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Bladeenc Under Patent Attack 180

Zane Johnson noted that bladeenc is having legal problems. He's taken the binaries down until legal problems surrounding some patents ... the source code however is still available... The bladeenc homepage also has a cool summary of the DeCSS story thats worth reading if you haven't.
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Bladeenc Under Patent Attack

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  • Nothing works better than Bladeenc (IMHO) on my system. This really sucks. Does anyone know how to compile it on Win32? I'd appriciate any advice - I have borlands latest free tools and can grab DJGPP or Cygwin.

    Hey Rob, Thanks for that tarball!
  • I remember seeing earlier today at the CDEX website that they had removed a DLL file that was associated with BladeEnc.

  • Man, I just went looking for a binary last week and was surprised to see his notice that he had taken them down. I assumed that I had just missed this from a while ago!

    I decided to start using audiograbber on my NT box here at work to rip/encode CD's at night. It supports external encoders so, since I use blaseenc at home, that's the one that I went to get. Gone. Ended up finding a win32 binary somewhere else but it sucked much and I ended up finding the LAME plug-in and using that instead.

    How wierd!
  • from the site...
    The source code is still available from this site and will so remain. BladeEnc will continue to develop no matter what might turn out from this situation.
    ...at least he is standing by what he believes in.
  • I would think this would be the first of many to show up, unless bladeenc does something different than everyone elses encoders.

    I wish he had given more details about the legal problems like who the company in question is and the patent on it they claim to have...

  • Once again, people who have some tie into something as big as MP3 want to cash out on it. So many business oriented people realize that if you keep a tie into something that is this big, you can just skim a little off the top and make big bucks.
    What doesn't make sense to me is the overall lack of forward progress this causes. Patenting a product makes sense in many cases, however in the software industry, it puts a damper on everyone else. The reason things get big in this industry in the first place is because they are easily obtainable and open. At this point, mp3s are so popular, trying to stop someone from writing a free encoder that doesn't make money seems petty.
  • I've tried Blade, LAME [sulaco.org], and GoGo [nifty.com], and I've found that Bladeenc produced both the lowest quality MP3s and was also the slowest. However, I feel that patent issues over the MP3 format may cause some to push for an open solution such as Ogg Vorbis [xiph.org] to our music compression needs. I hope that these issues can be settled though, I don't like to see people having their rights taken.

  • It says in the facts about the DeCSS, that you can exactly copy a DVD and that this has always been possible before the DeCSS came about.

    Is this true? I had heard before that store bought DVDs have a hard-coded number on each disk in an area that you can't write to on a blank DVD. This number was needed in the decryption, hence no copied DVDs could be played.

  • by atomly ( 18477 ) on Thursday June 01, 2000 @12:37PM (#1031648) Homepage
    So when are we going to get the PNG of the MP3 world? I can't believe how ridiculous companies are thinking that they can milk money out of near-standard formats like this. You think they would've learned from Unisys that people just won't go for stuff like this.
  • by wass ( 72082 ) on Thursday June 01, 2000 @12:38PM (#1031649)
    From the first paragraph of the BladeEnc letter, it is written: Due to threats from large companies, who holds patents on mp3 related technology, to take me to court if I continue to distribute products containing "their" technology, I have decided to remove the BladeEnc binaries from my homepage.

    This leads me to wonder about the status of the MP3 protocol. It seems that the companies writing letters to BladeEnc are claiming something about their proprietary MP3 technology (sorry, the letter is kind of vague, plus IANAL). Who actually owns the MP3 protocol? Is it a standard?

    If somehow MP3 encoding techniques are deemed to not be standards, but proprietary technology, is this acceptable by law? What I mean is, if one cannot build MP3's openly like this, can those cartels who hold the MP3 status be considered a monopoly (or, more aptly, an oligarcholopy)?

    In a general case like this, with something that is supposed to be a standard, it seems almost as bad for several companies to keep competitors (especially open-source ones that won't or can't pay the big dues to become a member) out of the fray than it is for a single company to prevent upstart competition.

  • by 575 ( 195442 ) on Thursday June 01, 2000 @12:38PM (#1031650) Journal
    Blade encoder slain
    By owners of ideas
    Music plays no more
  • I've got to hand it to this guy, it's senseless bullshit like this that makes Slashdot worth reading.

  • I'm not sure about your computer, but on my computer, you can't insert any CD when the power is off.
  • by bbk ( 33798 ) on Thursday June 01, 2000 @12:39PM (#1031653) Homepage
    Fraunhoffer and Thompson recently changed their licensing policy - you can read the new version here: http://www.mp3licensing.com/index.html

    Basically, it's like $2.50 per player, minimum of $15,000 per product. Quite a lot for any project.
  • Okay, let's flip past the "First Post"ers and that weird insane article by the guy with no shift keys.

    What I want to know is what company would do that? Isn't the whole MP3 community and all of the companies involved trying to dig as many claws into as many people as possible, just to cling on for dear life? Isn't a civil war between MP3 technology developers going to make the whole thing look sillier?

    The only companies that I know of that would do this would be NullSoft, Sony or Xing... Anyone have some better insight?

  • Um, NOT. That royalty is for ENCODERS, not DECODERS.
  • by StenD ( 34260 ) on Thursday June 01, 2000 @12:41PM (#1031656)
    I assumed that I had just missed this from a while ago!

    You (and SlashDot) did. The news page [mp3.no] has this in the 2000-02-23 update:

    You might wonder why I haven't put up any binaries for 0.92.0. The reason is that I'm still having trouble with Fraunhofer/Thomson and things are starting to heat up. Since their complaint is that I'm distributing products using their patented technology and they now are threatening to take me to court if I don't stop, I've decided to remove the binaries from my homepage.

    I will remove the binaries tomorrow, but you can rest assure that this is not the end of BladeEnc. I will place all the necessary details on these pages in a few days, so please don't mail me asking for details yet, I'll be busy writing together a lengthy piece explaining the situation, what I plan to do and what you can do to help.
  • Well, eject first, hard power down, it will remain open, power up, cd tray will retract, presto.
  • I beleive you are right, but the point is that you CAN copy it, just not play it.
  • What these "big companies" fail to understand is that the code is out there. Shutting down the blade homepage will just pour fuel on the fire, the source will be mirrored and passed around the Internet. It can't be stopped any more than the MPAA can stop DeCSS source from being distributed. I think what this is all leading to is a vast network of anonymous developers sharing open source code through an untraceable Gnutella / Freenet like system. As large corporate entities try to stifle the Internet and it's power, the more it will fight back.
  • Oh, and they also want to charge $0.50 per decoder... Looks like winamp and others are going to be in hot water too...
  • But, isn't MP3 based off of JPEG compression which is in fact an OPEN standard, therefore not copywritten???

