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You are here: Home FSF News FSF responds to Jobs's "Thoughts on Flash"

FSF responds to Jobs's "Thoughts on Flash"

by John Sullivan Contributions Published on Apr 30, 2010 02:14 PM
Apple's use of proprietary software and recommendation of an explicitly patent-afflicted standard (H.264) are inconsistent with the free web.

Ars Technica has published our response to Steve Jobs's "Thoughts on Flash":

Watching two proprietary software companies deeply opposed to computer user freedom lob accusations back and forth about who is more opposed to freedom has been surreal, to say the least. But what's been crystal clear is that the freedom these companies are arguing about is their own, not that of their users. And what they are calling freedom isn't freedom at all -- it is the ability to control those users. Adobe is mad at Apple for not letting Adobe control iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch users via Flash, and Apple is mad at Adobe for suggesting that Apple is arbitrarily abusing its control over Application Store users.

Steve Jobs's "Thoughts on Flash" is the latest volley in this bout between pot and kettle, and while it makes many dead-on criticisms of Adobe and Flash, it does not change the fundamental character of this disagreement, nor does it solve any concerns about Apple's broader intentions.

Apple's use of proprietary software and recommendation of an explicitly patent-afflicted standard (H.264) are inconsistent with the free web.

In a response to an open letter from Hugo Roy of the Free Software Foundation Europe, Jobs claimed that free codecs like Ogg Theora could also infringe patents, but that does not justify making the internet standard for video a technology that is known to be patented by a group who is actively collecting royalties and suing people for infringement.

We have legal assurances from the only publicly claimed patent holders that Ogg Theora can be used both commercially and noncommercially, in any software, by anyone, without royalty.

Of course, other patents may arise, and we will have to fight them if they do. H.264 could also find itself dealing with some hitherto unknown patent claims in the future; that's just the nature of the system. Buying a license to H.264 does not magically protect you from such submarine attacks.

The software patent system is broken and we will continue campaigning for its abolition. You can help with this campaign by watching and sharing the new film, Patent Absurdity: How software patents broke the system.

In the meantime, "Everything could be patented anyway" is not an argument for "Give up even trying and just submit to MPEG-LA." It's an argument for Ogg Theora, and against software patents.

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