Historical accident

Unisys's recent offer to only allow the free use of non-commercial, non-profit freeware GIF applications is unacceptable. In reality they would never have been able to effectively collect such royalties. They are simply making this offer to try and reduce the amount of criticism they are receiving on the net. They hope to keep the GIF file format alive and thus maximize the collection of royalties resulting from its use in commercial applications.

Unisys knows there is nothing unique about the LZW algorithm, and its incorporation in the GIF file format is nothing more than a historical accident. Unisys has played no part in the creation of the Web, yet they seek to tax people who wish to access it. The value of the GIF file format is the result of network externalities, not in any way the result of the intrinsic value of the LZW algorithm.

Unisys's most recent statement also contains serious ambiguities:

January 15, 1995

Back to GIF controversy page.
Back to Patents page.
Back to LPF home page.