    The only audio related patent I can think of would have been Tom Edison's original patent which probably outlined a way for encoding audio patterns for later playback and I think the time would have worn out on that one.

    But, please enlighten me here.
    "War doesn't determine who's right, just who's left"

  • The more interest by the business community into mp3 or any technology, the more lawsuits there's going to be. It's not about real threats to business - just perceived threats. If someone *thinks* that someone's development could dent their profits in any indirect way whatsoever, no matter how slight, they're going to go after them. It's the squash-everything-by-intimidation-and-maybe-ask-qu estions-later strategy, a common mafia tactic. Of course, no one's ever going to prosecute them for being the cowardly bullying thugs that they are.

    Sorry for the bitterness - this kind of stuff brings me down.

    - tokengeekgrrl
    "The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions

  • by bbk ( 33798 ) on Thursday June 01, 2000 @12:44PM (#1031663) Homepage
    you're right.. I mistyped. It's $2.50 an encoder, $0.50 a decoder. Sorry 'bout that.
  • I wonder how long it will take before someone sues over the source being made available. Once that happens, it's watch your back time as every company with any product, will open a court case. They do not need to win, they just have to spend a few dollars that most developers do not have.

    Many people were begining to wonder how the "old" companies would keep up with the speed of the internet. It looks like they have decide to cripple the runners.

  • Tord is about to become another victim of the idiocy that is software patents. The Fraunhofer Institute ought to have the right to copyright its own software, both source and binary, just as Tord Jansson ought to. But to patent an algorithm, which is essentially what happened, really defeats the purpose of patents and copyrights, just as we saw with the Unisys LZW/GIF patent. If the Fraunhofer Institute developed a chip that used its algorithm for encoding MP3, that should be patentable, since anyone else could create their own chip using their own code.

    The one silver lining here is that Sweden, where Tord lives, doesn't recognize patents on algorithms, so he may should be able to defend himself legally.

    Meanwhile, this is kind of old news - the binaries were pulled on February 24th. [mp3.no]

  • by ethereal ( 13958 ) on Thursday June 01, 2000 @12:45PM (#1031666) Journal

    My understanding (and I'm sure I'll be corrected if wrong) is that the protocol is unencumbered and standard, but the standard only addresses decoding the compressed audio. Encoding is more of a black art, as there are a bunch of different techniques which can be used, some of which are patented (Fraunhofer, etc.).

    So I don't think you will see any lawsuits over mp3 players, but if the specific mp3 encoding technologies that bladeenc uses were patented and the patent is valid, the author might have some legal problems.

    Question: is open source a liability in this case? If you couldn't see someone's source code to see how they implemented something like this, how would you determine if it was a patent violation?

  • 5-7-5 is cool
    We love to read his Haikus
    Please keep them coming
  • by Shoeboy ( 16224 ) on Thursday June 01, 2000 @12:47PM (#1031668) Homepage
    For all of you with questionable materials on your website:
    Ignore any and all e-mails claiming to be a cease and desist notice. Delete the @#$% things. Don't respond. Somebody who really wants to sue you will take the effort to send you a registered letter. You can refuse to sign for that too. If they're really determined they'll serve you in person. Once they do that, you have to either retain a lawyer or take the shit down, but you don't need to do anything in response to e-mail.
    IANAL - Even if I was a lawyer I'd put that there since I love typing ANAL in all-caps.
    (former microserf)
  • If you have the proper equipement you can do it.. In fact if you have the porper equipement, you can pirate Jay Leno's chin and put a copy of it on yours. Then the NTSHA (Nighttime Talkshow Host Association) will sue the maker of said equipement, and they will have to spend a coffee night with the police in Belgium (where they operate out of)and some laywer from the US that doesn't speak french. Then the NTSHA will send out cease and desist letters to everyone with a overgrown chin.

    Not that you'd want to do have a chin like that, but yeah, it's possible.
  • The solution to all of life's little problems. Just run a freenet server and download and periodically insert data into freenet to make it remain free and anonymous to all. Works great.

    Look at http://freenet.sourceforge.net
  • It is inherently impossible to prevent the copying of something that is there for people to see. If a DVD were uncopyable, you would be unable to see it at all. By the very method it is seen by your eyes, you can copy it, and by the very method it is sent to the monitor, the video card, the hard drive, the RAM, whatever, you can copy it. If it were impossible to copy, it would also be impossible to view.

    Chris Hagar
  • I know it was developed in what basically amounts to a "clean-room" setting. That doesn't mean it's safe from patent-wielding lawyer scum, does it?

    - A.P.

    "One World, one Web, one Program" - Microsoft promotional ad

  • by StenD ( 34260 ) on Thursday June 01, 2000 @12:49PM (#1031673)
    But, isn't MP3 based off of JPEG compression which is in fact an OPEN standard, therefore not copywritten???

    "Standard" does not mean "free". Unix is a standard, and it costs $$$ for an OS to be able to call itself Unix. Motif is a standard, and until recently, it took $$$ to (legally) get Motif. Fortunately, neither of these standards had patents, so it was possible to reimplement them. Unfortunately, sometimes vendors sandbag standards bodies by filing patent applications which are granted after the standard is released. Other standards bodies don't need to be sandbagged.
  • You can't copy DVDs on your $500 consumer drive, but the equipment that can do it is under $10,000. So the lone consumer can't make a backup, but any organized pirater has no problem.
  • First of all, I'm one of those people that thinks that IP laws are a divisive, anti-individualist, and generally dumb idea in the first place. However, I do live in a capitalist society which disagrees. Even so, weren't patents meant to cover implementations of ideas, not the ideas themselves?

    A patent is intended to protect, for a limited time, the "right" to be the sole producer of a physical product that significant resources were expended to engineer. Patenting an algorithm just doesn't make sense. It's just as if Einstein would have patented E=MC^2 and set up relativity corp. "For all your power plant, college textbook, and unthinkable weapon needs."

