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Mozilla's VP of Engineering On H.264

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the on-again-ogg-again dept.

Mozilla 675

We recently discussed news that YouTube and Vimeo are each testing their own HTML5 video players using the H.264 format. Firefox does not support H.264, and Mozilla's vice president of engineering, Mike Shaver, has now made a post explaining why. Quoting: "For Mozilla, H.264 is not currently a suitable technology choice. In many countries, it is a patented technology, meaning that it is illegal to use without paying license fees to the MPEG-LA. Without such a license, it is not legal to use or distribute software that produces or consumes H.264-encoded content. Indeed, even distributing H.264 content over the internet or broadcasting it over the airwaves requires the consent of the MPEG-LA, and the current fee exemption for free-to-the-viewer internet delivery is only in effect until the end of 2010. These license fees affect not only browser developers and distributors, but also represent a toll booth on anyone who wishes to produce video content." Mozilla developer Robert O'Callahan has written a blog post on the same subject, following a talk he gave on Friday about the importance of open video on the web.

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675 comments

HTML5 Video (-1, Redundant)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878362)

It's mostly just problem for Mozilla

- Microsoft can probably work out a pretty good deal with MPEG-LA, and licensing technology is no problem for MS.
- Google aswell and they have to support it on YouTube anyway.
- Opera is a commercial product and they do a lot of business in embedded devices, mobile phones, wii and tv's and so on. They probably want to get a tech to play video for devices without new Flash versions (especially since it's 100% Adobe's responsibility to update Flash on those devices and Opera can't do much about it)
- Apple definitely needs to support it in MAC OSX and maybe iPhone too, so WebKit and Safari will most likely support it.

Like with the previous case about Firefox's funding [slashdot.org] , Mozilla is alone with this. All of the other browser makers have created themself larger reasons to license it.

Since Firefox already has it's Gecko engine and wide range of plugins, why don't they make themself more reasons to forget about Flash and start using open standards? There is a huge market in mobile phone browsers which IE mobile and Opera currently dominate (safari is pretty much just used on iPhone). There's definitely a need for HTML 5 video on those devices and it would create more marketshare and support for Firefox, and HTML 5 Video is something that would actually push HTML5 forwards. Otherwise web developers don't have any reason to move forward from old standards.

Re:HTML5 Video (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30878394)

Didn't read the article then?

Re:HTML5 Video (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30878474)

Troll? Everything he commented on was covered in the linked article.

Re:HTML5 Video (1)

Nevynxxx (932175) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878670)

Except the fact that the article is asking for *more open* standards, , which completely invalidates the first sentence fo the last paragraph, if nothing else. Troll is a bit extream though...

sopssa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30878838)

sopssa is a well-known M$ asskisser, and he will be modded up by other M$ fans.

They modded AC troll.

Re:HTML5 Video (3, Informative)

pmontra (738736) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878744)

Why troll? AC is correct. The article gives a nice answer to the OP. It's the OP that totally missed the point.

Re:HTML5 Video (5, Insightful)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878412)

It's mostly just problem for Mozilla

Only if people insist on using it. I can't see that it would be in YouTube's interest to use H.264 exclusively.

But in any case, it sounds like a misnomer to call it "HTML5 Video", which sort of implies a standard. If the "standard" involves coughing up a whacking great licence fee to use it, lots of people just won't be interested, and H.264 will be consigned to the same back shelves as some of the ogg codecs.

Re:HTML5 Video (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878628)

"Only if people insist on using it."

Great point. H.264 is a lot like an IED [wikipedia.org] .

Nonsense (2, Insightful)

coryking (104614) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878748)

Don't people have to cough up a license fee to implement USB? PCI? AGP? Those are all standards.

People license stuff all the time, even standards. Mozilla needs to get over themselves and provide a way to play standard H.264 videos.

lots of people just won't be interested

I'm assuming you are projecting the fact that most people are purely interested in open source.

You are wrong. Most people want things to just work. Firefox got where they are today because what they produced *worked*. The fact Firefox is open source, free source, or RMS Free as in Freedom(tm) is secondary.

The day Firefox stops *just working* is the day its lunch will be taken by competitors like Chrome, Opera or Safari. If IE9 plays H.264, Chrome plays H2.64, Opera plays H.264, and Safari plays H.264 but Firefox does not play H.264, guess which one doesn't "just work"?

