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JPEG guardians vow to defend free images

All your compression tech belongs to … er, somebody in Texas

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Yesterday, we broke the story that an obscure Texan video conferencing company is seeking royalties from a patent it acquired five years ago. With the help of a gold-bricking law firm, it wants to collect back royalties from every client device manufacturer which might possibly ever be in receipt of a transmitted JPEG image, and this includes digital cameras, PDAs, phones, scanners and of course, web browsers.

As we disclosed, two licensees have already paid up, including Sony. An unnamed company has already paid $15 million for the right to use Forgent's patent. Perhaps "broke the story " isn't the right phrase - it was sitting around for a week before we noticed, and since we published the story, there's been a right righteous hullabaloo at Slashdot (which in an Intellectual Property landgrab of its own, claimed the scoop for itself after reading The Register - doh!) and at other fine sites. And that in itself is worrying - the free software community's early warning system is as poky as the CIA's Arabic intelligence department. That's a cause for concern in itself.

But the JPEG ('Joint Photographic Experts Group') committee which oversees the standard is confident that it can fend off Forgent's speculative IP grab. And just in case it's going to launch a website which gathers examples of prior art. Prior art can demolish the cockiest patent claims. You can read this call to arms here.

And a new forum has arisen, to aggregate news stories and discussion on this important topic, at Burn All JPEGs, thanks to Al Pope.

For the record, Forgent Networks still hasn't returned our call. The one that started this hullabaloo. ®

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