    It's things like this, and genetic patents, that make me think the USPTO needs to be disbanded. Doesn't patenting a spliced organism infringe on the prior art of, say, God/Yahweh/Allah/Vishnu/The Universe/L. Ron Hubbard/Nobody/whatever else you happen to believe in? And am I violating their patent by existing, since I evolved from microbes?
  • I don't know how much this applies, but does not open standard imply that it's free, or something?

    Chris Hagar
  • Quick, go grab your RPMs, or Debian packages, or whatever binaries you need, before the ripple effect takes out the mirrors of the binaries.
  • It's a well known maneuver and one that standard bodies need to address more aggressively. The trick works like this; You create something cool like a new document format or network protocol. You then apply for a patent on this. Meanwhile you submit it to the IETF, ASCII, IEEE and the rest.

    If the concept becomes approved and widely used, even entrenched you then let the other shoe drop and start demanding license fees from everybody. MP3 and GIF are the most notorious examples of this gambit.

    The solution is for all standards bodies to require a signed declaration stating "This isn't patented and any patent we have to cover it is invalid". At least one body dose this already ( May be the IETF but I am not sure ). The rest should fall strictly into line.

    Force industry to try and push new stuff without calling them "standard" or choose to give up royalties.
  • by kcarnold ( 99900 ) on Thursday June 01, 2000 @01:02PM (#1031679)
    Vorbis [xiph.org]!

    Without any further ado, I refer you to my earlier comments, this [slashdot.org], which references this [slashdot.org].

    Bug me for Vorbis Tools 0.5 binaries via email. I've been having trouble with the web-based server I've been trying to use.

    Kenneth, Vorbize, Ogg123, and mp3tovorbis author

  • by David A. Madore ( 30444 ) on Thursday June 01, 2000 @01:03PM (#1031680) Homepage

    it's on the compression method. The MP3 standard itself is an ISO standard (MPEG1/2) and it is not patented. Whether bladeenc actually uses the patented compression method or not, is another problem. It would also be nice to know in which countries this patent is supposed to hold (I know Fraunhofer's original patent is for Germany); incidentally, it would be nice to know in which countries, if any, software techniques can not be patented (I think France is like that, but I'm not sure).

    Anyway, sadly, as we well know, what matters is not who's right but who has the best lawyers.

  • MP3 is not a protocol, it is a format.

    Mpeg Audio Layer-3 [iis.fhg.de] coding was developed by the Fraunhofer IIS institution [iis.fhg.de] in the late 80s, and therefore the patent is owned by them.


    "I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday."

  • How do I compile it into a DLL again? I could just duel boot over to my Linux partition (SLACKWARE, thank you very much) and rip everything there, but I really like using CDEX with the bladeenc.dll...

    Hey Rob, Thanks for that tarball!
  • yes. This link [cselt.it] has a document on MP3 from the MPEG standards group. quoting:

    Open standard MPEG is defined as an open standard. The specification is available (for a fee) to everybody interested in implementing the standard. While there are a number of patents covering MPEG Audio encoding and decoding, all patent holders have declared that they will license the patents on fair and reasonable terms to everybody. No single company owns the standard. Public example source code is available to help implementers to avoid misunderstand the standards text. The format is well defined. With the exception of some incomplete implementations no problems with interoperability of equipment and software from different vendors have been reported.

    It seems to me that creating an mp3 encoder or decoder in clean room is legal without having to pay a license fee. But if you "borrowed" the algorithms that have been patented, then you need to pay up.

  • by wjr ( 157747 ) on Thursday June 01, 2000 @01:05PM (#1031684)
    MP3 is part of the MPEG standard, which was developed under the auspices of ISO. ISO has a patent policy, which basically states that anyone contributing to a standard must be willing to offer licenses to any of their intellectual property (usually patents) that is REQUIRED TO IMPLEMENT that standard. These licenses must be offered to all people requesting one, and must be for "reasonable terms and conditions". That doesn't mean free - the IPR owner can set their own fee schedule, as long as it's not outrageous.

    The intent is that the requirement that anyone can get a license will stop companies from saying "we'll contribute our technology to a standard", then turning around and refusing to license it to their main competitor. That's OK as far as it goes. However, the fact that the holder can set any fees they want as long as they're "reasonable" is where the problems usually arise. When only big companies implemented standards, this wasn't a bid deal - what's $5K plus $0.10 per copy to a multinational? With the advent of open source, and decoders for standards being given away in boxes of cereal, any fee at all can make adoption of a standard go very slowly.

    The ISO committees that put these standards together have a very tough job (I was the editor of an image compression standard, just approved last month - I know how much work goes into putting a standard together). A big part of that job is the desire to make sure that IPR hassles won't block widespread of adoption of the standard. JPEG is often used as an example of how well things can go - and it's also a good example of how poorly things can go. Not many people who haven't worked closely with JPEG know that the standard includes a lot of features that just aren't used. It's no coincidence that many of these unused features require getting patent licenses (not free ones). So the committees spend endless hours wrangling about intellectual property: attempting to get holders to make their licenses free, revising the draft standard if there's an IPR holder who is being intransigent, and so on. This isn't always entirely successful, but it usually gets most of the IPR holders lined up, reducing the problem and sometimes entirely eliminating it. In some cases (as with JPEG) a baseline profile is defined that avoids all IPR (if this is possible).
  • by Anonymous Coward
    You cannot create a playable copy of an encrypted DVD by just copying it, at least not by using a regular DVD drive for reading its content. Some of the information needed for descrambling the content (disc and title keys) are scrambled before the DVD drive sends them to the host. To descramble these keys (which you have to in order to create a playable copy) you would need information that is only available inside the SW/HW device that has performed the authentication. This is only possible if you use DeCSS (or break into the authentication device).

    The popular claim made by DeCSS proponents that you don't need DeCSS to make playable copies of an ecrypted DVD without special equipment is understandable, but wrong.

  • The Bladeenc site has had this notice up for ages now, why the sudden interest?
  • by yerricde ( 125198 ) on Thursday June 01, 2000 @01:18PM (#1031687) Homepage Journal

    OggVorbis (.ogg) is to MPEG Audio Layer 3 (.mp3) as Deflation (.png) is to LZW (.gif).

    There was a protest [burnallgifs.org] when Unisys laid the smack-down on free use of LZW compression in GIF. If the League for Programming Freedom [mit.edu] wants to get involved, burnallmp3s. org is available [networksolutions.com].