By the way, has any of the Mozilla folk sat down at the table and talked with the folks that own whatever IP needs licensing? Have they, you know, said "dudes, we have 33% of the browser market and our business model isn't structured for this sort of thing". My hunch is they could probably get some kind of deal hammered out. The Mozilla foundation does have some political capital you know--this is a good use of it.

Re:Nonsense (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30878816)

The day Firefox stops *just working* is the day its lunch will be taken by competitors like Chrome, Opera or Safari.

Which is exactly what will happen if a proprietary format becomes the standard.

Have they, you know, said "dudes, we have 33% of the browser market and our business model isn't structured for this sort of thing". My hunch is they could probably get some kind of deal hammered out

Probably the MPEG-LA will rub their hands together and think how much they could make by forcing licensing payments for every browser shipped.

A fab costs a lot, if you can afford one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30878858)

A fab costs a lot, if you can afford one you can afford a license.

And it's an invention: a real thing that has to get around those pesky real life things, unlike the maths that is a compression algorithm.

Re:Nonsense (5, Informative)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878862)

Don't people have to cough up a license fee to implement USB? PCI? AGP?

For USB the only fees are for using official logos to show a product passed certification testing. For PCI you pay 3K/year for a membership to get a PCI ID assigned, but there is no licensing fee I am aware of. I don't know about AGP.

Re:HTML5 Video (1)

cbreak (1575875) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878414)

Apple already has decoders that are properly licensed in QuickTime, so all they have to do is use those in Safari. A technology Firefox can use as well with plugins.

Re:HTML5 Video (3, Insightful)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878458)

Ugh, quicktime ... I'd even rather have flash.

Re:HTML5 Video (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30878512)

Rrrriiiiggghhtt ... QuickTime is worse than Flash. It takes more resources, crashes constantly, and is slow as hell. Yep. Sounds like reality to me.

Re:HTML5 Video (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30878532)

Quicktime Alternative is a bit better and lets you save thhe files too.

Re:HTML5 Video (4, Interesting)

TheLink (130905) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878812)

Why's that modded troll? Quicktime has annoyed me enough to uninstall it. I still have flash installed.

Installing quicktime puts some stupid icon in the systray that annoys you every now and then. If you're not careful while installing quicktime, you might get itunes bundled along.

Adobe hasn't got around to making flash as annoying as quicktime yet (but they have made Acrobat Reader annoying thus I no longer have it installed).

Re:HTML5 Video (4, Informative)

porneL (674499) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878442)

Remember that Opera proposed video element in the first place [opera.com] and they've chosen Theora from the start. They're not fond of patents, and may not want to choose H.264, especially if Mozilla doesn't.

Vorbis and MKV (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30878514)

I must be stupid.

Ogg/Vorbis/Theora are unencumbered and free. No "deals" need to be worked out.
Ogg/Vorbis/Theora has reasonable quality and compression.
It can be placed into a MKV container http://matroska.org/ [matroska.org] , also unencumbered and free.

Why would any end user select anything other than Theora/Vorbis codecs when given the choice? Google and Youtube have an opportunity to "don't be evil" and put an end to proprietary codecs being the default media format. It won't alter anything in the proprietary world, since they will always insist on DRM.

When was the last time you heard an end user happy about DRM? Well, when? NEVER.

Come on google, step up. Use Theora/Vorbis and MKV containers to significantly reduce the hold that proprietary formats have on your FLOSS OS using customers. Heck, if you do, I'll even stop using Scroogle .... maybe. Further, Apple and Microsoft can use the same codecs under the same terms that you or I can. For FREE. Talk about fair.

Re:Vorbis and MKV (4, Insightful)

Chaos Incarnate (772793) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878692)

You're missing one important point: Google already has all these videos in H.264, so serving them up is relatively painless. They'd have to go back and reencode the entire YouTube library if they wanted to offer it in Theora.

Re:Vorbis and MKV (4, Informative)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878702)

Ogg/Vorbis/Theora are unencumbered and free. No "deals" need to be worked out.
Ogg/Vorbis/Theora has reasonable quality and compression.
It can be placed into a MKV container http://matroska.org/ [matroska.org] , also unencumbered and free.

You are kind of comparing wrong things here. Both MKV and Ogg are merely containers (and H.264 can be placed inside MKV container too, and is usually done so).

