears to be broken (!), despite getting the colours to match as it seems to have not exhibited this behaviour.

The Gimp assigned your display a gamma of 2.2, and so wrote a gamma of 0.45455 (which is 1/2.2) into the file to compensate. 2.2 happens to be the same as the gamma that sRGB assumes. Note that the Gimp's PNG passed your tests on all but the IE browser. (I wouldn't use the results in IE against the PNG format, as I think Microsoft's "implementation" of PNG has serious problems - count it as a reason against using the IE browser, there are better and freer implementations of the web standards these days.) As you have probably guessed by now, the reason the Gimp's image did so well, is because it decided that the effective gamma should be the same one that sRGB (and hence CSS) uses.

All that being said, the test itself was probably not really testing the effectiveness of the gamma support for PNG. (In one case, the PNG didn't even contain gamma information.) An actual test of PNG's gamma capability would perhaps use different display devices to show whether images can retain their colours exactly from the designer's screen on one platform over the web to possibly another platform.

If you want to test matching against the CSS colours, first you have to check that the CSS colours are being correctly handled (i.e. Gamma corrected into the sRGB space), then if they are you can test that the browser is doing the right thing with different gammas (set the effective gamma to 1.8 and see if it gets brighter than the CSS colours, set it to 2.5 and watch it get darker). You might also check that the gamma that the browser is applying to the PNGs is the same as that for the CSS colours when no gamma information is present in the PNG.

So if you want the colours in your image to match the colour space that's used by the browser, probably the best way to do this is to simply tell the program that you're saving the PNG with to not store gamma information. Apart from that, if you really must put a value in there, tell the program that you want an effective gamma of 2.2 to match the sRGB colourspace. If you want the colours in your image to match the ones on your screen, tell your graphics program what your monitor's gamma is, and let it save correct gamma info into the file.

For more information on this, (if I didn't already talk your ear off about it) check out the following references: PNG Gamma Tutorial CSS Colour Units

[ Parent ]
very interesting (none / 0) (#43)
by calimehtar on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 05:21:33 PM EST

I must confess that there's a lot of info in there about gamma correct that I really didn't know before. I believe my tests are still entirely valid, however, in terms of what users expect of browsers and image manipulation programs. Simply put, gifs behave the way designers expect while pngs generally do not. I found this article on png's gamma correction that explains the theory and png's failure in the real world.

When images are used as parts of a Web page design, consistent color handling is often more important than colorimetric correcness. For a design that combines CSS and images, it is important that a color with a particular RGB value is displayed consistently regardless of the source--style sheet or image file--of the color value.
It would be reasonable to expect the colors of PNG images to be treated like the colors of GIF and JPEG images if the gamma information is omitted.
Sadly, it doesn't work that way in every PNG-supporting browser.

[ Parent ]
Still browser support mainly (3.00 / 2) (#42)
by SoupIsGoodFood on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 05:05:53 PM EST

Where PNG has an advantage (alpha channel), IE still doesn't support it properly.

Even though full 24bit/32bit color images saved in PNG are smaller that TIFF, both of these are usally too big for the web.

This leaves us with small 8-bit (or less) images, like current GIFs. In my experience, GIFs are still a bit smaller than PNGs when saving small, optimised pallet images.

Plus, I suspect the gamma thing might put some people off. It's needed, but untill people know how to, and their software alows them to do so easly, I don't think it's going to be very popular. I already have a problem with Safafi and my website (link below), in that the images are off shade to the background. Not sure who's at fault. But I'll be damned if I know what the gamma setting on the PNGs were.

[ Parent ]

PNGs are much smaller for larger image sizes (none / 0) (#85)
by Jamie Lokier on Wed Jun 25, 2003 at 05:03:11 PM EST

To compare the formats, it's important that you store exactly the same image in your PNGs as GIFs: 8-bit (or less) indexed colour.

Some programs store PNGs as 24-bit or even 48-bit colour.  Clearly this makes PNG look bad when compared with an "equivalent" GIF.  In fact they are not equivalent when this is done.