  • I was pleasantly surprised upon reading the Mexican Patent Institute's charter, and found out that patents on computer software, natural phenomena and mathematical formulae are expressly forbidden, and reverse engineering is expressly permitted, for interoperability reasons.

    Damn, we have nice laws, but lousy beaurocrats :-(


  • Shoe - you are correct, with the exception of a few states which make it legal to use facsimiles as a means of serving someone. Another trick is to immediately motion for a change of venue - that will force it to your local jurisdiction instead of wherever they chose. If you want to stick 'em hard before you give up you can also substitute the judge - but be ready to capitulate right after they get the next hearing scheduled. ;)

    Just some advice from someone who's been there, and done that (didn't get the t-shirt though).

  • by yerricde ( 125198 ) on Thursday June 01, 2000 @01:22PM (#1031690) Homepage Journal
    Ogg Vorbis [xiph.org] is an unencumbered audio compression format with a reference library under Lesser GPL. The format is frozen; when 1.0 comes out, we can Burn All MP3s (the domain is available) like we [networksolutions.com]burned all GIFs [burnallgifs.org].
  • I got to do that on every Analytical Chemistry paper I wrote.

  • From the licensing page:

    No license fee is expected for desktop software mp3 decoders/players that are distributed free-of-charge via the Internet for personal use of end-users.

    This means that winamp, xmms, etc, are fine. RealJukebox Plus will owe, however.

    Ok, how long will it take before RMS calls for another boycott?

  • Open standard means the specs are available to all comers. It does not mean that everybody has the fully paid-up right to implement the algorithms listed in the specs.
  • Sure, the source has been left online, but without the binary for comparison how do you know if the compiler didn't skew it? MP3 encoding is a tricky business, and I have seen more than one 'properly' compiled copy of BladeEnc give me garbage for output, due to little compiler ideosyncracies. You need either a binary reference or a audio reference to compile BladeEnc from source, and the audio reference can even be tricky.
  • AOLsucks.org recently got in legal trouble [aolsucks.org] with America Online Inc. The webmaster's lawyer told him that "under legal precedent, when a large corporation uses lawsuits (or the threat of them) to try to silence critics, that there are grounds for a harassment suit against that corporation."
  • by Signail11 ( 123143 ) on Thursday June 01, 2000 @01:34PM (#1031696)
    Signal 11 is just babbling as usual, although Shoeboy is technically correct. Nonetheless, if the judge has the authorized the use of electronic cease and desist notifications, it is usually not a good idea to refuse to comply, as this would invariably make the judge irritated. Needless to say, this is not highly recommended. Moreover, a motion for a change of venue is not as easy to obtain as you seem to suggest that it is. Generally speaking, you cannot force the court to change the venue across the country, especially if you are being sued in a state court. Attempting to do so would most likely bring more displeasure from the bench. Finally, I have no idea why you would consider it sticking it to them hard to "substitute the judge." The judge basically has the final decision on whether to recluse himself/herself or not, barring exceptional circumstances. Following Signal 11's advice is likely to produce little benefit for yourself and predispose the judge against you. Not a good idea.

    By the way, as "someone who's been there, and done that", you seem spectecularly clue-impared. Have you ever actually tried what you are suggesting?
  • From the licensing page [mp3licensing.com]:

    We do not charge royalties for mp3 streaming or mp3 broadcasting (e.g. Internet Radio) until the end of the year 2000. Beyond this date we anticipate to charge a small annual minimum and a percentage of revenue. However, this model is not yet fully developed because we cannot yet oversee where this new market is going.

    Shoutcast and Icecast/Liveice users, be ready -- you're next. Not only do you have to pay the RIAA for the recordings, and BMI/ASCAP/SOCAN for the music, you'll now have to pay these jerks for the software. Kinda rediculous, considering I've never seen an online broadcaster of music using mp3 technology showing more than, say, a couple hundred in the audience...most broadcasters had only 2-10 listeners before RIAA decided to shut them down anyways...

    And if $15,000 is what they've got for minimums elsewhere, I'd hate to see what "small" is in this instance...

  • It seems to me that creating an mp3 encoder or decoder in clean room is legal without having to pay a license fee. But if you "borrowed" the algorithms that have been patented, then you need to pay up.

    Um... no. You cannot clean room a patent. If your code does what their code does (performs the algorithm even if it doesn't look the same) you're cooked. To get around a patent, you must find an algorithm that is substantially different (an improvement) from the patented one. In terms of compression and encoding to a standard format this is essentially impossible, as a sufficiently different algorithm would very, very likely produce a different output.

    Of course, if you succeed, you can patent yours...

  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Thursday June 01, 2000 @01:43PM (#1031699)
    Hey, I dunno about you, but as cool as Blade is, being open-source and all, I have serious reservations about its psychoacoustic model. If you're transferring over anything less than a T1, bandwidth still matters, and that means quality-at-a-given-bitrate matters.

    Ignore IP law for a few minutes, and try something like the first few seconds New Order's "Blue Monday" or some other "simple drum track". Encode it with Blade/128, Blade/160, and Blade/192. Then try Fraun, Gogo, or even friggin' Xing at the same bitrates.

    I'm no fan of Xing, but I'll betcha you'll be able to hear the difference between Blade and Fraun at least at 160, and maybe even 192.

    I consider Blade/128 unlistenable - but even I was surprised when I could tell the difference between Blade/160 and Fraun/160. And after a few tries, I was able to distinguish between Blade/192 and Fraun/192.

    For reference purposes, as far as my ears went, (um, and my headphones went) Fran/128 sounded as good as Blade/192, and Fraun/160 and Fraun/192 were indistinguishable from each other and the CD.

    Yes, some encoders perform better than others on different types of music. But for many types of music, Blade isn't the right answer from a quality point of view.

  • If they all output the same type of mp3 file, how will one program sound better than another? This is like the great speaker cable debate, oxygen free copper with teflon insulation at $2/ft versus $0.10/ft lamp cord. Which is better. Strangely enough with ABX testing no one can tell.
  • by dragonfly_blue ( 101697 ) on Thursday June 01, 2000 @01:48PM (#1031701) Homepage
    I can't wait for Freenet to get out of beta. According to the documentation:
    1. IMPORTANT WARNING ----------------- This release of Freenet is a proof-of-concept to test scalability and routing. It does not (yet) provide any meaningful security! Please do not insert or request any material which would place you at risk if your anonymity were compromised. If you require strong anonymity, please wait for the next release. However, if you want to help us test and develop the system, please carry on!

