GNU Project Unveils Patent-Free GNU/DIST Image Format

Fake News written by James Baughn on Friday, July 19, 2002

from the now-that's-an-acronym dept.

At 3:17 PM on July 18, 2002, Richard M. Stallman and the GNU Project first received word that the JPEG image format was suddenly encumbered by patents. Within three hours, the GNU Rapid Response Team developed, implemented, tested, and documented a brand new image file format that is 100% patent-free and 100% freedom-enhanced. The new format, dubbed GNU/DIST (Digital Image Storage Type), stores graphics data in plain text which can then be compressed by an external unpatented program like gzip or bzip2.

"Burn all JPEGs!" Richard M. Stallman exclaimed in a posting to Usenet which contained the world's first GNU/DIST file attachment. "If we don't act now, the world's supply of pornography could be compromised by the bait-and-switch tactics of the JPEG patent holders."

While no graphics programs or web browsers can currently read GNU/DIST files, deployment should happen rapidly because the file format is extremely easy to decode. Here's a sample file:

GNU/DIST 1.0.0
Filename: gnu-logo.gnudist
License: GNU General Public License 2.0
Alternate_Text: This image depicts the GNU logo and the text "No JPEGs or GIFs due to patent problems."
Image_Mode: bitmap
Width: 150 px
Height: 120 px
Color_Depth: 24 bits
Transparency: Yes
Animated: No
Encoding_Mode: So Simple Even An MCSE Can Understand It (version 1.0.0)
Row 0, Col 0: #000011
Row 0, Col 1: #FFA112
Row 2, Col 15: #66B901

One of the GNU/DIST developers, Mr. Pat Entbuster, explained, "Every file must include an URL to a webpage with an explanation of how the file was encoded along with sample GPL-licensed demo source code that shows how to read and write it. In this case, the file uses the default 'So Simple Even An MCSE Can Understand It' method that stores the hexadecimal color of each pixel on its own line."

He continued, "We've hedged our bets by creating a file format that is so simple, so self-explanatory, and so stupifyingly obvious that even the most airheaded patent examiner will reject all attempts to patent it. Meanwhile, users can take advantage of whatever file compression tool they want without being forced to use the patent-encumbered algorithms of GIF and JPEG files. It's a win-win situation, except for greedy intellectual property lawyers working for Big Evil Corporations that will now be unable to purchase that second yacht or airplane that they so desperately need."

Thanks to the sheer power of open source development, coupled with the lack of time-wasting social lives by most geeks, many projects are expected to fully support GNU/DIST images within the next 36 hours. Meanwhile, Richard M. Stallman has personally coded a batch conversion program that will allow people to convert their JPEG image collections (mostly porn, of course) to GNU/DIST files before the Intellectual Property Police come knocking.

"We've been prepared for a crisis such as this for years," RMS said. "The 32-member GNU Rapid Response Team was able to avert disaster by deploying an alternative file format before the first "First Post!" was posted to Slashdot in response to the news of the JPEG patent. If we can keep up this level of emergency response, I predict the world will be free of copyrights and patents by the year 2512."

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