Once you have the same indexed colour format and matching palettes, for very small images, GIFs are smaller.  For larger images, PNGs are smaller even without fancy optimisation, due to the superior compression format.

You can optimise both.  Compression optimisation for GIFs is rarely done.  GIF optimising programs usually focus on animation tweaks and palette reduction. (Optimal "Clear Code" placement which sometimes reduces the size of the compressed data stream is a hard problem).

Compression optimisation for PNGs is commonplace because it is described in the specification (under "filters"), however the heuristics are still being improved (see the libpng source).  Still, even simple heuristics often yield a notable improvement over not using any filters.  Other PNG optimisations including removing unwanted chunks such as gAMA, reordering the palette to improve the benefit of filtering on compression, and reordering the palette to minimise the size of the tRNS chunk if any.

When you optimise, in my limited experience the threshold where PNG files are smaller than equivalent GIFs becomes a little smaller.  The reduction in PNG file size can be quite significant with good filter heuristics.

BTW, I am writing web server code which optimises both formats before deciding which to transmit, if the client supports both formats :)

[ Parent ]

png library problems (none / 0) (#87)
by ghosty on Wed Jun 25, 2003 at 08:47:15 PM EST

I never converted to PNG because, for a long while, the Linux libpng was broken. Applications would let you view PNGs, but the second you tried to save one the application would crater. I remember having that happen with xv, xpaint, xfig, and (I think) Gimp.

Basically, I decided that PNG wasn't fully cooked and resolved to use JPEGs instead.

[ Parent ]

GIF's on Kuro5hin? (3.33 / 9) (#7)
by 3ebnut on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 05:59:40 AM EST

So far, all I've found I've been able to use is this:

              Cool             Dorky
        |                |                |
        |                |                |
Unwired | Mountain Dew   |     Urkel      |
        |                |                |
        |                |                |
        |                |                |
        |                |                |
  Wired |   Kuro5hin     |        /.      |
        |                |                |
        |                |                |
        |                |                |

[ Parent ]

Your diagram.... (3.00 / 1) (#48)
by sophacles on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 06:38:05 PM EST

ignores a couple of phenomenon.

First: there is a strong correlation between mountain dew and /., yet they are in completely unrelated portions of the table, on top of the fact that if there were a way uncool colum, /. would be there for the unwired.

Second: K5ers and Urkel have this wierd thing for mad science (see the 4 part relativity series, or the how to brew your own mead articles.)

Finally you are short on at least one dimension:
k5 and slashdot are political, while mountain dew and urkel are not.  Perhaps the relationship is an artifact of that?

Either way, you make no mention of your experimental goals, or your research methods, or... damnit.  Sorry I got to learn the scientific method today. Again. For the 1000th time. In college.  Grr.

[ Parent ]

Who's pretending? (2.50 / 2) (#38)
by mwood on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 01:38:09 PM EST

The only image on my site which is not a .PNG is a .XBM :-)

[ Parent ]
another source of links and info (4.85 / 7) (#9)
by h2odragon on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 06:08:10 AM EST

Ross Williams has some excellent, if possibly dated, information on what data compression methods are covered by what patents.

This guy deserves mention in any discuassion like this, i feel; he invented new compression techniques, had them stolen by patent, and gave up the field.

So PNGs die now? (4.30 / 10) (#12)
by DesiredUsername on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 08:37:22 AM EST

Since I can start legally using GIFs on Saturday, does that render (ha!) moot the PNG movement?

Play 囲碁
Probably not. (3.85 / 7) (#13)
by locke baron on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 08:43:12 AM EST

Since PNG has a bunch of whizzy features that GIF doesn't, like true alpha-channel support and the ability to do true color without ugly kluges.

Micro$oft uses Quake clannies to wage war on Iraq! - explodingheadboy
[ Parent ]
You can start using them on Friday (3.66 / 3) (#22)
by it certainly is on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 10:23:18 AM EST

provided nobody in the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy or Japan sees them. The patent expires at midnight tonight.