    BladeEnc was the first encoder I used for encoding my albums into MP3. I've converted approximately 1/5 of my CD collection (maybe 70 albums), using Blade as well as the Lame encoder, and they both sound excellent at the right bitrates.

    I noticed that the legal trouble has been going on for quite some time. I was perusing the BladeEnc site again looking for graphical frontends a couple months ago (yeah, I know it's not 'leet - pshaw), which was when I first noticed the message.

    It's troubling to me that so many smaller sites are becoming pressured into removing or self-censoring their own work, but I guess it's better than having the sites shut down entirely.

    Hopefully Freenet will be able to get their work out of beta and garner some support, before the web is completely sucked of life, fun, and excitement. In the meantime, it would be cool if some of the e-conomy's Instant Winners would help out by setting up some legal funds.

  • by geekd ( 14774 ) on Thursday June 01, 2000 @01:53PM (#1031702) Homepage
    actually, there can (and is) great differences in the sound quality that different encoder produce.

    Here's an article that explains why.
    http://arstechnica.com/wanker desk/1q00/mp3/mp3-1.html [arstechnica.com]

    It's a lossy compression, so what gets 'lost' greatly affects the sound quality.

    Deciding what to 'lose' is what makes one encoder different from another
  • If the standard isn't patented, how can Fraunhoffer/Thompson demand 1% of all MP3 file sales revenues? I refer you to this site [mp3licensing.com] (previously noted by another poster) for my source.
  • by dragonfly_blue ( 101697 ) on Thursday June 01, 2000 @01:58PM (#1031705) Homepage
    MP3 is a file format. The algorithm used to arrive at this format varies, as does the sound quality.

    That's like saying, "If two chefs output the same kind of omelette, how would one taste better than the other? This is like the great egg debate, farm fresh eggs with Government Grade AAA certificates versus Kwik-E-Mart corner-store eggs past their expiration dates. Which is better. Strangely enough with OMX testing no one can tell."

    Anyways, if you don't believe me, you should try some different chefs^H^H^H^H^Hencoders for yourself. I'll bet ya $5 you can tell them apart.

  • It really burns my butt that a company pulling this sort of thing can have their IP declared a standard. In this day of open source software, perhaps we should call for truly open standards that anyone can implement without fear of reprisal. It is no longer enough that anyone can get a license for it assuming they want to pay a suitably exhorbitant amount. That does not make for a level playing field.
  • If the concept becomes approved and widely used, even entrenched you then let the other shoe drop and start demanding license fees from everybody. MP3 and GIF are the most notorious examples of this gambit.

    I'm finding myself suddenly wondering if there's any sort of deeper meaning to the fact that for both MP3 and GIF, the patent claims are ENTIRELY just for the compression method used. It also makes me wonder if there are any other commonly used compressed data formats out there...

    Or is it just that it's difficult to get a patent on a "format" but easy to get one on a 'compression method'?

    Or is this just a bizarre coincidence?

    "MICROSOFT - You've got questions.
    We've got a dancing paperclip."

    Joe Sixpack is dead!
  • I'm too lazy to verify this information, but I read up on it a few months ago for another Slashdot MP3 debate:

    Unlike many current MP3 encoders, bladeenc does use the Fraunhofer MP3 implementation. The author claimed that it wasn't a problem, because the patent isn't valid where he lives. (Sweden, maybe?)

    That struck me as a pretty arrogant position at the time, although it may or may not be legally correct. I guess the Fraunhofer people weren't impressed either.
  • by Malc ( 1751 )
    Perhaps you're thinking of the Burst Cut Area number? This can be unique for every disk, and is in fact for some titles. For those titles, the number isn't used for decryption, but it has some other possibilities... such as tracking (if lots of disks with same BCA# start cropping up, then it would indicate piracy, and thus the BCA# can facilitate tracking down pirates).
  • I found a couple of other interesting things in the licensing terms on www.mp3licensing.com.

    Electronic Music Distribution systems, where mp3 encoded data is sold to end-users, are licensed as follows:
    * 1.0 % of the price charged to the listener (minimum US$ 0.01 per download).

    * US$ 15,000 annual minimum, payable upon signature and each following year in January, fully creditable against annual sales.

    Does this mean that if I use a properly licensed encoder to create MP3's and I sell those MP3's on my website, that I'm supposed to give them more money? What gives? Their patent covers the encoding process, and if I use an encoder that properly licensed, they should stop taking money from my wallet right there.

    If I give away MP3's on my website (and maybe have paid banner ads or somesuch), are they still going to demand licensing fees?

    Also, in the Broadcasting/streaming section:

    We do not charge royalties for mp3 streaming or mp3 broadcasting (e.g. Internet Radio) until the end of the year 2000. Beyond this date we anticipate to charge a small annual minimum and a percentage of revenue.

    Again, once I've encoded an MP3 with a licensed encoder, what's their basis for charging me solely based on how I distribute it? What if I do my streaming by embedding Windoze Media Player as an ActiveX control in my page and point it at the HTTP URL for the MP3 I want to stream? How is this legally any different from having people download it to their hard drive and playing it from there?

    Jeez. If they're gonna be fartknockers about trying to squeeze money from people, they could at least be a little less vague about it.

  • >Is there a better, totally open format out there?
    >I've seen vorbis, but worry about its stability
    >as a format

    The format is stable. What you encode now will work from now until eternity. Consider me the horse's mouth.

    > as well as its
    > bitrates (128 is about half what I'd like).

    An up-to-256kbps stereo (128kbps per channel) VBR release is in progress now, likely to appear in a few weeks. This release will include low bitrate as well.

  • Or, better yet, provide some sort of "dilution" effect for patents like there is for trademarks. Can it get any more monopolistic than sitting on your patents until it's widely used?

    Would anyone consider it ethical to wait for someone to finish building an office building before turning up with a deed showing they are two inches over the property line? It can't happen in real estate because all the files are kept up-to-date, but this is exactly what Frauenhofer and Unisys (or whoever held the LZW patent at the time) did.

    I think Frauenhofer's claim on players, and Unisys claim for decoders and programs that generate GIFs without using LZW (there is a way to do it with RLE simulating LZW) show how broken the patent system is when it comes to software.

