Which common image formats are open or royalty-free?

4 Answers 4


A few of the more well known ones are:

PNG, DNG, BMP, GIF (Patents are expired),

Some in question are: JPEG (Lawsuits pending), TIFF (Until next year),

Some requiring licensing are: JPEG 2000,

  • 4
    While the patents are expired, I wouldn't call GIF an open and free format. PNG is and always has been an open format, so I would consider it preferable to GIF. Jan 5, 2011 at 18:42
  • 2
    Yes, but by open, he really meant royalty free. GIF requires no royalties now, as the patents have expired, so... Jan 5, 2011 at 20:56
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    Still, PNG is technically superior to GIF in all ways. The only reason to use GIF is for animated GIFs--due to the lack of support (mainly IE) for APNG. That's one of the fundamental flaws of the patent system--by the time a patent expires the technology will have long since become irrelevant. Jan 9, 2011 at 2:12
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    @Calvin Actually, I think that's the whole point of the system. Jan 9, 2011 at 6:15

Pearsonartphoto mentioned several raster formats. A couple of other file formats that are used for vector based files:


There's the OpenRaster format (Wikipedia; extension .ora), a proposed open standard for exchange between image editing applications. It is intended to support layered images, comparable to Photoshop's PSD and GIMP's XCF.

Currently it's only used by open-source applications like GIMP.


A decade later, the raster side of things hasn't changed much. Two more formats have in later years become available, WebP and AVIF, both spinoffs of video intra frame coding, VP8 and AV1 respectively. You may occasionally stumble upon them on the web as they are optimised to produce small file sizes.

These are open and royalty free in the sense that it is believed that all relevant patents have irrevocable grants.

In image archiving, it's not uncommon to use the open and royalty free FFV1 intra-only video format for single image storage, as it has favourable performance at scale.

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