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Over 1,000 sign the petition asking This American Life to use Ogg Vorbis

by Brett Smith Contributions Published on Sep 27, 2011 05:38 PM
We just delivered our petition to the show, asking them to be part of the software patent solution by using a free format.

In late July, This American Life aired an episode titled “When Patents Attack!” that reported on some of the problems that software patents cause developers and businesses. It introduced the subject to new audiences in a compelling way, so we wrote to them to thank them for their excellent reporting. We also asked them to be part of the solution to these problems by making their streams and downloads available in Ogg Vorbis format. Several of you supported that call with your own letters. Their podcast is the most popular on the Internet, so the option to get it in Ogg Vorbis would spread awareness about the importance of free formats. Unfortunately, nobody received a response from the show's staff.

We thought we would do better to demonstrate just how many people prefer free formats, so we launched a petition to let you show your support and be counted. And that's exactly what you did: in just a couple of weeks, we had verified signatures from more than 1,000 people.

We just delivered that petition to the staff of This American Life, as well as reporters Laura Sydell and Alex Blumberg who worked on “When Patents Attack!”, to ask them again to use Ogg Vorbis and show that it's an idea with real support behind it. You can read a copy of the letter we sent them below. Our thanks go to everyone who signed to support free formats on the web! We wouldn't have been able to approach the show this way without your help.

You can still sign the petition; we'll deliver new signatures every time we get another thousand. If you haven't already signed it, please add your name today!

Dear Ira Glass, Seth Lind, Laura Sydell, and Alex Blumberg,

Shortly after “When Patents Attack!” aired, presenting excellent reporting on the problems caused by software patents, we wrote to you asking you to use Ogg Vorbis for This American Life's streams and downloads. The MP3 format that you use today has been beleaguered with exactly the kinds of problems illustrated in the show. Offering listeners the show in Ogg Vorbis format would make you part of the solution, reducing legal risks for both them and the show itself.

After we went some weeks without hearing a response from you, we started a petition that asks:

This American Life: Patents have already attacked MP3. Please help defend your listeners and the public interest by offering downloads and streams of the show in the unencumbered Ogg Vorbis format!

1,089 people have signed on to support this statement. Even more remarkably, almost 20% of them are members of their local public radio station—and that doesn't even count other supporters who made one-time donations. All of these signatures were verified over email to prevent automated submissions. You can view the list of signatures at;=1&search;=0&crmRowCount;=2000.

These numbers demonstrate that many public radio fans are already eager to use Ogg Vorbis streams and downloads, if This American Life made them available. These listeners are an engaged audience that actively supports public radio, and understands how issues like software patents can hurt the production of their favorite shows. Furthermore, since adopting new formats is a chicken-and-egg sort of issue, you can be sure that even more of your listeners would start using Ogg Vorbis once it was available.

We hope this petition sees you give new consideration to our request. We sincerely believe that using Ogg Vorbis would be a win-win situation for both the show and its listeners, promising more freedom with respect to digital distribution and listening, while avoiding MP3's patent risks. Can we please arrange a time to discuss this further? We'd be happy to address any questions or concerns you have about the format.


Brett Smith
License Compliance Engineer, Free Software Foundation

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