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

Thank goodness (3.18 / 16) (#14)
by Stick on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 09:09:18 AM EST

I've been storing all my kiddie porn as gifs, but I didn't realise that it was illegal to use gif. Thank goodness I won't have to convert them all to jpg. There's a few million of them.

Stick, thine posts bring light to mine eyes, tingles to my loins. Yea, each moment I sit, my monitor before me, waiting, yearning, needing your prose to make the moment complete. - Joh3n
funny thing is (2.00 / 13) (#18)
by tacomacide on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 09:43:11 AM EST

everyone in the k5 IRC channel boasts about having gigabytes of asian child pornography. only a few of them boast about their beastiality, but i highly suspect that all of them share in this disgusting fetish.

<rickL> Yeah, I must have about 20GB of giant squid SVCDs.
<BooBb> Wow. Only got about 4 gigs here in the office.

[ Parent ]

I dunno what the fuss is about (3.40 / 5) (#17)
by RyoCokey on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 09:38:36 AM EST

I've used PNGs instead of GIFs as long as I've had a website (Which is down till August, but still...) I've never had any problems with them.

Is Weaponsgate a hoax or liberal disinformation?
You're not really part of the problem. (4.66 / 6) (#19)
by it certainly is on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 10:02:01 AM EST

Most of the people sticking with GIF are those who run large websites and won't change format unless GoLive gets a new "change all the GIFs on the website to PNGs" button.

Similarly, Photoshop creates better compressed GIF files than it does PNGs, whereas it's the reverse in almost all other graphics tools.

So the blockade that stops people from switching is lack of functionality in their tools. And Adobe won't add such functionality unless their customers demand it, which they won't because they don't see a compelling reason to switch to PNG -- smaller file sizes and true 24-bit, gamma corrected colour with alpha channel isn't good enough.

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

MS IE and PNGs (3.00 / 3) (#20)
by 8ctavIan on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 10:04:51 AM EST

I have noticed that PNGs with transparent areas are rendered poorly in MS IE. And I believe this is documented somewhere.

Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice. -- H.L. Mencken
[ Parent ]

Yes (3.50 / 2) (#23)
by RyoCokey on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 10:23:58 AM EST

At least in the version of IE I use, they're nearly functionless. However, I don't use transparency... do many websites? I can't think of any obvious examples. Most just fade into the set background color (I.e. without trasparency.)

Is Weaponsgate a hoax or liberal disinformation?
[ Parent ]
That;'s because... (4.00 / 2) (#51)
by thebigmacd on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 07:09:10 PM EST

they can't unless they use PNG. They fade into a hard-coded background colour because they have to. catch-22 ain't it!

[ Parent ]
I use transparency... (none / 0) (#89)
by absquatulate on Tue Aug 26, 2003 at 11:45:43 AM EST

... because didn't you know? Background tiles are all the rage again!



[ Parent ]

site with alpha png (5.00 / 1) (#52)
by farlukar on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 07:31:22 PM EST

$ make install not war

[ Parent ]
Link here (4.50 / 2) (#26)
by JahToasted on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 10:34:27 AM EST

I asked this question in my diary and farluker gave me this link.

Bet you didn't know there were so many different browsers out there, huh?
"I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames" -- Jim Morrison
[ Parent ]

Not quite (4.75 / 4) (#34)
by ConsoleCowboy on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 12:56:21 PM EST

I have noticed that PNGs with transparent areas are rendered poorly in MS IE. And I believe this is documented somewhere.

Full-transparency work quite well in IE if your PNG is in indexed mode. It's the alpha channel that IE throw away.

[ Parent ]
Also (2.00 / 2) (#63)
by damiam on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 11:19:11 PM EST

IE's support for PNG alpha is just as good/bad as it's support for GIF alpha - it can do one level of it, on or off. IE's lack of support for advanced features is not a reason not to use PNG.

[ Parent ]
IE support for *transparency* is good (none / 0) (#86)
by Jamie Lokier on Wed Jun 25, 2003 at 05:19:33 PM EST

"IE doesn't support PNG properly" is no excuse to continue using GIFs.  There are other good reasons, but this one is a fallacy.