    BTW, to the person who responded saying "it's already there" last time I said this, the fact that Frauenhofer and Unisys got away with it shows that either: (a) it's not there, (b) it doesn't apply, or (c) it's not enforced well enough.
  • by xiphmont ( 80732 ) on Thursday June 01, 2000 @03:19PM (#1031727) Homepage
    >Does this mean that if I use a properly licensed
    >encoder to create MP3's and I sell those MP3's on
    >my website, that I'm
    >supposed to give them more money?

    That's exactly it. Now you see why companies are suddenly throwing money and programmers at Ogg Vorbis :-) We'll have mp3 fairly thoroughly replaced within the industry by year's end. Don't worry too much, you *do* have an Open, bulletproof alternative in Ogg.

    > What gives? Their patent covers the encoding
    > process, and if I use an encoder
    > that properly licensed, they should stop taking
    > money from my wallet right there.

    They obviously disagree, and they have lawyers with sticks.

  • Apple bought the rights to the Fraunhofer method. I am curious who, which big companies would be suing the BladeEnc developers.
  • by kevin805 ( 84623 ) on Thursday June 01, 2000 @03:45PM (#1031734) Homepage
    The compression used on MPEG video has a lot in common with JPEG. It uses the compression JPEG uses with some additional techniques that make use of the fact that a frame is probably similar to the one before it.

    The audio is completely unrelated. The redundancy in audio data doesn't look anything like the redundancy in video data. The only similarities are that MPEG video and MPEG audio are both lossy, and they are both defined in the same piece of paper.

    Fraunhofer holds a patent on a specific way to transform uncompressed audio data into a MPEG level 3 compressed audio stream. According to Ars Technica's review a while back, the quality is significantly better than anything else out there.

    Just for the record, the issue is *patents*, not copyright. Secondly, patents are on mechanisms, not ideas. The patent is on "how to create a datastream that can be decoded in such and such a way which sounds closest to the original to human ears". It isn't on the idea of "compress audio data to save space".

    Compression algorithms and cryptosystems are frequently patented. There are probably a lot of patents on how to digitally sample audio, too. Fraunhofer's patent on MP3s is the one everyone is most concerned with right now, because it isn't clear just exactly what is covered (some encoders, all encoders, or all encoders and decoders?).
  • So everyone is licensing the use of their ideas? Even the creators of bladeenc?

    One thing that I recall reading was that if you don't defend your trademark for every violation you'd lose the rights for it. Wouldn't be such a bad idea for patents too. At least that way people would know right from the beginning what they are getting into instead of some big company owning the rights to 90% of internet music just waiting the scene and market penetration to get irreversibly big and then start charging..

  • "The truth about RMS http://tlug.linux.or.jp/rms.html"

    I don't find anything wrong with that interview. Should I? I found his responses very prescient. A lot of people are locked into very rigid traditional mindsets and are unable to make some fundamental distinctions, that the English language doesn't provide for in some cases. In 10, 15, 20 years, we'll all be amazed at how ahead of his time Stallman was (and is currently). We lambaste him now because he apparently nitpicks words and meanings, but he knows what he means and wants to say.
  • Sorry. I have read the actual patent law involved. It is quite clear and explicit. Once a patent is granted, it is yours, period. You do not lose a patent for failing to defend it. You can state "Anybody can use my patents for GPL'ed software" without affecting your right to royalties from non-GPL'ed software, for example.

    The only right you lose for failing to enforce your patent is the right to sue for a PARTICULAR infringement if you wait more than 5 years after learning of the infringement before suing. That does not affect your right to sue for royalties from all OTHER infringements.

    This is the law. It is online. Read it. Congress has it online, and Cornell University Law Library has a good search engine. I'm too lazy to look it up yet once more (I post this message every time some moron who has never read the law says "you lose your patent if you don't defend it").


  • A change of venue and recusal of judges may be easy enough in a state court of law, but it very much depends upon the state. In federal court, the judge involved has to sustain the motion for change of venue or for self-recusal. His decision can be appealed to the appeals court, but generally appeals courts will uphold the trial judges' decision in such matters unless you have presented clear evidence of a conflict of interest or inability to get a fair trial in a particular location.

    I am not a lawyer, but I was once a teacher. In today's world there's not much difference :-).


  • by Eric Green ( 627 ) on Thursday June 01, 2000 @06:08PM (#1031759) Homepage
    The body you're thinking of is the NIST, the arm of the federal goverment that amongst other things sets FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standardcs). The signed declaration that you mention was required in order to participate in the AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) contest. The NIST has reminded the participants several times that they agree to give up rights to all patents on the algorithms they submit in the event of winning the AES contest, and has stated bluntly that it will pursue anti-trust action with all the power of the federal government against any company which attempts to patent portions of the eventual AES winner.

    I believe the IEEE has done something of the same with their proposed public key encryption standards. Unfortunately, until the RSA patent expires, those standards are caught in never-never land.


  • by mchappee ( 22897 ) on Thursday June 01, 2000 @06:28PM (#1031762)
    Like many of you, the Ogg Vorbis project was just brought to my attention this evening. The project aims to replace MP3 as a standard audio compression system. In light of the current MP3 patent issues I decided to download the CVS code and give it a whirl.

    Building the Code
    The Vorbis library and examples compiled without error. Included in the CVS code examples is an encoder and a decoder. An Xmms plugin is also included, but does not get built from the main Makefile. Simply cd xmms && make and it compiles just fine.

    The Objective
    My objective here was to test the encoder, so I popped my Weird Al "bad hair day" CD in and ripped track 10 to a 16 bit, stereo 44100 Hz WAV file. I then `cat`ed this file to the Vorbis encoder and sent the output to larry.ogg. For the sake of a decent comparison, I bladeenc'd the same WAV file to a 128k 44.1 MP3 file.

    The .ogg file turned out to be about a meg larger, weighing in at 4720244 bytes. The sound quality was good. I couldn't tell the difference between the .ogg file and the MP3, using mediocre audio hardware and the Vorbis Xmms plugin.

    In conclusion I can honestly say that Ogg Vorbis impressed me. The project has yet to release a stable version, and the sound quality is already in place. Since the Vorbis team is still ironing out the code, little if any optimizations have been done. Once the code is optimized the .ogg output file should be much closer to the size of the MP3.

