what media file formats are free software?

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tonlee
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Iscritto: 09/08/2014

ogg is free software. Mp3 is not.
What about flac? If flac is not free software, then there is no other file format that provides the same sound quality?

What about mkw, is it free software?

What about webm?

Is there a listing of formats that are free software?

jei
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Iscritto: 02/18/2015

I don't think a format by itself is software. It can be encumbered by patents of course, which makes writing software for encoding and decoding problematic.

If you want to store your media in formats that writing free software for is unproblematic, then I'd recommend FLAC, Vorbis and Opus for Audio files (depending on what kind of compression you want to achieve) and VP9 or VP8 for the video part. Theora is also ok, but its quality is a bit lacking.

WebM/MKV are only containers, not codecs, so you can't make a blanket statement about them. As of now in a webm only vp8, vp9, vorbis and opus are allowed, so it's definitely a container format you can trust.

As for a list, look at this wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_format And I'd also recommend reading up on the work of the Xiph.Org foundation https://xiph.org/

Edit: FLAC actually stands for "Free Lossless Audio Codec", but if your only worry was about storing audio data somehow lossless, of course just storing raw audio data is always possible and isn't patented. This raw audio data you could also compress with xz-utils, not as optimal as using FLAC files but still always a possibility. Storing video lossless and uncompressed is very unpractical because of the huge file sizes, so a good lossy codec is definitely needed. VP8/VP9 are from Google but Google provided a patent promise so they're safe to use for us. Google seems also to be working on VP10, BUT Xiph.Org and Mozilla are also working on a new video codec called Daala. Both are supposed to be released later this year.

onpon4
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Iscritto: 05/30/2012

Calling a file format "free software" makes no sense. It's not software, just a specification for how data should be stored. Free/libre software is perfectly able to read MP3 files.

The problem with MP3, as well as other MPEG formats, is that it's patent-encumbered, so restrictions are placed on their implementation. Software idea patents like these are incredibly dangerous and shouldn't exist at all; proprietary software suffers from this problem, too.

FLAC, uncompressed WAV, the Ogg formats, Speex, and WebM are all unencumbered by patents; these are the formats you should use. (There are other audio and video formats that aren't patent-encumbered, of course, but they're not worth using.)

> WebM/MKV are only containers, not codecs, so you can't
> make a blanket statement about them.

The WebM container is no different, technically, from Matroska. The whole point of it is it only supports certain codecs which aren't patent-encumbered, specifically so that you can make general statements/assumptions about a WebM file.

jei
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Iscritto: 02/18/2015

Yes, correct. I just wanted to make sure that the OP knows about the difference between container format and the actual codec. Speex is obsolete btw now http://www.speex.org/ and has been replaced by Opus. Opus is basically the sucessor of both Speex and Vorbis, because it has bettter quality at low and high bitrates, with very little latency. You should check out this comparison: http://opus-codec.org/comparison/ Also I noticed the music download site Magnatune offers Opus downloads now.

Casey Parker
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Iscritto: 02/05/2015

Agreed on the not software bit - however, I think "free" formats are
definitely worth considering on their own. Off to check out opus-codec.

On Fri Feb 20 2015 at 12:19:48 PM <name at domain> wrote:

> Yes, correct. I just wanted to make sure that the OP knows about the
> difference between container format and the actual codec. Speex is obsolete
> btw now http://www.speex.org/ and has been replaced by Opus. Opus is
> basically the sucessor of both Speex and Vorbis, because it has bettter
> quality at low and high bitrates, with very little latency. You should
> check
> out this comparison: http://opus-codec.org/comparison/ Also I noticed the
> music download site Magnatune offers Opus downloads now.
>

onpon4
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Iscritto: 05/30/2012

Yes, Opus is better than Speex, but Speex is still commonly in use AFAIK (I think Mumble uses it, for example).

jei
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Iscritto: 02/18/2015

Mumble was actually one of the first programs to support Opus. If you join a server click on the information button (the blue "i") and you will see which codec this particular server uses. It's mostly Opus nowadays (some still use Speex, though).

t3g
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Iscritto: 05/15/2011

WebM actually has two versions. The first and currently most supported uses VP8 for video and Vorbis for audio. The second version has VP9 for video and Opus for audio, but is only supported by Chrome/Chromium and Firefox as of the past year. The WebM plugin for Internet Explorer (http://www.webmproject.org/ie) hasn't been updated to the version 2 spec yet which is unfortunate.

jei
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Iscritto: 02/18/2015

I have no issues playing vp9/opus content in mpv, I'm not sure about other players. And creation also works fine with ffmpeg. Also Microsoft is free to implement support themselves without anyone having to provide a plugin for them, and that is which I think they should do.

t3g
t3g
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Iscritto: 05/15/2011

VLC has played VP9 and Opus fine for a while either in the WebM container or straight up .opus files.

Jabjabs
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Iscritto: 07/05/2014

Personally I take the following ideal. I am more than happy to decode a proprietary/patent encumbered format with Free software but I would never distribute in it as it only encourages use of non-free software.

As others have said, anything that is in the WebM container is fine.

Magic Banana

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Iscritto: 07/24/2010

A question I did not make my mind about: is it better or worse to not only distribute a content in a patent-unencumbered format but also in a popular patent-encumbered format readable with free software (says MP3 for audio, MP4 for video)? The latter format aims to have a greater audience.

Jabjabs
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Iscritto: 07/05/2014

I have struggled with that myself. Morally I wish we could distribute ONLY in purely free formats but the proprietary formats do have the majority of the user base at the moment. I suppose merely having the free alternative available in the same list of files will slowly get the message out.

It is a difficult issue to say the least. If it is a podcast in MP3 format, at least have a message at the start on that formats audio that a free alternative is available.

J.B. Nicholson-Owens
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Iscritto: 06/09/2014

name at domain wrote:
> What about flac? If flac is not free software, then there is no other
> file format that provides the same sound quality?

FLAC is fully implemented with free software and (as far as I know)
unencumbered by patents.

As a practical matter, I think you'll find more support for FLAC using
native tags than Ogg FLAC files. But Ogg FLAC files are easily converted
to Ogg-less FLAC as the flac reference command-line program can decode
the Ogg FLAC and re-encode as FLAC without the Ogg container.

t3g
t3g
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Iscritto: 05/15/2011

FLAC and the MKV container are also going to be supported in Windows 10 by default, but Microsoft will not support WebM or the codecs (VP8, VP9, Vorbis, Opus) by themselves even if they are royalty free under a permissive license. I know people can use VLC on Windows, but having native support means that Internet Explorer will play the formats in the

jei
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Iscritto: 02/18/2015

Seems like video tags work here? Bear with me while I test this:

Jodiendo
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Iscritto: 01/09/2013

Jei

The video and sound works fine. I would hate that my "butts" are "Tap" like a "conga drummer", surely will hurt!
I'll bet you money, that his laptop monitor is going to suffer a lot, when hes done drumming her!