IE4.01 on Windows supports binary transparency for indexed-colour PNGs perfectly well, as have subsequent versions of IE.  Thus, any GIF you convert to PNG, provided you use a reasonable converter, displays perfectly well on all IE versions from 4.01.

On the other hand, Netscape 4 doesn't display PNG transparency.  In fact it blends transparent or partially-transparent pixels in the image with the image's declared background colour, if there is one in the file.  If not, it just ignores the alpha channel.

Opera 5 is quite similar: it completely ignores PNG alpha even if you are only using it for binary transparency.

On a related note, here's a tip.  For widely compatible images with a non-rectangular shape (such as buttons with rounded corners, or logos), you should create those with binary transparency such that the transparent pixel value has the same colour as the background that it is over, if you can.  This applies to both GIF images and PNG images.  In this way, if the client is using an old browser which doesn't implement transparency, the image will still look quite good.  From this point of view, GIF support for transparency is slightly more widespread than PNG support, however all current versions of widely used browsers support binary transparency in both formats.

Enjoy :)

[ Parent ]

No animation capability (3.50 / 2) (#41)
by goatsmilk on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 04:15:20 PM EST

From the article: "PNGs can't do animation and nobody supports MNGs" (MNGs are basically animated PNG files). If you don't need animation though...

[ Parent ]
Animated GIFs = Pure Evil (4.33 / 3) (#53)
by RyoCokey on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 07:53:25 PM EST

Lemme think of a legitimate use for an animated GIF... um... No.

Is Weaponsgate a hoax or liberal disinformation?
[ Parent ]
Depends (2.00 / 1) (#54)
by it certainly is on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 08:12:16 PM EST

Penny Arcade just used it to good comic effect in one of their cartoon strips.

First, backstory: Diabolicious!, Wow!, Fruit Saga, part 1, Fruit Saga, part 2, Fruit Saga, part 3.

Now the climax: Fruit Saga, part 4. Very good!

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

FF2K is my hero (4.00 / 1) (#64)
by RyoCokey on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 11:20:04 PM EST

The only bad thing about that series is it looks like our hero is effectively out of the series.

Is Weaponsgate a hoax or liberal disinformation?
[ Parent ]
Perversive, but legitimate (3.50 / 2) (#66)
by BlowCat on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 11:40:23 PM EST

It's a GIF file despite the extension. Children are advised not to look at it.


[ Parent ]

Problems with png (4.50 / 2) (#47)
by farlukar on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 06:23:28 PM EST

A while ago I made a menu bar with .png images matching the background colour of the menu bar, but IE didn't display it right while Mozilla and Opera did.
At first I thought "D'oh! Raunchy IE PNG support!", but on closer inspection I discovered that not one of these browsers delivered the exact colour value.
The real problem appeared to be the sad story of PNG gamma "correction".

So if it is exact colour matching you want, it's back to gif and jpeg.
Too bad, on paper PNG is Da Bomb, but there are just too many obstacles on the way to success.

$ make install not war

[ Parent ]
On the contrary (5.00 / 2) (#69)
by Yosho on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 02:03:19 AM EST

I'm guessing you're using Photoshop?  It's known for it's bad PNG gamma support -- granted, not a lot of applications are much better.

All you need to do, though, is remove the color profiles from the PNG.  First, download pngcrush, then do this:

pngcrush -rem gAMA -rem sRGB -rem cHRM -rem iCCP infile.png outfile.png

Theoretically all you need is "-rem gAMA", but might as well be safe.  Afterwards, your PNG should display just as well on multiple browsers as any GIF does.

[ Parent ]

Removing gAMA doesn't work (none / 0) (#84)
by Jamie Lokier on Wed Jun 25, 2003 at 04:43:29 PM EST

Read the linked article.  The exact "pngcrush" command you suggest is given in the article, with an explanation of why it is the right thing to do, yet doesn't produce the desired result.

