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BRM Resolution 23: Thou Shalt Use Patent-Encumbered MP3 with OOXML
Monday, March 10 2008 @ 04:16 PM EDT

There are two more documents from the BRM meeting available now on Alex Brown's blog: open/ sc34/open/09891.pdf [PDF]

If you open the zip file and look at the document titled PT-62A2.doc and put it next to the Resolutions document [text], specifically Resolution 23, I think you'll find that they say, put together, that any applications wishing interoperability with OOXML in sound must use MP3. This is non-free, being patent-encumbered. If you go to, it tells us, "Audio MPEG is protected by a portfolio of patents covering a large number of countries." Therefore, by my reading, the proposed spec can't be implemented in free software and in a backhanded way, the GPL has just been exiled again. What kind of standard is OOXML if the GPL, which is what Linux is licensed under, can't freely interoperate? FOSS is a new factor that standards bodies simply must consider. It's not like the old, proprietary days, when it was like a club, and everybody had similar business plans.

If you are thinking it's only a problem in the US, you've not been reading the news about the police raids at CeBIT. Here's a snip from AP:

German police raided 51 booths at the CeBIT computing show this week because of breaches of audio compression (MP3) patents....

Italian firm Sisvel, which itself has a booth at CeBIT in Hall 19, filed patent complaints in Hanover on behalf of big companies including Philips and France Telecom. The company says that through its agreements it can demand a licensing fee for consumer electronics devices sold in Europe.

So ECMA proposes a "resolution" that makes it impossible for FOSS to interoperate? That requires paying patent licenses on pain of criminal charges and jail time? Is this an open standard the whole world can use? What is wrong with this picture?

Here's more of what you find at

The technology licensed by Audio MPEG is protected by a portfolio of patents covering a large number of countries.

Audio MPEG has an exclusive right to grant licenses under the US patents in the portfolio. Audio MPEG’s parent company, Sisvel, S.p.A., has an exclusive right to grant licenses under the patents in the portfolio covering countries other than the US.

Products licensed by Audio MPEG and Sisvel include:

MP3 players, MPEG 2 compliant set-top boxes and satellite receivers, DVD players with MP3 capabilities, computers, PDAs, sound boards for computers, software for encoding and/or decoding audio signals and in general any technology conforming to the ISO/IEC 11172-3 or ISO/IEC 13818-3 Standards (MPEG 1 and 2, Layer I, II, and III).

Products not currently licensed by Audio MPEG and Sisvel include CD, Video-CD and DVD players not able to encode or decode MP3 files, DAB (Digital Audio Broadcast) products, and "Grand Alliance" standard high definition televisions.

Please contact us if you need further details on products currently licensed.

And here's Resolution 23:

PT-60 (R 98):

Resolution 23: The BRM accepts the editing instructions contained in as modifications to R 93, R 98, R 78, R 80, R 82 and R 100, which are otherwise accepted except as modified in other Resolutions; with the following changes: the MIME type of text shall be given as “text/plain” and the MIME type of HTML shall be given as “text/html”; and “Open XML Math” shall be replaced with a reference to the appropriate part of this specification — so resolved.

CA and CZ objected to Resolution 23.

Thank you, CA and CZ, but where are the rest of you? Don't you realize the GPL can't mix with patent licenses, especially GPLv3? So if you require a patent-encumbered sound solution for interoperability with OOXML, you've exiled Linux and the GPL, again. Now, a private company is free to do whatever it feels like. Privately. But this is not acceptable in a standard, because it's a "standard" on a few can use.

Because the PT-60A2 document is written as a .doc file, natch, here it is as text:


Goal: Enable producers to generate content that can be handled by any consumer.


There are several areas in the specification where components such as images, text, equations or audio may be included as part of an OOXML file.

We anticipate a wide range of consumers, many of which will not need to handle these sorts of components. For example, a slide-sorter will not need to touch in any of the images that appear on the slides; an audio reader application will not need to render any image.

Proposed resolution:

1. Add a table with a minimal number of reference standard formats.

  • Images: png, jpg

  • Text: UTF-16, HTML

  • Audio: mpeg audio

  • Video: mpeg video

  • Math, Equations: MathML 2.0, OpenXML Math

  • Annotations: InkML

2. A producer that wants interoperability should use a reference standard format....

PT-104 - R78 AudioFile (Audio from File)


A producer that wants interoperability should use the following standard format:

  • audio/mpeg ISO/IEC 11172-3

15.2.16 Video Part

A producer that wants interoperability should use the following standard format:

  • video/mpeg ISO/IEC 13818

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