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Microsoft stops reverse engineering of ASF file format

By rak3 in News
Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 05:53:03 PM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)

Microsoft has claimed that reverse engineering the ASF multimedia file format is illegal and infringes on Microsoft patents. VirtualDub, a GPLed Win32 video capture program, contained code that allowed an ASF file to be transcoded to other standard media file formats. Read more on the VirtualDub news page and at Advogato.


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Microsoft stops reverse engineering of ASF file format | 21 comments (21 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
very newsworthy, post this ASAP... (none / 0) (#3)
by SgtPepper on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 03:00:31 PM EST

SgtPepper voted 1 on this story.

very newsworthy, post this ASAP

Stay tuned, News at 11? Bleah. Disc... (none / 0) (#2)
by Pelorat on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 03:02:45 PM EST

Pelorat voted 0 on this story.

Stay tuned, News at 11? Bleah. Discussion value? Didn't think so.

I was going to submit this myself, ... (3.00 / 1) (#1)
by rusty on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 03:04:01 PM EST

rusty voted 1 on this story.

I was going to submit this myself, but thanks. This is just evil. Aren't there anti-anti-reverse engineering laws on the books in Australia (or Finland, or somewhere)? Could development be moved someplace where MS isn't allowed to do this?

Not the real rusty

Re: I was going to submit this myself, ... (4.00 / 1) (#12)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 06:33:37 PM EST

The problem is that ASF is encumbered by a patent. No amount of reverse engineering is going to work.

Steven Yap

[ Parent ]
Re: I was going to submit this myself, ... (none / 0) (#17)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 11:58:40 AM EST

You forget that US patents are only valid in the US.
There's no such thing (and as far as I understand politics, won't ever be) as a global patent system.

[ Parent ]
Local laws (4.00 / 1) (#15)
by aspirin on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 05:29:05 AM EST

Finland does not have anti reverse engineering laws or software/protocol patents. We have only patents for producing material stuff like aspirin. So go ahead and transfer the site to Finland.

[ Parent ]
Important development. This is all ... (3.30 / 3) (#10)
by new500 on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 03:33:34 PM EST

new500 voted 1 on this story.

Important development. This is all just a modern day way of trying to control the broadcasting channels. Tesla saw the gloal and human ramifications of his work in ac/dc research and wireless, other guys piled in to make bucks. Now we dont want to see internet communication - as can be picked up on by the public at large - marginalised in todays world like radio hams are in proportion to commercial broadcasting, do we? Media formats are *not* exclusively designed for person to person private communication, they are promoted (particularly by the vested interests, and not the open source guys who miss a point here) to be the efficient substance of our communicative and collective lives (from videos of our nearest and dearest to news and educational television). If widespread acceptance become equivalent single point control, this is no different from, say, insisting everyone learns esperanto and exclusively uses it at home , then claiming a fee everytime we call out "Hi Honey . . ." (or whatever)
== Idle Random Thoughts. Usual disclaimers apply. ==

Wow. It's bad enough that thrid par... (4.00 / 1) (#9)
by Anonymous Zero on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 03:50:02 PM EST

Anonymous Zero voted 1 on this story.

Wow. It's bad enough that thrid party vendors who support Microsoft by selling Windows-only tools have had to resort to reverse engineering Office doc formats, DLL file formats, hidden API calls, undocumented hair-brained partioning schemes, and so forth just to make and sell products for Microsoft's own platform, now this. I'm glad Microsoft is activley encouraging people to stay away from its so-called standards.

The tighter you make your grip, the... (1.00 / 1) (#7)
by slycer on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 04:04:17 PM EST

slycer voted 1 on this story.

The tighter you make your grip, the more systems will slip through your fingers..

Will this kind of stuff ever end?... (none / 0) (#5)
by hooty on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 04:58:51 PM EST

hooty voted 1 on this story.

Will this kind of stuff ever end?

This is a story about two entities ... (4.50 / 2) (#4)
by warpeightbot on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 05:04:19 PM EST

warpeightbot voted 1 on this story.

This is a story about two entities that simply need to Cease To Exist As We Know Them. MSFT needs to be broken into small enough pieces that they can't do this kind of legal shoving, and the US Patent Office needs to simply be shut down. The time to market is so fast these days, and the time to obselescence likewise (like, about 18 months), that a 17-to-34-year monpoly on the manufacture of anything vaguely resembling Joe's Widget simply encourages Microsoftian business practices (i.e. get big enough to have a decent legal department, patent the hell out of your stuff, then acquire by lawsuit).

Kill all the lawyers, and kill them tonight! -- Don Henley (iirc)

I think the guy should have told th... (4.50 / 2) (#8)
by Alhazred on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 05:28:41 PM EST

Alhazred voted 1 on this story.

I think the guy should have told them to stuff it... Or a better solution even. Just modularize the transcoding support and anonymously distribute ASF support as a "seperate thing". Let MS run around like the MPAA is and get laughed at. Nobody can STOP distribution of code once its out there. For that matter how hard can it be for someone to supply a patch that reintroduces the deleted support? They have the old code...
That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.

