Search the FAQ Archives

3 - A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M
N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z - Internet FAQ Archives

OpenGL Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) [2/3]

( Part1 - Part2 - Part3 )
[ Usenet FAQs | Web FAQs | Documents | RFC Index | Property taxes ]
Archive-Name: graphics/opengl-faq/part2
Lines: 229
Xref: comp.answers:14595 news.answers:54155

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
The FAQ has been split into 3 parts.
This is Part 2 of 3.

Subject:  Q9:  Who needs to license OpenGL?  Who doesn't?  

A:  Companies which will be creating or selling binaries of the
OpenGL library will need to license OpenGL.  Typical examples of
licensees include hardware vendors, such as Digital Equipment,
and IBM who would distribute OpenGL with the system software on 
their workstations or PCs.  Also, some software vendors, such as 
Portable Graphics and Template Graphics, have a business in creating 
and distributing versions of OpenGL, and they need to license OpenGL.

Applications developers do NOT need to license OpenGL.  If a
developer wants to use OpenGL, that developer needs to obtain
copies of a linkable OpenGL library for a particular machine.
Those OpenGL libraries may be bundled in with the development
and/or run-time options or may be purchased from a third-party
software vendor, without licensing the source code or use of the
OpenGL(R) trademark.

Since many implementations will be a shared library on a hardware
platform, the royalty sometimes will be charged for each hardware
platform.  In those cases, it would not be charged for each
application which used OpenGL.

In general, licensing a source code implementation of OpenGL
would not be useful for an application developer, because the
binary created from that implementation would not be accelerated
and optimized to run on the graphics hardware of a machine.

Subject:  Q10:  What are the conformance tests?

A:  The conformance tests are a suite of programs which judge the
success of an OpenGL implementation.  Each implementor is
required to run these tests and pass them in order to call their
implementation with the registered trademark OpenGL.  Passing the
conformance tests ensures source code compatibility of
applications across all OpenGL implementations.

Subject:  Q11:  What is Silicon Graphics policy on "free"
implementations of APIs which resemble the OpenGL API?  

A:  From (Mason Woo)

Silicon Graphics, as licensor of the OpenGL(R) trademark, does not
permit non-licensed use of the OpenGL trademark, nor does it permit
non-licensed use of the OpenGL conformance tests.  Silicon Graphics
provides a source code sample implementation of OpenGL, but only to
companies and organizations which agree to the terms and conditions of
an OpenGL license.

Silicon Graphics does give permission to others to create and distribute
their own implementations of the OpenGL API, provided they do not
state nor imply they have the right to use the OpenGL(R) trademark to
name their product, nor make claims to conformance based upon the ARB
controlled OpenGL conformance tests.  Silicon Graphics agrees to allow
others to copy the OpenGL header files, as much as is necessary, for
the creation of other implementations.

Silicon Graphics is in no way associated nor endorsing these
other graphics libraries.  Silicon Graphics does not make any
claims or guarantees as to the quality, performance, nor
completeness of an unlicensed library.

Subject:  Q12:  What is Mesa 3D and where can I get it?

From (Brian Paul)

The "Mesa 3-D graphics library" (or just Mesa) is a free
implementation of the OpenGL API.  It has been compiled and
tested on most major Unix/X systems.  All you should need is an
ANSI C compiler and X.

There is a WWW page at

You can get Mesa by anonymous ftp from in the
pub/misc/ directory.

Mesa is currently in beta release.  Some features are not yet
implemented and you may find new bugs.  See the WWW page for
updated information.

Pedro Vazquez ( has set up a mailing list
for users of the Mesa 3-D graphics library.  Anyone who uses Mesa
and/or wants to be kept up to date on Mesa developments is
invited to subscribe.

To subscribe to the list send the following message to

subs mesa <your name>
set mesa mail ack

For example:

subs mesa Brian Paul
set mesa mail ack

The second line tells the list processor to send you a copy of
your own messages.

You will receive a welcome message from the list server when you
have been added to the list.  It tells you how to post messages
to the list, how to unsubscribe, etc.

Subject:  Q13:  How does a university or research institution
acquire access to OpenGL source code?