Also, Theora and H.264 aren't technically equivalent. Theora is kinda there, but it misses many features, is more heavy on hardware and requires a larger bitrate to get the same results. It also completely misses support for B-frames, variable frame rates, interlacing, and larger than 8-bits bit-depths. It also loses out because the creators have chosen to maintain backwards compatibility in cost of being technically superior.

Another thing that manages to create more support for H.264 is that blu-ray, PS3, DVB (digital television in europe, including cable) and several other services and devices already support it.

Re:Vorbis and MKV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30878802)

Why would any end user select anything other than Theora/Vorbis codecs when given the choice?

Umm, because the quality of H.264 beats the crap out of Theora? Go do your homework and learn something about this before asking utterly stupid questions like that. Thanks.

It's not a funding problem ... (2, Interesting)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878570)

Very few companies could afford a license compatible with the LGPL ... hell, I'm pretty sure the MPEG-LA isn't even authorized to issue such a license, so you'd have to make private deals with everyone. Going to take 100's of millions of dollars easy, maybe more.

Think again (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878606)

"It's mostly just problem for Mozilla"

There is a reason why this story wasn't posted in the "Mozilla's Rights Online" section of Slashdot.

Re:HTML5 Video (0, Troll)

Draek (916851) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878730)

- Opera is a commercial product and they do a lot of business in embedded devices, mobile phones, wii and tv's and so on. They probably want to get a tech to play video for devices without new Flash versions (especially since it's 100% Adobe's responsibility to update Flash on those devices and Opera can't do much about it)

They do, but an open one. I'd say Opera has been even more vocal about their distaste for MPEG4's patents than Firefox has, likely because, being the little guy in most of the world, they're painfully aware as to how such mandatory licenses increase the barrier to entry and exclude anybody who's not already a large corporation from entering the market.

Since Firefox already has it's Gecko engine and wide range of plugins, why don't they make themself more reasons to forget about Flash and start using open standards?

Sure, as soon as MPEG-4 is an open standard and all patents covering it are released into the Public Domain.

Re:HTML5 Video (1)

mrsteveman1 (1010381) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878840)

h.264 is an open standard, the spec is available online, for free, right here: http://www.itu.int/rec/T-REC-H.264-200305-S [itu.int]

Of course you need to pay to implement it, but lets not pretend it's a black box or 'closed' just because it isn't literally free to pass around like friendship bread.

Why is this Mozilla's problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30878804)

Why is this Mozilla's problem? You're putting video on the internet for a reason. You want to sell something or advertise something to sell. So why would you want to put it out in a compressed format that not everyone can see? Especially if you have to pay a royalty to do so.

In fact, why do you need patents on compression: without it, we'd have analogue or Laser Disk. DVD consortium would pay to get a compression ratio better than they get from analogue just so they can sell DVDs which are cheaper than laser disks. So the market doesn't need patents to monetise this: the demand of the industry itself would do the work.

Just like the Dirac code: it would cost the BBC more to license another codec than it would to write their own.

So they did.

Re:HTML5 Video (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878818)

Why can't Mozilla just implement a plugin framework, and leave it up to the user to decide whether he wants to install the h264 plugin, which may or may not be illegal in his area. Some Linux distros ship without MP3 support because it requires licensing, and it's usually just one command to enable MP3 support. It seems like the same thing should work with h264.

Sigh (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30878428)

And yet even with a perfectly legitimate, reasonable, intelligent argument against H.264, tons of /. comments will go against FF's decision to promote an open, free (for everyone, not just the end users) and sane video standard over a proprietary one, ensuring that only people with lots of money can create browsers, run video sites, etc.

It's pretty damn simple, yet no one gets it. Just like seemingly everything else these days. Misguided loyalty to one thing because it's been promoted to the end users by those with lots of money as being "obviously" superior wins out over good things simply because people don't want to use common sense and for some reason trust people/companies with greedy motivations simply because of the idea of "they are famous and rich, they must know what's best for me".

Re:Sigh (3, Insightful)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878510)

tons of /. comments will go against FF's decision to promote an open, free (for everyone, not just the end users) and sane video standard

I think you underestimate how much commercial influence is being brought to bear on tech networking sites these days.

