Why don’t people understand what “proprietary” means?

Browsing around at lunchtime, I found this post on the RoughlyDrafted Forums, complaining about how tech sites don’t understand what "proprietary" means:

rival proprietary formats [AAC and WMA] … words fail. Just how hard is it for
people who don’t know to actually check these things? If all else fails
Wikipedia is only a click away.


is specified both as Part 7 of the MPEG-2 standard, and Part 3 of the
MPEG-4 standard. As such, it can be referred to as MPEG-2 Part 7 and
MPEG-4 Part 3 depending on its implementation, however it is most often
referred to as MPEG-4 AAC, or AAC for short.

Of course, if he’d have read a little further, he’d have found this on the Wikipedia post:

AAC requires a patent license, and thus uses proprietary
technology. But contrary to popular belief, it is not the property of a
single company, having been developed in a standards-making

Just because a system isn’t owned by a single company doesn’t mean it’s not proprietary technology. AAC depends on licensed patents from a range of companies, including AT&T, Dolby, Nokia, NEC and Sony. And if you want to release an encoder or decoder for AAC, you have to pay. Just because something is a standard doesn’t mean it’s either free or open.

  • http://stefpause.com/ ManxStef

    Worth noting also that MP3 itself is a proprietary format, too, as most of the “just use MP3 as it’s free and everything plays it” brigade seem to forget:


  • http://profile.typekey.com/ianbetteridge/ Ian Betteridge

    Indeed. As far as I know, the only truly non-proprietary audio format is Ogg.