[OSGeo-Discuss] Open File Formats and Proprietary Algorithms

Eric Wolf ebwolf at gmail.com
Thu Aug 20 13:15:21 PDT 2009

The MRSID format is a very special case - and perhaps an opportunity for a
new FOSS file format. MRSID is a lossless, fractal-based, multi-scale raster
compression format. LizardTech has the algorithms to encode and decode MRSID
locked up in copyrights, and I believe, patents. Even companies like ESRI
shell out big bucks to LizardTech to be able to read and write the MRSID
I guess I missed the context of the discussion. Is the government releasing
certain data exclusively in this format? If so, I think the argument can be
made against this practice. The different in compression between MRSID and
gziped TIFFs isn't really that great in this day of cheap disks and fat


Eric B. Wolf                    New! 720-334-7734
USGS Geographer
Center of Excellence in GIScience
PhD Student
CU-Boulder - Geography

On Thu, Aug 20, 2009 at 12:27 PM, Landon Blake <lblake at ksninc.com> wrote:

>  I realized that publishing a spec for a file format like MRSID isn’t as
> clear cut as I had at first thought. If the MRSID software uses a fancy
> top-secret compression/decompression algorithm to move data to and from the
> file format knowing only the structure of the format would do no good. You’d
> have to release the details of the algorithm as well.
> I still don’t think proprietary file formats are a good idea for government
> data released to the public, but I admit that having a company like
> LizardTech publish a spec for something like MRSID is not necessarily a
> simple task. No doubt a lot of time and money goes into developing those
> algorithms.
> This makes me wonder about algorithms used to purposefully encrypt binary
> file formats. That is another can of worms. It looks like the easiest thing
> to do is to start with a file format that was designed to be open from the
> very beginning.
> Landon
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