Re:Sigh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30878566)

As far as anyone is concerned h264 is an open free video standard. There's open free code for the encoder here and for the decoder here [ffmpeg.org] . Don't expectr a few misguided managers who think patents count for shit to change that.

Re:Sigh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30878652)

slashdot ate my link [videolan.org]

Re:Sigh (1, Interesting)

beelsebob (529313) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878588)

And yet even with a perfectly legitimate, reasonable, intelligent argument against H.264, tons of /. comments will go against FF's decision to promote an open, free (for everyone, not just the end users) and sane video standard over a proprietary one, ensuring that only people with lots of money can create browsers, run video sites, etc.

You seem to assume that one legitimate, reasonable, intelligent argument against H.264 immediately excludes it from the race. I by contrast can come up with three (at least) legitimate, reasonable, intelligent arguments against Ogg Theora:

  1. It doesn't have hardware accelerated decoding support on desktop *or* (more importantly) mobile platforms
  2. It is patented, and in exactly the same way as h264 will form a toll both on the internet
  3. It's video quality isn't as good as h.264's

By your logic this rules it out as a choice too.

I'd rather not view the world in such black and white terms though, and instead weight the two codecs up against each other. Personally, I see h264 as being the better choice, as it has only a subset of the drawbacks that ogg theora has.

Final note: The best solution ofc would be for google to release a better codec than ogg theora for free, with no patent risk, and with video quality at least comparable to h264's.

Re:Sigh (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878672)

Final note: The best solution ofc would be for google to release a better codec than ogg theora for free, with no patent risk, and with video quality at least comparable to h264's.

For a second there I thought this was the dumbest thing ever, but upon further reflection I decided that you're absolutely right. There must be SOMEONE out there with a great experimental video codec that just needs some love.

Re:Sigh (4, Informative)

FrostedWheat (172733) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878718)

All of your arguments are irrelevant if the licensing issue can't be solved. Firefox can only use codecs that are not covered by restrictive licensing, no matter how good it looks. (And I agree with you, H.264 does looks good) Their choice is basically:

  • MPEG-1: ancient and horribly outdated. (And may yet be covered by patents?)
  • Theora is good enough and much easier on the CPU than Dirac or H.264.
  • Dirac is (for now) a poor performer at the typical resolutions and bitrates used on the net.

Theora is the best of these options. It doesn't matter how good H.264 looks, it's simply impossible for Mozilla to use it without dealing with the licensing issue.

Re:Sigh (1)

beelsebob (529313) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878834)

I agree, unfortunately though, they're not going to convince anyone, because it's simply impossible for google and apple to use ogg theora without hardware acceleration for their devices.

Bottom line –neither codec is suitable. Google and Vimeo have gone for the margionally closer to suitable codec.

Re:Sigh (3, Insightful)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878868)

Firefox can only use codecs that are not covered by restrictive licensing, no matter how good it looks

Nonsense. Firefox can use any codec that is already installed on the user's system. It's only because they have decided that they should try to force Theora on people that they are rejecting that solution.

Re:Sigh (2, Informative)

porneL (674499) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878734)

It is patented, and in exactly the same way as h264 will form a toll both on the internet

All known Theora patents have royalty-free license. Only thing that is "exactly same way" here is risk of submarine patents.

Re:Sigh (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878836)

All known Theora patents have royalty-free license

..right now. You know that Theora is a work-in-progress, right? That right there says GO AWAY to anyone who wants to incorporate direct support in their software.

Re:Sigh (1)

BenoitRen (998927) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878648)

Mod parent up. People need to get this.

Re:Sigh (1, Interesting)

CowboyBob500 (580695) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878712)

And yet even with a perfectly legitimate, reasonable, intelligent argument against H.264, tons of /. comments will go against FF's decision to promote an open, free (for everyone, not just the end users) and sane video standard over a proprietary one, ensuring that only people with lots of money can create browsers, run video sites, etc.

It's time Americans stopped thinking of themselves as the centre of world technology. If Mozilla is determined to follow US law only and therefore not implement H.264 because it's encumbered with license fees there due to dumb local laws, then it is going to go the same way as the whole US software industry - it will disappear into a black hole of law suits and legal action and very quickly become irrelevant.

H.264 is a free and open standard, just not in the US. And to be honest, you can cry me a river. The US got itself into this mess, the US needs to get itself out of it, because quite honestly, the rest of the world is not going to wait around in the meantime.

