Friday, May 18, 2007

FSF launches free audio format campaign

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.

Play Ogg

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.

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.

Ogg Vorbis Logo

Ogg Vorbis is actually technically superior to old digital audio formats such as MP3 and is almost comparable with AAC. Multiformat listening test at 128kbps proved the fact that Ogg Vorbis is a leading audio codec at 128k and its sound quality is much more superior than its proprietary counterparts such as Mp3 or AAC.

Some of the other advantages of Ogg Vorbis are..

Advantages of Ogg Vorbis:
  • Ogg Vorbis specification is in the public domain; it is free for commercial or noncommercial use
  • Source code available under both LGPL and BSD licenses
  • Easy to use high-level API (Application Programming Interface)
  • Good all-round performance at any bitrate higher than 48 kbps
  • One of the best codec at 128 kbps
  • Well written specs
  • Supported by most portable DAPs
  • Suitable for internet-streaming (via Icecast and other methods)
  • Fully gapless playback support
  • High potential for further tuning
  • Structured to allow the design for a hybrid filterbank

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