Is GIMP violating HEIF/HEIC patents?

Since HEIF/HEIC is heavily patented and often called a minefield for that I wondered how GIMP solved this issue for it’s support of that file format.

If my commercial app includes support for reading HEIC (possibly with libheif), do I need to get a license? Did GIMP get a license? Or is there an exception for open source projects?

If my Apache 2 licensed lib gets code to parse HEIC metadata, will this get me in trouble? Or do projects using it get in trouble?

Dou you sell it?

Do I need a License?

You most likely need a license if you sell any products that have HEVC/H.265 encoding and/or decoding capability/functionality. If you would like to discuss any particular products, please submit your request

Source: FAQ - Access Advance

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Certainly, I am selling it.

Thank you for directing me to the FAQ.

From what I gathered, it seems they are seeking royalties for each copy sold of my app that incorporates software utilizing the patent.

If I were to offer the app for free, even if it’s not open source, am I allowed to use the patents without the obligation to pay?

Would I still need to obtain a free license by reaching out to them? Did GIMP actually do that?

I’ve also developed an Apache 2 licensed open source library with plans to integrate HEIC features. Can I proceed with this, given that it’s the responsibility of projects utilizing my library to obtain the necessary license and cover the associated fees? That’s my current understanding.

Perhaps it would be prudent to separate the HEIC functionality, allowing users to utilize a basic version of the library without the burden of dealing with patent concerns?

If I were to offer the app for free, even if it’s not open source, am I allowed to use the patents
without the obligation to pay?

No. If you make work that violates a copyright or patent public, you are liable for damages. The owner of the copyright or patent may sue you. If you’re lucky, you may get a “cease and desist” letter first, but they are under no obligation to do this. If anyone has gone to the considerable trouble and expense to patent their work, you can be sure that they are serious and you are very likely to be sued for patent infringement.

There is a common misconception that it’s okay to violate copyrights if one isn’t monetizing one’s work. This is untrue, which can be easily confirmed by reading up on copyright law.

If one wants to use copyrighted or patented work, it is absolutely necessary to acquire permission before doing so, unless it’s been released under a free license such as the GNU General Public License. Otherwise, my personal recommendation is to give copyrighted and patented material a wide berth.

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Background information:

Yes, I found that Wikipedia article, too.

HEIF itself is a container that may not be subject to additional royalty fees for commercial ISOBMFF licensees.

I’m specifically troubled by the term “may.” It’s too ambiguous and lacks specificity, making it more of an assumption rather than providing useful information.

Note however that Nokia also grants its patents on a royalty-free basis for non-commercial purposes.

This was for using Nokias reference implementation or for everthing?

The license states this:

Licensed Field means the non-commercial purposes of evaluation, testing and academic research in each non-commercial case

Would that cover GIMP and other free software?
It’s not an evaluation use.

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