A:  There is a university/research institution licensing program.  A
university license entitles the institution to generate binaries and
copy them anywhere, so long as nothing leaves the institution.  The
OpenGL source and derived binaries can only be used for non-commercial
purposes on-campus.  

A university license costs $500 US.  This license provides source
code for a sample implementation of OpenGL.  This source code is
best designed for porting onto a system which supports the X
Window System.  You can drop this into the X Consortium's X11
server source tree and build a server with the OpenGL extension.
To do this properly, you should have the MIT source for an X
Server and some experience modifying it.

Note that this gets you a software renderer only.  If your
machine includes a graphics accelerator, the sample
implementation is not designed to take any advantage of it.

To obtain a university license, contact John Schimpf, OpenGL
Licensing Manager at Silicon Graphics (  Please
provide a mailing address, telephone and fax number.

Universities may also be interested in Mesa 3D.  See Q12.

Subject:  Q14:  How is a commercial license acquired?

If you need a license or would like more information, call John
Schimpf at (415)390-3062 or e-mail him at  There are
licenses available restricted to site (local) usage, or
permitting redistribution of binary code.  The limited source
license provides a sample implementation of OpenGL for $50,000.
The license for commerical redistribution of OpenGL binaries has
two most commonly chosen levels.  Level 1 costs $25,000.  Level 2
costs $100,000, and includes the sample implementation of OpenGL.
Both levels require a $5 royalty for every copy of the OpenGL
binary, which is redistributed.

Subject:  Q15:  How is the OpenGL governed?  Who decides what changes can be

A:  OpenGL is controlled by an independent board, the Architecture
Review Board (ARB).  Each member of the ARB has one vote.  The
permanent members of the ARB are Digital Equipment, IBM, Intel,
Microsoft, and Silicon Graphics.  Additional members will be added
over time.  The ARB governs the future of OpenGL, proposing and
approving changes to the specification, new releases, and conformance

Subject:  Q16:  Who are the current ARB members?

A:  In alphabetical order:  Digital Equipment, Evans & Sutherland,
IBM, Intel, Intergraph, Microsoft, and Silicon Graphics.

Subject:  Q17:  What is the philosophy behind the structure of the ARB?

A:  The ARB is intended to be able to respond quickly and flexibly to
evolutionary changes in computer graphics technology.  The ARB is
currently "lean and mean" to encourage speedy communication and
decision-making.  Its members are highly motivated in ensuring the
success of OpenGL.

Subject:  Q18:  How does the OpenGL ARB operate logistically?  
When does the ARB have meetings?

A:  ARB meetings are held about once a quarter.  The meetings rotate
among sites hosted by the ARB members.  To learn the date and place of
the next OpenGL ARB meeting, watch the news group
for posting announcing the next "OpenGL ARB meeting", check the
Web site
or e-mail and ask for the information.

Meetings are run by a set of official by-laws.  A copy of the
by-laws may be requested from the Secretary of the OpenGL ARB.

Minutes to the ARB meeting are posted to
and are available via

Subject:  Q19:  How do additional members join the OpenGL ARB?

A:  The intention is that additional members may be added on a 
permanent basis or for a one-year term.  The one-year term members 
would be voting members, added on a rotating basis, so that
different viewpoints (such as ISV's) could be incorporated into new
releases.  Under the by-laws, SGI formally nominates new members.

Subject:  Q20:  So if I'm not a member of the ARB, am I shut out of
the decision making process?

A:  There are many methods by which you can influence the evolution of

1) Contribute to the news group.  Most members of
the ARB read the news group religiously.
2) Contact any member of the ARB and convince that member that your
proposal is worth their advocacy.  Any ARB member may present a
proposal, and all ARB members have equal say.
3) Come to OpenGL ARB and speak directly to ARB.

Subject:  Q21:  Are ARB meetings open to observers?

A:  The ARB meeting will be open to observers, but we want to keep the
meeting small.  Currently, up to five non-voting representatives 
who inform the ARB secretary in advance, can observe and participate in
the ARB meeting.  At any time, the ARB reserves the right to change 
the number of observers.

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:

Part1 - Part2 - Part3

[ Usenet FAQs | Web FAQs | Documents | RFC Index ]

Send corrections/additions to the FAQ Maintainer:

Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:11 PM