My prediction? Canonical will fork it as Mark Shuttleworth's vision of Ubuntu is that "it just works". If the only way for him to achieve that is to fork Mozilla, then that is what I'm sure he'll at least consider doing.

Re:Sigh (4, Insightful)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878844)

It's time Americans stopped thinking of themselves as the centre of world technology... H.264 is a free and open standard, just not in the US.

I agree with the center of the world comment, but...

"It's a free and open standard, just not there..." isn't completely free and open.

I see nothing wrong with Mozilla taking that into consideration.

Hey, don't forget. (-1, Offtopic)

gbutler69 (910166) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878810)

The Supreme Court just ruled that corporations are now free to spend unlimited amounts of money in support of or against the election of any official or issue they choose. You've heard it before, but, here goes: Welcome to our new CORPORATE OVERLORDS!

And before you say, well, we can all use our free speech rights to counteract that, I say, don't forget that most (like 80% to 90%) of people are sheep who will just go, "OOOH, Shiny! It's good. Shove it in my pie-hole!"

Re:Sigh (3, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878854)

Insisting on fighting H.264 will be exactly like refusing to support MP3/AAC and only play Ogg Vorbis files. You know those right, the popular files you see everywhere? H.264 is the standard for all forms of modern video and both Windows 7 and OS X support that out of the box, Theora is if possible even more obscure than Vorbis. All this will do is kill their marketshare and return the market to the proprietary browsers.

Mozilla think that they can bend a whole market of decoding, encoding, streaming, recording and editing by refusing to add it to their browser. They're not that important. There's fights you can win, and there's fights where you can only mitigate the damage. First time you try to play a HTML5 video, it should give you a nasty disclaimer, put the responsibility of getting a patent license if that applies, and install/cancel buttons.

Just open up the video architecture (5, Insightful)

DrXym (126579) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878430)

Mozilla doesn't have to implement anything, just make the video plugin architecture extensible. Otherwise sites will just push other browsers which do implement H264, or will use plugins like Silverlight / Flash to render the content anyway in Firefox.

Re:Just open up the video architecture (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878468)

and that would be different from the media player plugin hell that we have seen for ages?

Re:Just open up the video architecture (3, Insightful)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878496)

At least other browsers would have a standard and didn't need to rely on flash. Firefox already kind of is addon hell, where you have to try to find all the plugins you would want from a browser and some of them aren't really that up to par with quality.

Re:Just open up the video architecture (1)

DrXym (126579) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878556)

It's quite straightforward to define a mechanism to install / remove plugins, interrogate them for the content types they support, and to allow a user to choose their default choice. Firefox already does this for regular plugins, so why do you think it would be hard for video specific ones? In fact, the existing plugin architecture would make a reasonable starting point for implementing video plugins - they could just be NPAPIs that happen to implement a certain interface for Firefox to control their playback functionality, register listeners and so on.

Re:Just open up the video architecture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30878644)

Different interface. With plugins, every web developer has to handle the proprietary plugin object interface. With HTML5, the web browser presents a clean interface and handles the integration of third party codecs to actually supply the functionality.

I'm sorry, but if Mozilla goes against H.264, they're vastly overestimating their importance. H.264 is the video compression standard for the next couple of years, because it's better and because there are hardware accelerated decoders on all kinds of devices from cellphones to computers and set top boxes. If Mozilla's browsers don't play it, people will use other browsers (or web developers will have to work around Mozilla-browsers' deficiencies with plugins, and hate Mozilla for that).

By all means, keep working on a Free H.264 replacement, but until you can at least match H.264, don't leave your users hanging, or they'll leave you hanging.

Re:Just open up the video architecture (1)

jones_supa (887896) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878490)

Exactly. Couldn't this problem be avoided by just using something like GStreamer for the playback and let it and the OS take care of the codecs? Then you don't have to include anything.

Re:Just open up the video architecture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30878616)

Wouldn't that just push the problem else where? Debian aren't going to be touching this with a barge pole.

FFmpeg (1)

argent (18001) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878540)

Since the LGPLed FFmpeg [ffmpeg.org] library supports H.264 among other codecs, all they need to do is support it as a plugin. They can ship Firefox with a version compiled without "--enable-gpl" and without "--enable-nonfree".

