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You are here: Home FSF News 'Play Ogg': FSF launches free audio format campaign

'Play Ogg': FSF launches free audio format campaign

by Matt Lee Contributions Published on May 16, 2007 12:11 PM

BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA—Wednesday, May 16, 2007—The Free Software Foundation (FSF) today launched, a campaign to encourage use of the patent- and license-free standard Ogg Vorbis as an ethically, legally and technically superior audio alternative to the proprietary MP3 format.

Though the MP3 format has become very common, any time a distributor sells or gives away music encoded as an MP3, they are responsible for paying a fee to the owners of the MP3 patents. These patents are also an issue for developers writing software to work with MP3s. In contrast, the specification for Ogg Vorbis is in the public domain, so anyone can use the format or write software to use it without being dependent on a patent holder for permission.

FSF executive director Peter Brown said, “Ogg is your safest bet to be free from patent litigation when using compressed audio. This is especially true given the recent upswing in patent-based lawsuits. What is most frightening, and underscores the landmine metaphor often used to describe software patents, is the recent $1.5B preliminary judgment against Microsoft. Microsoft thought it had a paid-up nonexclusive license to practice the patents in MP3. This judgment demonstrates that there is no good way to protect yourself from these threats. The only viable solution right now is to switch to Ogg, and work for the abolition of software patents.”

With many personal digital music players already providing support for Ogg Vorbis, and with many free software players, encoders and plugins already available for a variety of operating systems, Ogg Vorbis has the elements needed to surpass MP3 in use. A recent suit filed in Texas based on the playback of MP3 in personal digital music players should provide further impetus to the use of Ogg Vorbis in these devices.

FSF president and founder Richard Stallman emphasized that the danger of such patents is not confined to developers or distributors. He wrote, “[T]he users can get sued too, either as a way of attacking a developer or just as a way to squeeze money out of them on their own or to cause mayhem. All software developers and users are vulnerable.”

The campaign is aimed at both distributors and listeners. Over the coming months, it will build on existing Ogg promotion efforts by emphasizing the ethical problems with proprietary formats. Planned resources include listings of Ogg-friendly websites, instructions for installing and using Ogg Vorbis, and a directory of volunteers offering their technical expertise to sites seeking help in making the switch to free formats.

The campaign resources and a mailing list to track related events are available at Technical details about the format can be found at

About The Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users’ right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software—particularly the GNU operating system and its GNU/Linux variants—and free documentation for free software. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software. Its Web site, located at, is an important source of information about GNU/Linux. Donations to support the FSF’s work can be made at Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA.

Media Contacts

John Sullivan
Campaigns Manager
Free Software Foundation

Joshua Gay
Campaigns Manager
Free Software Foundation


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