    The Ogg Vorbis project has given us a royalty/restriction-free alternative to MP3. I believe that the one thing that this project lacks is exposure. Once people realize that a "libre" alternative is available, usage will increase. With usage comes bug reports, developers, third-party utilities and peer review.

    The Vorbis website is housed at: http://www.xiph.org/ogg/vorbis [xiph.org]

  • It would be interesting to see what would happen if non-keysector-pre-burned writable DVDs were to hit the open market.

    I do not see anything in DMCA that would prohibit anyone from making, selling, or buying such media. And if more than one party were to sell it, it would be dirt cheap too (look at the price of CDRs).

    [threat]Hey MPAA/DVDCCA: Would you like us to begin working toward making that possibility a reality? If not, then back off on DeCSS. [/threat]

  • I post this message every time some moron who has never read the law says "you lose your patent if you don't defend it").

    Except that in this case, the post you responded to didn't make that claim; it only said that it would be a "good idea".

  • Nobody forced you to adopt the standard. Now that Vorbis [xiph.org] is out, there's an excellent alternative to MP3, both technically superior and free of intellectual property problems.

    Ok, so there isn't a huge archive of illegal vorbis files available on Napster/Gnutella. Yet. Maybe you'll have to sacrifice a little convenience and have a little patience, just in order to stand up for what's right. It's your choice, though.
  • by raph ( 3148 ) on Thursday June 01, 2000 @07:24PM (#1031772) Homepage
    First, LAME was not developed in a "clean room" at all; it's based on the ISO reference code, which is horribly buggy and far from optimal. Blade is based on the same code, but doesn't have anywhere nearly the same level of work put into it.

    Second, while cleanroom techniques are a fine defense against copyrights, they make no difference whatsoever for patents. So the idea of starting a new cleanroom MP3 encoder project wouldn't really help matters.

    What would, though, is the creation of a new format that is free of intellectual property problems. While you're at it, wouldn't it be nice if it included amplitude shaping to make transients sound crisper, and used a few other techniques to achieve better quality compression with MP3? Oh, and why not lots of work integrating it into free software tools such as XMMS? Why doesn't somebody do this?

    Ah yes, they have [xiph.org], they have.
  • ...is that people knowingly build an infrastructure on what someone else owns (i.e. Fraunhofer/Thomson's IP) and then turn around and act surprised when IP issues arise.

    This isn't a case of saying mp3s will use this technology and then discovering after the fact, after it has become popular, that someone owns some relevant IP.

    Everyone knew going in that Fraunhofer owned this. If not having to pony up royalties or whatever it is the Fraunhofer wants is important to you then WHY IN GOD'S NAME didn't you use your brains and decide not to use mp3s?

    Stop trying to make your stupid mistakes look like someone else's fault.
  • No. What you're comparing is not the binary itself, but the output. With a reference binary, I can encode the exact same wav file with each encoder (the 'stock' and my 'tweaked') and keep hacking until the output is negligibly different.. (a bit here or there)

    Besides, there are twenty platforms long and thirty patchlevels wide of space the MD5 sums would have to cover, plus variations for the include libs, the processor type, and static vs dynamic..
  • Actually, I don't use Napster/Gnutilla. Never have, never will. I've downloaded some MP3 files from mp3.com. Liked a couple, bought some CDs. Didn't like a lot more. Deleted them. I do prefer to encode the CDs I own into MP3 format so that I don't have to hunt for CDs or change CDs every hour.

    I suppose I could reencode my whole damn archive into vorbis files. It's only time, after all...

  • WHY IN GOD'S NAME didn't you use your brains and decide not to use mp3s?

    Because there is, literally no alternative! Or are you seriously proposing to use uncompressed, 10M-per-minute WAVs? The problem is that the patents which Fraunhofer (and perhaps others) owns are so basic that it's simply not possible to do really good audio compression without infringing on those patents. And that is exactly the reason why software patents are bad...

  • ... are, at least THEORETICALLY illegal in Europe according to the Munich convention, 1972. The European Patent Office, however, has illegally granted quite a number of those. Anyway, since those patents are not legal, Faunhofer/Thomson has no legal foot to stand on to threaten that guy. It's your usual corporate bullying again. And no your post is not interesting, no matter what moderators have drunk today.
  • Here's a good ars-technica [arstechnica.com] article comparing the various mp3 encoders. The summery is that bladeenc outdoes xing at high bitrates but read the whole article yourself to get the full picture.
  • Once more it occurs to me, that it is far too easy for larger corporations to disrupt smaller businesses and free services by simply threatening lawsuits, even if the claims are totally bogus. In my view the problem is, that there is no risc in sending around some letter threatening lawsuits, especially if the lawyers are paid anyway and maybe have a little free time on their hand. Is there a possibility to countersue for done damages to reputation, service, etc.? That would enhance the risc, and maybe make lawyers think twice before sending out bogus claims. I think if such a claim can be proven to be bogus the claiming party should have to pay all costs, including lawyers of the accused party and compensation for any damages if the accused party chooses to take it to court.
  • Can't.. charge.. for.. broadcasting.
    They can charge for encoding... and perhaps decoding..but I fail to see how sending the mpeg stream itself is a patent violation.
    Just as with the gif issue.. software that implements the codec is at issue, but I fail to see how they can enforce the use of the data itself..
  • Consider the open source vs free software debate. Everyone here knows that these terms refer to the same thing. OSI, who tried to trademark "open source" has a detailed set of criteria for determining what is open source and what isn't. By and large, free software is open souce and vice versa by OSI's own definition. Stallman argued that the open source label presented the idea in the wrong way, that people won't understand that there is freedom associated with open source software that isn't available with non open source software. The counterargument was roughly that free software is a fine label, but after 15 years, there was only a fraction of the interest in the software that insued within a few months after the term open source was coined. The fact remains that of all the users who might be using free software in say, ten years, only a small proportion will recognize the difference between it and proprietary software, let alone care about the details the Stallman is trying to push.
    Open Source and Free Software may in fact refer to the same thing, but they have different connotations. As Mr. ESR makes very clear, with slights of RMS along the way, Open Source is about the ECONOMIC feasibility and superiority of open source/free software. On the other hand, Free Software is about the PHILOSOPHICAL/SOCIAL superiority of open source/free software. That open source/free software is actually a better economic model is only incidental to the fact that it is better philosophically and socially. If there were no economic benefits whatsoever, RMS would still insist that Free Software was inherently "better" than any proprietary software. This is where these "movements" differ. The product may be the same, but the reason for the product's existence is different. It is unfortunate that the English language does not have a nicer word for "freedom"-free, and that RMS was forced to overload an existing word and risk losing the meaning (which is obviously happening). Perhaps Stallman's intractable because for the last two or three decades people have been misinterpreting, and reappropriating his words, forgetting the original tenets of the Free Software movement because Open Source sounds better. I think I'd be quite peeved also. And if in 10 years nobody knows the difference between free software and proprietary software, that will be very sad, and will be a consequence of Open Source's promotion of the economic benefit over other benefits. As for the GNU/Linux thing, I think in the same thread, RMS has lost his credit. Linux runs a whole lot of the worthwhile sites on the 'net, and Linux is increasingly gaining public awareness, but on every Linux machine is a whole set of utilities that RMS wrote, which helped, if not enabled, the creation of Linux - yet who knows who RMS is?
  • Unfortunately, my luck was not so good.