Re:FFmpeg (4, Informative)

Jahava (946858) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878666)

Just because there's an LGPL project supporting something doesn't mean that patents and licenses don't apply. For more information about this, read the FFMPEG FAQ [ffmpeg.org] .

Mozlla's concerns don't seem related at all to the implementation of the video. Rather, they're concerned about the licensing issues related to their usage of it. According to the article (and the summary, at that), the only reason H264 is even legally embeddable in current software is due to a free-to-viewer clause, and even that may permanently expire in 2010.

Currently, most of the web (Flash excluded) is free to generate. I can make an HTML document, or a tool to generate HTML documents, and render those HTML documents without paying or owing anybody anything. To legally generate H264 files, you must pay for a license. To build software that generates H264 files, the software company must pay for a license. And (possibly) after 2010, a viewer or viewer software may have to pay for a license to watch the content. These are some pretty huge issues to overcome.

Re:FFmpeg (2, Informative)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878738)

That may be correct in a technical point of view and a very simple solution to this problem. Unfortunately, the world is a bit more complex than that, thanks for the mess of convoluted rules which each jurisdiction imposes on it's citizens. In this case, if you take a look at ffmpeg's patents min-FAQ" [ffmpeg.org] you will notice the following disclaimers:


Q: Does FFmpeg use patented algorithms?
A: We do not know, we are not lawyers so we are not qualified to answer this. Also we have never read patents to implement any part of FFmpeg, so even if we were qualified we could not answer it as we do not know what is patented. Furthermore the sheer number of software patents makes it impossible to read them all so no one (lawyer or not) could answer such a question with a definite no, those who do lie. What we do know is that various standards FFmpeg supports contain vague hints that any conforming implementation might be subject to some patent rights in some jurisdictions, examples for such statements are:
For H.264:

        ITU draws attention to the possibility that the practice or implementation of this Recommendation may involve the use of a claimed Intellectual Property Right. ITU takes no position concerning the evidence, validity or applicability of claimed Intellectual Property Rights, whether asserted by ITU members or others outside of the Recommendation development process.

Q: Is it safe to use such patented algorithms?
A: Patent laws vary wildly between jurisdictions, and in many countries patents on algorithms are not recognized. Plus the use of patents to prevent the usage of a format or codec on a specific operating system or together with specific other software might violate antitrust laws. So whether you are safe or not depends on where you live and how judges interpret the law in your jurisdiction.

So, although ffmpeg supports H.264 and other patent-encumbered formats, it does so in spite of the patents that affect the implementations. As a consequence, they make it clear that if you rely on ffmpeg then you are at your own risk. And needlessly putting yourself at risk is never a good thing.

Re:FFmpeg (1)

argent (18001) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878860)

Yes, I read the patent page too. If you compile ffmpeg with the options I listed, you're not going to be using any such algorithms. If you provide a general plugin mechanism and ship a non-encumbered version of FFmpeg then people are free to license other codecs on their own.

Re:Just open up the video architecture (1)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878614)

I don't understand how that solves the problem of being forced to rely on patented code (and therefore being forced to pay license fees) to be able to perform a basic, mundane task. That is nothing more than playing hot potato with the problem and quickly passing it on to the users, expecting that somehow they solve the problem that they failed to tackle to begin with. In fact, that is a pretty big incentive for video sites such as youtube to simply stick with flash video. How is that a step forward?

That is not how you solve the problem. You solve it by not relying on patent-encumbered standards from the start, which is exactly where we are right now and which is exactly what Mozilla is doing. And unless organizations such as Mozilla make a stance on this issue then we, the public, are screwed once again.

Re:Just open up the video architecture (1)

DrXym (126579) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878784)

I don't understand how that solves the problem of being forced to rely on patented code (and therefore being forced to pay license fees) to be able to perform a basic, mundane task. That is nothing more than playing hot potato with the problem and quickly passing it on to the users, expecting that somehow they solve the problem that they failed to tackle to begin with. In fact, that is a pretty big incentive for video sites such as youtube to simply stick with flash video. How is that a step forward?

Mozilla isn't forced to rely on any patented code. They expose a bunch of APIs and let someone else worry about it. Forcing people to choose between Silverlight / Flash and an video tag that only supports Ogg is completely counterproductive. Sites will simply use the former while advising people to use another browser.