More writeup needed... (1.00 / 2) (#6)
by DemiGodez on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 05:35:37 PM EST

DemiGodez voted -1 on this story.

More writeup needed

GPL License (4.00 / 2) (#11)
by rak3 on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 06:32:32 PM EST

What are the ramifications for this considering the software was originally released under the GPL license...isn't the cat out of the bag?

This piece of software looks like it was making good progress that could be used to allow Linux developers to read ASF content. If we have to wait until Microsoft releases Media Player for Linux, we'll be waiting a long time!

Linux users aren't the only ones being hurt, big corporations are as well. Gateway and AOL will soon release an Internet device with the Crusoe processor and Mobile Linux. I'd imagine they wouldn't be too happy if Microsoft computers were the only ones that could view the plethora of rich-media that will be available in the future.

Re: GPL License (none / 0) (#14)
by squigly on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 03:26:42 AM EST

The article is slightly misleading. Reverse engineering this format is perfectly legal. However, since the technique was patented, reverse engineering should be pointless since a requirement for a patent is full disclosure. Full disclosure on software patents unfortunately tends to be "A program wot compresses stuff".

Unfortunately, by patenting it, Microsoft are guarenteed a monopoly on the format, however you get hold of it.

From the write up, it appears that this is a design patent. These tend to cover very specific aspects of a design rather than overall functionality. Essentially a design patent allows you to design a tool, and while it allows people to use very similar tools with identical functionality, it doesn't allow people to design a compatible tool. A variant of ASF that can't be run on Microsoft's codec would be perfectly acceptable under this type of agreement.

Of course since this is GPLed there should be no reason that development could not be taken over in Europe where Software can't be patented. It would unfortunately make it illegal to distribute in America

People who sig other people have nothing intelligent to say for themselves - anonimouse
[ Parent ]
Re: GPL License (none / 0) (#16)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 11:56:02 AM EST

>Unfortunately, by patenting it, Microsoft are guarenteed a monopoly on >the format, however you get hold of it.

Except, of course, if you get hold of it in Europe, where software patents don't apply and US patents are laughed at like in the rest of the world.

[ Parent ]
VirtualDub and Wine (5.00 / 2) (#13)
by Bradley on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 06:54:53 PM EST

I've been using VirtualDub as one of the programs to test my MSVideo implimentation for wine, which I intend cleaning up and submitting after I finish my exams. Having the source code is nice for that :) (Although having VirtualDub actually play movies won't be supported for technical reasons)

IANAL, but the patent linked to from the Advogato article seems incredably broad. Claim a, for instance, reads like MIME+TCP infringes on it. All the claims mentions "connecting to a transport medium" - does that mean that if I disconnect my modem, I'm no longer infringing?

Claim 4 appears to patent sending data with parity bits. They don't appear to have patented ASF, but a whole group of formats of which ASF is only one instance.

I suppose getting someone to contest this patent on the basis of prior art is futile? Is it now illegal for someone to design an error-correcting multimedia data protocol?

They reference the MPEG-2 specs in the patent - what does this cover that wasn't in those specs? I'm sure some of it is covered by later MPEG standards.

Re: VirtualDub and Wine (none / 0) (#20)
by GeekLawyer on Sun Jun 11, 2000 at 09:04:09 AM EST

Hierarchical claims in patents are a standard structure designed to allow a graceful collapse of an infringement claim to a point that is truly defensible by the patent holder.

  • claim 1) I claim the means of producing all life. or
  • claim 2) I claim all forms of life as in claim 1 or alternatively of all carbon based life.
  • claim 3) I claim as in claims 1,2 or all multicellular organisms..
  • claim 1468) I claim as in all preceding claims and in particular cells using the chemical X in combination with the method Y as applied genome Z for the purposes ....

    The idea being that you claim as much as you can but if that fails you descent to the point that a court is willing to give you. If they give you claim 1 you have been spectacularly lucky but at the least you hope for the final claim n, or maybe n-1, n-2 and n-3. Nobody seriously expects a patent on life, or the concept of computers (well, no-one except Gate$).

    watch the hopes and dreams of your youth shatter:
    endure the interminable decades....
    die alone and anonymous

    [ Parent ]
  • Re: VirtualDub and Wine (none / 0) (#21)
    by Bradley on Tue Jun 20, 2000 at 10:29:05 AM EST

    Shouldn't it be the job of the patent office to say claims 1-1467 are invalid, rather than it having to be taken to court first?

    Anyone know how sane other countries' patent laws are? I only tend to hear about the US, but thats probably because the Net is US centric with stuff like that.

    [ Parent ]
    Tired of this (none / 0) (#18)
    by Denor on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 01:23:45 PM EST

      You know, Microsoft's behavior is really tiring after a while. For instance, the whole 'embrace and extend' thing. Take their word processor, for instance: I remember when control-X control-B meant "cancel, start of text" - but they went and 'extended' the keymappings...
      Wait, MS's word processor isn't Emacs?


    http://usvms.gpo.gov/ms-final2.html (none / 0) (#19)
    by NZheretic on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 08:54:38 PM EST

    Worth a read

    Microsoft stops reverse engineering of ASF file format | 21 comments (21 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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