    Attempts to connect to the CVS server met with failure, despite following the procedures as defined by their web page verbatim (to the point of cutting and pasting to eliminate typos as a possible source of error). And before you ask, yes, I do use CVS quite frequently, so I doubt very much I was doing anything wrong.

    cvs -d :pserver:anoncvs@xiph.org:/usr/local/cvsroot login
    (Logging in to anoncvs@xiph.org)
    CVS password:
    cvs [login aborted]: recv() from server xiph.org: Connection reset by peer

    Either they've changed the password from anoncvs to something else, or the CVS server is slashdotted.

    In any event, I then tried the nightly snapshot. While the software configured and built, make install was broken to the point of absurdity, creating the install binary but installing nothing.

    One can copy the files by hand to the proper location and get it working, but exactly what is needed where isn't terribly well documented, and you'll have to put up with several error messages and figure out what is missing before you get there.

    I say this not to flame vorbis at all - the project is in development and not intended for casual use just yet. I mention it as a counter-point to the previous post, which to me at least conveyed an overly optimistic impression of how smooth the installation would go.

    vorbis is very promising, and I hope the project reaches a point soon where I can convert all of my mp3 collection to ogg files, but it isn't quite there yet. It would be unfurtunatel if people were to form a first impression based upon software which hasn't been released for beta testing yet, much less general consumption! That having been said, if getting a little bloody with the build and installation doesn't bother you, then definitely check it out!
  • I agree in spirit, but if patents and copyrights cease to exist, a significant amount of taxation or private aid must be levied.

    These right-preserving devices exist really for two reasons, profit and notoriety. If you assume that notoriety can be gained even where a "copyleft" situation exists (insert your public license above if desired), then they exist only for profit. Sometimes, capitalism works, and the common goals of profit and altruism coexist.

    I remember an example. During the Bush administration, a moratorium was placed on certain types of patents in the field of medicine. A company was then working on creating genetically-altered pigs with human blood, a major (and expensive) investment. These pigs, bred en masse, could effectively eliminate the need for the Red Cross and blood banks in general. The company ended work on the project, because without a patent on their procedure, they could not recoup their investment. Aside: I do not know what happened later in this research, you may need to look it up if interested.

    Clearly, the gap in profitability would have to be filled by government, private research or charitable money in cases such as this one. Most cases probably do not have such a large potential payoff, which means more case-by-case review. It just goes to show that elimination of rights-protections is impractical, but an overhaul is certainly necessary.

  • > How can a corporation prove that you ever receved the email in the first place?

    They presume that you are in violation of their property rights. They ask you nicely in a cease & desist order. Such a letter has absolutely no legal weight. It's doesn't have to be part of the evidence in the litigation, and is in fact not required at any point. While not cheap, letter writing is not as expensive as going to court.

    If you fail to respond to their letter or acknowledge any communication from them, their only other recourse is to litigate.

    This is why failing to answer a letter can result in litigation. Whether or not you saw (or they sent) a cease & desist letter is irrelevant to the law. The letter is a method to settle *out* of court. If you hope to make such a settlement or any other agreement with the other party, it's best to respond to the letter. If, however, you know you are in the wrong and plan to capitulate and simply want to cost them time and money, by all means, force them to litigate and then capitulate.

    Disclaimer: IANAL, but even if I were, IAN*your*L.
  • You were ridiculing the consistancy of arguement on Slashdot, and he pointed out the way in which both these arguements are consistant.

    Now, I'm not sure I agree with the way in which some things are argued, but decending to saying Gotta love that special brand of "progressivism" that would do Karl Marx himself proud. He sure hated hearing his critics, too -- you two aren't related, are ya? is not adding to the discussion.

    Could I also point out that you aren't taking critisim terribly well, either?

  • > OK, I am a big fan of Bladeenc. You must realize that it is meant for 160kbps and above, period, so all you low-bandwidth, joint stereo types use something else. Everyone else, crank it up at 192 or 256.

    This is the part I don't get about Blade users. I mean, c'mon. What's MP3 designed to do? Lossy compression of an audio bitstream. Nothing less, nothing more. If you have to jack up the bit rate to get the same quality as with another encoder, you're using the wrong encoder.

    MP3 is about maintaining audio quality under lossy compression. "Better quality at the same bitrate", or "the same quality at a lower bitrate" compared to another encoder mean the same thing: good. If you're writing an encoder, they're your design goals. To the extent that you meet those goals, your encoder "rocks". To the extent that it fails to meet these goals, your encoder "sucks".

    Compared to just about every encoder out there, Blade produces a poorer quality encode at the same bitrate. Blade requires a higher bitrate to eliminate the artifacts it introduces into the signal. So if you're comparing encoders' ability to faithfully reproduce the music, Blade is a poor MP3 encoder.

    Don't get me wrong, AC -- I also like the fact that it's open source. And I also really like the fact that it's not patent-encumbered like Fraun. That's worth something on a political level, but that doesn't mean that it's superior on a technical level.

    Jacking up the bitrate to make up for the poor quality of your MP3 encoder is like rendering the dancing paperclip in M$Word in 1600x1280x32-bit color at 60 fps (and 12 gigabytes per install) to make up for the quality of the rest of the office suite. You can't polish a turd.

"May your future be limited only by your dreams." -- Christa McAuliffe