Re: unisys and licensing

by "Mike Hopkins" <ironmike(at)>

 Date:  Sun, 5 Sep 1999 15:01:45 -0500
 To:  "Basics" <hwg-basics(at)>
 References:  texas
  todo: View Thread, Original
I have revisited the Unisys site today and read their "clarification"
of the situation, posted on 1999-09-02.

Personally, I don't think any of us has much to worry about. There
are "more than 1500" licensed users of the Unisys patent, ( and I've
seen the number 2000 used ) including Microsoft, JAASC, Adobe, Corel,
Macromedia, Visio, etc. I doubt that there is much software out there,
including freeware and shareware, that is not covered by an existing
license. If there are uncovered uses, they probably are minor in scope
and came into existence while freeware was permitted, so should not be
liable for damages and may not be liable for forced change. Any
new uses, however, probably should be licensed, IMO. It would take
case-by-case court verdicts to find out.

Unisys is clearly looking for the sources of the software, not the end
user of the images. There is no conceivable way they will win a suit
against some Joe Sixpack for using a .GIF he generated with software
he has that is properly licensed from the maker, much less for using
a button he downloaded from the net. Nothing to collect, incidental
usage, bad publicity, etc.

Individual users are too many and too small--Unisys needs to go to the
source to be effective in enforcing their license. Their target has to
be the software manufacturer.

All that said, IMHO the real target of this change, other than pirate
uses of LZW, is the Free Software Movement. Yesterday I visited the
Free Software Foundation's GNU site at:

The first paragraph of their statement is:

      "The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is dedicated to eliminating
restrictions on copying, redistribution, understanding, and
modification of computer programs. We do this by promoting the
development and use of free software in all areas of computing---but
most particularly, by helping to develop the GNU operating system."

For Corporate-America-Dedicated-to-Profit-at-Any-Cost, this is a VERY
radical statement, and one which I don't think corporate types
understand in the first place. Also, I think it is significant that
the FSF has removed all .GIFs from their site.

The GIMP is the GNU Image Manipulation Program. This quote
is from the description of the GIMP:

      "File formats supported include >>GIF<<, jpg,
png, xpm, tiff, tga, mpeg, ps, pdf, pcx, bmp, and many others" (my

The followers of the GIMP liken it to Photoshop, on
steroids, The GIMP is free software and free of cost.

You might want to visit

to read the definitions the FSF uses for such terms as free software,
freeware, propriety software, open source, etc. I thought I understood
these terms, but I learned a lot.

The FSF makes a clear distinction between "free==liberty" and
"free==no financial cost", a comparison which cannot be clearly stated
in English, I think.

While you read the definition of "open source" and "propriety", think
"Mozilla". Check "copyright" and "copyleft", too.

The GNU Public License is also interesting reading.

H,mmm... If .GIFs are eliminated from the net, would we all start
using .PNG/.MING instead? Would that mean low-end (old :) ) browsers
might truly become obsolete and disappear? H,mmm....

If you are concerned about your image software, first check your
license. I'll bet it states whether LZW is included and licensed. If
not, you might want to contact the maker, if you have a big commercial
site where your gig depends on your .GIF.

(Sorry, couldn't help myself. Haven't heard a good one in a long

"The owners, having lost the struggle to control the workers, now
attempt to control the workplace by controlling the means of

I apologize for going on another of my (long/windy) tirades.

----Mike Hopkins----

----- Original Message -----
From: Jim Tom Polk <jtpolk(at)>
To: <hwg-basics(at)>
Sent: Saturday, September 04, 1999 6:50 PM
Subject: unisys and licensing

> Group:

> Unisys,...will require about <$>5k for your
> web site if it uses....GIF's produced by an
> unlicensed product, you are liable.... the Unisys information is
> threatening.... if you are producing GIF files using...freeware or
> Source ....>

> from Unisys....They are using very specific terms....<that>
> are fine for being sued.

> ...I'm emailing all the software that I'm using to make GIF's
> and asking...if they are in complience, ....>

> Prior to this, in 1995 they <Unisys> had specifically exempted
> ''freeware'' but
> ...have changed their minds. (actually some major corps....
> <were> getting around paying the fees).

> Here is my big fear. Microsoft... has got the patent on CSS.
> They promise they will never enforce it....
> They have  decided that instead of handing the patent for CSS over
> the W3, that they will retain it.

> ...MS said it...will never be
> enforced, but I... remember the Halloween documents where one
> of the ways...discussed to shut off the Open Source movement would
> by using patents. That means in this case, Mozilla.
> Anyway, something to...worry about. What if it
> you or your company is the one they go after as an ''example'' case?

> Happy labor day!
> Jim Tom Polk -:- jtpolk(at) -:-

>    "The Universe is run by the complex interweaving of three
>           elements: energy, matter and enlightened self-interest."
>   - G'Kar  "Survivors"

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