In principle removing all the colour profile chunks, including gAMA, should cause PNG colours to render the same as GIFs.

Unfortunately there are popular browsers which don't do that.  They apply a default gamma correction to PNGs which is not applied to GIF and JPEG images.

[ Parent ]

+1 fp (2.00 / 2) (#27)
by circletimessquare on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 10:48:33 AM EST

<img src="post_is_da_bomb.gif">

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

Premature. (3.33 / 3) (#31)
by LukeyBoy on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 11:05:54 AM EST

Call me paranoid, but I'm not rushing to use GIFs again. One of the products I work with could definitely benefit from this being public domain now, but I'm just waiting for Unisys to try to extend the patent. I mean hell, if the copyright to Mickey Mouse can be extended then there's no way they'd let a patent quietly die.

Hi Paranoid (3.00 / 1) (#44)
by SoupIsGoodFood on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 05:22:31 PM EST

The difference is that Disney defend their trademake/copyright/patent very agressivly. On the other hand, GIFs are a lost battle. I doubt Unisys stand a chance at an extension.

[ Parent ]
The difference is... (1.00 / 1) (#50)
by thebigmacd on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 07:06:21 PM EST

Mickey Mouse is not patented. Different issue.

[ Parent ]
Nope... (4.00 / 1) (#58)
by sagsaw on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 10:03:41 PM EST

AFAIK, patents <u>cannot</u> be renewed.

[ Parent ]
Correcting myself (none / 0) (#59)
by sagsaw on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 10:11:03 PM EST

Actually, it appears some patents can be extended, mainly when some government regulatory prevents the invention from being used during the original patent term. I doubt this applies to GIF's, though.

[ Parent ]
retroactive extension (none / 0) (#61)
by ftobin on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 10:39:52 PM EST

The OP is probably referring to the system where corporations lobby for retroactive extensions, so that patents would expire 37 years, instead of 17 (applied retroactively, and inclusive to items whose expiration had already occured), just as they did with copyright under the CTEA.

Or, they argue for some sort of international 'harmonization' of such laws (where such harmonization always extends, never shortens.

[ Parent ]
Yes they can (none / 0) (#65)
by ad hoc on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 11:36:15 PM EST

drug patents are renewed all the time. It takes a special act of congress, but grease enough wheels and it can be done.


[ Parent ]
Beh (none / 0) (#67)
by kichigai on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 12:12:17 AM EST

I never really used GIFs, and I'm in no rush to use them now. High compression JPEGs and PNGs work just fine, thank you!
"I said I was smart, I never said I was mature!"

[ Parent ]
This one's for you, ICI... (2.75 / 12) (#32)
by alevin on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 11:24:15 AM EST

Your vote (1) was recorded.
This story currently has a total score of 95.

You're the straw that broke the camel's back!
Your vote put this story over the threshold, and it should now appear on the front page. Enjoy!


Huzzah! (5.00 / 2) (#33)
by it certainly is on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 11:34:37 AM EST

Slashdot in-jokes on the front page. I love it. Thanks to all the voters for my first FP.

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

outside of dictator posts (none / 0) (#37)
by Wah on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 01:36:50 PM EST

this is about the lowest number 'dump' votes I've seen on a front pager.  Nice work.

Fail to Obey?
[ Parent ]

Near unanimity (4.50 / 2) (#70)
by 3ebnut on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 02:36:58 AM EST

Well, that new Theory of Relativity managed to get up after only 106 votes.

[ Parent ]
yep (5.00 / 2) (#73)
by Wah on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 10:43:11 AM EST

that one was even closer to perfect. Only 2 negative votes, and both of those from trolls.

good stuff all around.
Fail to Obey?
[ Parent ]

Actually, (3.00 / 2) (#74)
by it certainly is on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 10:48:41 AM EST

most of the trolls voted +1 FP -- probably for the intro paragraph more than anything.

