Open Format: permanent interoperability matters!

Few weeks ago I got invited to a dinner by Rufo Guerreschi, along with Richard Stallman and Robin Good. Than Robin filmed an interview to Richard.
Some days later we all started to discuss by email about the video format to be used to deliver such recordings. Richard asked Robin to publish those video clips using formats supported by free software applications, and Ogg Theora was the format of choice.

But Ogg Theora is an open format and is supported by an application released under a BSD-style license. So far there is no format’s specification other than the source code of the program. No wonder the format has not been approved by any standardization body yet.

As we know Open standards may impose “reasonable and non-discriminatory” royalty fees and/or other licensing terms on implementers of the standard and are potentially harmful for OSS implementations (see for example FSF position on W3C policies). Besides licensing issues there are other important issues within standardization bodies policies, like the ten rights reported in Krechmer’s paper “The meaning of Open Standard”. And, last but not least, we might need standardization bodies able to decline to certify subset implementations, or to place requirements upon extensions, as suggested by Perens in his Open Standards and practice, in order to avoid predatory practices.

Freedom is about knowledge, and data format is much more important than tools’ licenses.