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WBUR.org Boston: PlayOgg!

by josh Contributions Published on Apr 14, 2008 12:29 PM

  • Boston Locals: Join us Wednesday, 4/16 at WBUR station from 8 to 10am.
    Meet-up: Outside of 890 Commonwealth Ave. Boston, MA 02215
  • Read our letter to WBUR.
  • Non-Locals: Find out how you can help!

Join the PlayOgg.org campaign to hand-deliver a letter to "Boston's NPR Station," WBUR, requesting that they provide an Ogg Vorbis stream on wbur.org. To make sure they understand that our request stems from a serious ethical concern, and not just a preference in technology, we are going to be delivering the letter in person as well as handing out informative fliers to employees and guests that morning.

Event details: Join us outside of 890 Commonwealth Ave. Boston, MA 02215, from 8am to 10am on Wednesday, April 16th.

Non-locals

If you stream Ogg Vorbis, email us your testimonials and suggestions. If you are interested in finding out more about Ogg Vorbis, to either stream or play it, then visit the Xiph Foundation's Vorbis website. Visit PlayOgg.org to learn more about our campaign.

Letter to WBUR Group

Paul A. La Camera, general manager
The WBUR Group
890 Commonwealth Avenue, 3rd Floor
Boston, Massachusetts 02215

Dr. Robert A. Brown, president
Boston University
Office of the President
One Sherborn Street, 8th Floor
Boston, MA 02215

Attention: Paul A. La Camera


Dear Mr. La Camera and Dr. Brown,

The WBUR group has become a leader in public broadcasting by producing award-winning radio programs, syndicating National Public Radio and other programming on FM and AM radio stations, and by broadcasting on the World Wide Web at wbur.org. Today, we ask that you remove an important barrier preventing listeners from accessing your Internet broadcast, a barrier that is inconsistent with your mission as a publicly funded source of information. We ask that you offer your online broadcasting in a free "as in freedom" format, called Ogg Vorbis, and to inform your listeners of the importance of such free standards in public broadcasting.

Currently you do not provide a free streaming format on WBUR.org. Although widely used, MP3 is encumbered by software patents. The licensing arrangement on these patents forces software developers to choose between a precarious ethical situation or a costly financial one. This directly affects your listeners, because it means to play your stream they must use software whose developers have paid the patent tax. Requiring listeners to use such proprietary corporate software weakens your effectiveness as a public resource, by positioning the patent holders and software owners as gatekeepers to your programming.

This is not an imaginary danger. Alcatel-Lucent, the MP3 patent holder, has an extensive track record of filing lawsuits against those who did not pay for their costly patent license. Fortunately, there is a superior alternative. The Ogg Vorbis format is unencumbered by patents. Anyone is free to write software that understands this format, without paying a tax. As a result, there are many compatible players for all operating systems, and no gatekeepers.

The desire to avoid proprietary formats and software is shared by millions worldwide, like the developers of projects such as One Laptop per Child's XO laptop, the GNU/Linux operating system, and thousands of individual programs like the Firefox web browser and VLC media player. With the technologically savvy user base you have in the greater Boston area, I can assure you the offer of a free format choice will be appreciated.

Sometimes ethical choices come with practical difficulties. But that is not the case with supporting Ogg Vorbis. We contacted your service provider for MP3 streams, streamguys.com, and asked them how feasible it would be to add an Ogg Vorbis stream. A representative of streamguys.com informed us that setting up an additional stream for Ogg Vorbis takes very little time, and that the additional costs will likely be negligible. Furthermore, he assured us that you can treat Ogg Vorbis streams exactly as you would MP3 streams -- this knowledge should help you to be able to easily update your Frequently Asked Sections of your web site.

Furthermore, we reached out to other radio stations about their experience with streaming Ogg Vorbis. All of our feedback has been positive, but we thought we'd share an especially good response we received from Doron Guru, technology director for WFMU in New Jersey, who writes:

Overall we've found our Ogg [Vorbis] experience to be easy and trouble free. Encoding is as easy as our mp3 shoutcast streams and most of the work simply involved setting up icecast which wasn't too bad. There's also been no additional costs incurred as far as I can tell.

It should be noted that Ogg Vorbis has technological advantages over other formats, in that it compresses down to a smaller size than MP3, but is of equal sound-quality. That means the more users that switch over to Ogg Vorbis, the more money you will save in bandwidth costs, while at the same time, those listeners will be receiving high-quality broadcasting. Attached are links to web sites that should help you in streaming Ogg Vorbis, instructions for your listeners to stream Ogg Vorbis on any platform, as well as some examples of other stations that are streaming Ogg Vorbis.

So in this case, the ethical decision also has many practical advantages. We hope you'll take this opportunity to improve your service to the listening public, and to let them know the reasons for your decision. We would be more than happy to meet with you and help you in this process. Please feel free to contact us at anytime. When you do begin streaming Ogg Vorbis, we will be actively and positively publicizing this move and encouraging our supporters to visit wbur.org.

Sincerely,

Peter Brown, executive director
Free Software Foundation
http://PlayOgg.org

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