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

to be honest (4.50 / 2) (#76)
by Wah on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 11:08:35 AM EST

I was talking about the e=mc^2^2 post, not this one specifically.  And your intro was great.  thanks for the infotainment.  :-)
My home on your eyes and in your head.
[ Parent ]
Trolls (5.00 / 1) (#78)
by 3ebnut on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 11:49:03 AM EST

I don't know who "thejeff" is, but b1t r0t seems to vote -1 on everything. Plus he has a habit of rating trollish, should-be-hidden posts a 5.

[ Parent ]
hmm (5.00 / 1) (#79)
by Wah on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 12:00:05 PM EST

I agree about b1tr0t, but it seems thejeff is fairly legit.  Sorry el jefe, whomever you may be.
Fail to Obey?
[ Parent ]
I don't get it... (3.00 / 2) (#36)
by doru on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 01:27:36 PM EST

You say :

At no point does it [the article] mention the pending patent application!

Yet, on the 10th page (journal page 17) of Welch's paper, one can read : "The hardware and software implementations of LZW are Sperry proprietary". IANAL, so maybe there's a subtle distinction between proprietary and patented... Could you elaborate on that ?

I see Rusty's creation of Scoop as being as world changing an event as the fall of the Berlin wall. - Alan Crowe

Proprietary (4.00 / 1) (#46)
by qbwiz on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 06:05:50 PM EST

I believe that proprietary implies that they're not giving the software or the hardware implementation details away, which means that you must make your own copy if you want to use it. That's different from saying patentented, which says that you aren't allowed to make you own copy.

[ Parent ]
I do (none / 0) (#57)
by sagsaw on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 09:58:57 PM EST

In marketing speak, proprietary equals "we can do it but our competitors can't" and/or "no, we won't tell you how we accomplish our lofty claims". Thus proprietary often includes both patented and trade secret information.

[ Parent ]
Interesting Article Format (4.50 / 4) (#39)
by Arkaein on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 01:44:19 PM EST

Anyone else notice that the Welch article on LZW is stored as per-page PNG images?

Somewhat ironic...

The ultimate plays for Madden NFL 2003

Re: Interesting Article Format (3.00 / 1) (#40)
by clarkcox3 on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 03:05:01 PM EST

We wouldn't want those pesky blind people reading it :)

[ Parent ]
There's only one possible response..... (4.20 / 5) (#45)
by Trepalium on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 05:38:16 PM EST

Ding Dong! The Witch is dead. Which old Witch? The Wicked Witch!
Ding Dong! The Wicked Witch is dead.

Wake up - sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed.
Wake up, the Wicked Witch is dead. She's gone where the goblins go,
Below - below - below. Yo-ho, let's open up and sing and ring the bells out.
Ding Dong' the merry-oh, sing it high, sing it low.
Let them know
The Wicked Witch is dead!

Oh, and by the way, software patents are not valid in Canada, so this patent would only apply to hardware that does LZW compression.

Nice! (2.00 / 1) (#49)
by thebigmacd on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 07:02:33 PM EST

As a Canadian, I was previously unaware that software patents are not valid here. Now I am aware. Thank you.

[ Parent ]
Patent is on 'A computer performing these steps' (4.00 / 1) (#60)
by pin0cchio on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 10:37:20 PM EST

Oh, and by the way, software patents are not valid in Canada, so this patent would only apply to hardware that does LZW compression.

So a patent on LZW would not be valid, but would a patent on "a computing device with memory, input means, and output means, that follows the steps of the LZW algorithm" be valid? This is how most U.S. software patents, such as U.S. Patent 4,558,302, are phrased in practice.

[ Parent ]
The $64,000 question is (4.33 / 6) (#55)
by hengist on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 08:31:24 PM EST

How much money did Unisys actually make from this? Especially from software developers. I wonder if they made enough to make it worth all of the trouble and acrimony they went through?