Besides, Mozilla already allows itself to host patented code in other ways such as plugins, and extensions so what exactly is the problem here?

Re:Just open up the video architecture (1)

Draek (916851) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878856)

That forcing website devs to choose between Silverlight/Flash and inconveniencing the user to install some illegal plugin on their browsers is similarly unproductive.

Oh please. (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30878466)

Just throw a DirectShow interface at the video player and quit shipping codecs.

Let the user decide what codecs they want to install and allow the sites to choose what encoding mechanisms they wish to use.

Not everyone requires free software. Some are prepared to pay a reasonable price for a product they select.

Re:Oh please. (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878558)

I was going to comment on this if you really want to bring the codec hell to web too, but you are actually after something if they use XviD or other widely available codecs.

But nevertheless, linux zealots coming in 3.. 2.. 1..

Good idea, wrong implementation. (1)

argent (18001) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878580)

Just throw a DirectShow interface at the video player and quit shipping codecs.

How do you propose they do that on OS X or Linux?

The general idea is a good one, but FFmpeg [ffmpeg.org] is probably a more generaly useful approach.

Re:Good idea, wrong implementation. (2, Insightful)

paskie (539112) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878780)

Isn't it better to use the native video player infrastructure on each platform? Quicktime on OS X, gstreamer/whatever on Linux?

Re:Oh please. (1)

BZ (40346) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878678)

I assume you did read the articles? They do discuss this, you know.

So are Google and all the bunch just dumb? (1, Insightful)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878486)

Indeed, even distributing H.264 content over the internet or broadcasting it over the airwaves requires the consent of the MPEG-LA, and the current fee exemption for free-to-the-viewer internet delivery is only in effect until the end of 2010. These license fees affect not only browser developers and distributors, but also represent a toll booth on anyone who wishes to produce video content."

So Google, Apple and all the rest who are implementing the video tag are just dumb? Someone enlighten me please.

Re:So are Google and all the bunch just dumb? (2, Insightful)

furball (2853) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878528)

No, they just have money.

Re:So are Google and all the bunch just dumb? (1, Troll)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878654)

Mozilla has money too. A lot of money.

They've had no problem using patented technology in the past (such as GIF) so clearly the arguement is not against patented technology, but instead against licensing fee's.

Well fuck you, Mr PleaseSendUsMoneySoThatWeCanMakeFirefoxBetterWhileIGiveMyselfABigFatBonus. H.264 support would, by definition, make FireFox better.

Re:So are Google and all the bunch just dumb? (1)

Draek (916851) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878778)

They've had no problem using patented technology in the past (such as GIF)

As far as I can remember, any and all patents covering *viewing* GIFs were long expired, and the only ones that remained were a bunch covering *creating* GIFs and, therefore, Mozilla was in the clear. Not so here, where even decoding h.264 is illegal without the appropiate, oh-so-bloody-expensive license.

So does the Mozilla Foundation (1)

coryking (104614) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878770)

They also have at least a 1/3 of the desktop browser market. That gives them significant leverage in negotiating some kind of deal to license the codec in their browser.

Business is business, time for Mozilla to step up and act like one.

Re:So are Google and all the bunch just dumb? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30878554)

"So are Google" should be "So is Google" because "Google" is singular, not plural. You have been enlightened.

Re:So are Google and all the bunch just dumb? (4, Interesting)

BZ (40346) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878610)

Google is not dumb. One major effect of a broadcast licensing fee for all web video is to make it harder to set up a Youtube competitor. Sure, Google has to pay the fee too. But it might well be worth it to them given the stifling of potential competition.

lame :P (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30878498)

lame :P

Good point here... (1)

rinoid (451982) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878502)

I have to admit though, H.264 kind of rocks in quality, but; we need open streams and open formats.

Why not both? (1)

FrostedWheat (172733) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878520)

None of this would matter if the sites provided both formats. Chrome and Safari could have their H.264, everyone else could have the Theora version. Everyone wins.

Ideology meet reality (3, Insightful)

diamondsw (685967) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878544)

All of the bitching about the patent/royalty situation ignores the following facts:

  • H.264 is hardware accelerated on nearly every platform, desktop and mobile - Ogg is not.
  • Ogg produces inferior video at the same bitrate as H.264, or larger video for the same quality.
  • YouTube, DailyMotion, and Vimeo have spoken in favor of H.264. Watch the dominoes topple.