There can be no Pax Americana
Ha ha (3.50 / 6) (#56)
by Kasreyn on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 09:37:39 PM EST

Fuck you, Unisys. I hope this fucking hurts, you assholes. Huzzah for all internet users everywhere (except Unisys employees, who might just be a bit fucked). ^_^


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
MS Paint Porn and GIFs (3.00 / 3) (#68)
by shovelknife on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 12:39:33 AM EST

As to the contention that PNGs are of a smaller file size, I have found this to be untrue for my purposes. Using several programs on several of my images, I was unable to achieve a smaller PNG than GIF on even one of my low bandwidth pornographic images. Both were set to lossless which is reasonable when the source image has 6 colors.

Also, some people need animation for legitimate purposes. How could Nasty Slut Rides Drunken Hick, that masterful piece of artwork, convey its full glory without animation?

At least for some people and some purposes, PNGs are inferior to GIFs.

Sir, (4.16 / 6) (#71)
by it certainly is on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 02:45:11 AM EST

while my eyes may never be the same again, I downloaded one of your GIF images, converted it to PNG (using PPM toolkit) and then ran it through pngcrush. Here are the file sizes:
  • GIF file: gbang.gif 12708 bytes
  • PNG file: gbang.png 9216 bytes
  • crushed PNG file: gbang2.png 8892 bytes
As you can see, there are significant savings to be had for your porno paintmashes.

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

I thank you! [nt] (1.00 / 1) (#81)
by shovelknife on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 03:48:07 PM EST

[ Parent ]
PNGout (none / 0) (#88)
by erigol on Thu Jun 26, 2003 at 09:47:25 PM EST

Using Ken Silverman's PNGout utility, I was able to get gbang.gif down to gbang.png (7,300 bytes). PNGout quite often beats PNGcrush.

[ Parent ]
More History (4.75 / 4) (#72)
by IntlHarvester on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 03:50:21 AM EST

The GIF patent became public knowledge in about 1990, leading to a huge uproar in the online world. Some paniced BBS sysops even took their GIF p0rn offline out of fear.

CompuServe or Unisys tried to queal the flames by announcing that there would be no "GIF Tax" -- only encoding/decoding software would be covered; and that interested parties should contact them. As this only affected software developers, there was a huge sign of relief among users.

Adobe and other image software makers licenced LZW in 1990-1. Unisys must have said more than "nothing" to them at this time. <http://www.neurophys.wisc.edu/comp/gffaq1.txt>

In 1993, Mosaic spread GIFs into an entirely new medium that had little need for backward compatibility.

In 1995, Unisys finally published a royalty sheet, exempting "non-commercial" software. By now most folks had forotton the controversy.

In 1999, Unisys finally realized the web had become commercialized and got around to agressively enforcing their patent.

In my view, the main 'controversy' about this whole thing is that (A) The GIF format wasn't replaced forthright back in 1990, and (B) The avalanche of new online users from 1995-1999 were not made aware of the patent issues surrounding GIF. Thus large numbers of people built GIF support into their software and websites without knowledge that they were on thin ice.

Now, I suppose Unisys could have done a better job educating people, but the rules of patents state that's not their job. If anything, the real outrage should be at the online world's mostly indifferent attitude towards the GIF problem. 20 June 2003 should have passed without note.

True up to a point. (4.66 / 3) (#75)
by it certainly is on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 11:03:41 AM EST

Unisys took a long time -- possibly until 1993 -- to realise that the GIF image format actually used LZW, thus they did nothing to people writing GIF coders/decoders. Furthermore, they prefered Big Money ("basically the Unisys guy said anyone who sells code for $100-$300 a pop was a total _____ for selling it that cheap")

They did root out modem manufacturers implementing v.42bis. They did root out Postscript implementors. Google wasn't around in 1990, you couldn't send attack lawyers to hunt down infringers. Unless people from the same Unisys department as Welch et al actually got into graphics instead and realised LZW was used, it's unlikely that they would know. There's NOTHING in the GIF'87 or GIF'89 specifications about the LZW patent. As far as software developers using the GIF format were aware, Compuserve were the only people they needed to talk to, everything was hunky-dory. Unisys only contacted Compuserve in 1993, and it took them most of the year to work out the details.

So, even in 1989, it took a very long time for anyone to put two and two together. It's easy with hindsight, but nobody was screaming about the GIF tax in 1989, despite being all panicked about the LZW patent they now knew about (no thanks to Terry Welch's 1984 article).

Adobe paid up in 1990 to license LZW in their Postscript language, not for their GIF reader/writer in Photoshop. Unisys were still not aware of GIF's use of LZW in 1990. They did realise that *cough* TIFF-LZW might have LZW in it, and so Aldus paid up.

Mosaic did not need to use GIFs, and if it had not used GIFs then the format would be COMPLETELY DEAD by now, along with TGA, ILBM, MacPaint and PCX. We would be using TIFF or some new PNG-like graphics format. If the Mosaic authors had known about the LZW patent and royalties due, they would likely never have used the format. Obviously, the Mosaic authors' minds couldn't stretch back 4 years when they were writing their GIF decoder.

But anyway. Yes, my ire lies with the complacent developers and users who didn't pay nearly as much attention to the GIF issue as they should. However, Unisys are not blameless. It is actually their job to publicise their patent, otherwise it's a "submarine" patent and they can't claim past royalties. But I don't generally mind about their actions in getting GIF software authors to pay for an LZW license.

What I do object to is their attitude that you owe them a license simply for having GIFs on your website. This is wrong. Websites only serve up data. Sure, the GIF creation software used to create that GIF data should be licensed, including backend scripts that generate on-the-fly GIFs. Sure, the GIF decoding software in the browser should be licensed. But simply storing and transferring ready-made files should not require an LZW license. They also claim to be the power behind the internet. This was absolutely none of their doing; they are the very lucky beneficiaries of historical accident and inattention by developers. If anyone knew or cared that GIF used their patented LZW technology, it would never have made it to the WWW or the Internet.

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

seperate worlds (1.00 / 1) (#82)
by IntlHarvester on Sat Jun 21, 2003 at 07:09:17 PM EST

I think the crux of the problem is that the online world was divided between BBS culture and Internet culture. The BBS world knew about the GIF problem, but was content to let Big Brother CompuServe or Adobe solve the problems for them. (Which they eventually did by getting the ball rolling towards PNG, but too late.)

The Internet world was largely academic/non-commercial and didn't seem to care that much, either about GIFs or patents. What little discussion over the issue that exists in the Usenet archive is on the gnu groups, and is very calm compared to the panic attacks on the BBSes. (Although google doesn't have binary groups, where much of the flamage might have occurred.)

I agree that if someone would have warned/stopped Mosaic from displaying GIFs, it would have saved everyone a lot of hassle.

[ Parent ]

The RIAA's logo on their homepage is a gif... (3.75 / 4) (#77)
by Nandeyanen on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 11:36:30 AM EST

I wonder if they are paying to use it- yeah, right. Too bad the patent is expiring, it'd be nice to see someone sue those swine and win- they need a solid kick in the nuts.

This is bad news... (3.66 / 3) (#80)
by jonr on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 01:23:57 PM EST

The patent would have put GIF out of its misery sooner. Now, if only IE would render alpha-channel PNGs correctly without ugly hacks, GIF would only exist as a annoying animations, and could be blocked compleatly. (IMHO, of course)

Unlikely. (none / 0) (#83)
by bakuretsu on Sun Jun 22, 2003 at 06:00:50 PM EST

Maybe Microsoft will implement CSS 2 at the same time they implement alpha channel PNGs. It isn't like the CSS 2 standard wasn't released in the '80s.

It bothers me that Microsoft trash talks the open source initiatives (likely because of their threat to Microsoft itself) and yet Mozilla (for example) succeeds in implementing important technologies and standards (read: CSS 2, PNG) more rapidly and more fully.

-- Airborne
    aka Bakuretsu
    The Bailiwick -- DESIGNHUB 2004
[ Parent ]

study (none / 0) (#90)
by keleyu on Mon Mar 21, 2005 at 02:49:18 AM EST

my english is poor

Sad day... GIF patent dead at 20 | 90 comments (76 topical, 14 editorial, 0 hidden)
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