There are two alternatives here - Flash-based video and H.264. Don't kid yourself that Ogg is a third, because it's not going to happen. Time for Mozilla to face reality and pay up the license as Apple and Google have done. Otherwise, watch Chrome really destroy Firefox.

Re:Ideology meet reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30878582)

you really don't understand open source, do you?

Re:Ideology meet reality (1, Insightful)

ubersoldat2k7 (1557119) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878686)

I think his point is that Ogg can always be improved to work things out better. It's still a young format and much improvements can be made. So, what happens when H264 includes some bug and they won't fix it? I think you can agree on pretty much everyone hates Flash, and H264 is Flash all over again:

Your codec doesn't support H.264 v2.6.4.3.2.3.6 please upgrade

Re:Ideology meet reality (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30878756)

Apparently, he doesn't.

In addition, he seems to believe that Ogg is a video codec instead of a container format. What he probably means is Theora.

Re:Ideology meet reality (2, Informative)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878604)

Flash is H.264.

Re:Ideology meet reality (5, Insightful)

BZ (40346) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878646)

I don't think anyone's ignoring those facts. In particular, no one is under the illusion that ogg is a suitable replacement for h.264 in all cases. The hope is that a better codec than either will appear with more suitable licensing terms; in the meantime a premature standardization on h.264 would hurt the chances of that codec being adopted when it appears, no?

On the other hand, you seem to be ignoring the fact that Wikipedia, say, has no plans to put its video in H.264 (so Safari, say, can't very well view it).

> Time for Mozilla to face reality and pay up the license as Apple and Google have done.

As a side note, Apple and Google did not have to pay for a license separately here. They already had the licenses.

> Otherwise, watch Chrome really destroy Firefox

If that were to start happening (and it's nowhere close yet), the calculation might have to change, of course.

Re:Ideology meet reality (4, Insightful)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878716)

Time for Mozilla to face reality and pay up the license

Yeah, that'll happen right after you start paying $5.99 to install the browser.

Re:Ideology meet reality (1)

FooBarWidget (556006) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878754)

And push the license fees down to the users? Is that what you really want?

Re:Ideology meet reality (1)

Draek (916851) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878824)

Time for Mozilla to face reality and pay up the license as Apple and Google have done.

Or simply throw a decoder in, and block the Mozilla website to any IP originating from the US. We get shiny new codec, Mozilla doesn't violate the GPL by throwing in additional demands upon their users, and the US goes further down the drain for being the legislative hell-hole that it is, win for all.

Handbr (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30878550)

So, given that H264 is a really bad idea license-wise, why did Handbrake completely switch over to it? The "xvid is hard" or "divx is old" doesn't seem to hold much water.

Re:Handbr (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878826)

This is because it's technically superior to xvid/divx, both of which are merely implementations of MPEG4. AVC (h.264) is better. What you don't know is that there were license problems with the MPEG4 implementations on FOSS platforms as well- and largely the same set of them. This is a matter of the problem is still there so why keep a inferior solution when there's no difference picking up the "good" one.

Obligatory (3, Interesting)

ilovegeorgebush (923173) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878578)

It really frustrates me that a technology created and owned by someone (MPEG) and otherwise unrelated to the software created and distributed by another (Firefox) is by proxy restricting success and future adoption.

It is so utterly archaic and unfair that this is allowed to continue; MPEG-LA have the industry by its consumers by their collective balls.

Re:Obligatory (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878612)

MPEG? You mean ITU don't you?

Re:Obligatory (1)

CowboyBob500 (580695) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878750)

It is so utterly archaic and unfair that this is allowed to continue; MPEG-LA have the US industry by its consumers by their collective balls

FTFY

Re:Obligatory (1)

Draek (916851) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878794)

Welcome to the wonderful, wonderful world of Software Patents. Or well, patents in general, they're all about taking control of the work somebody else did with his own two hands merely because it's in some way similar to what you thought of a decade ago.

The route of mp3? (1)

LikwidCirkel (1542097) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878590)

Doesn't somebody own the rights to mp3, and technically, all users and content providers should pay royalties? Does that stop anyone from freely including decoders and distributing mp3 content? Here's hoping that H.264 goes that route, and unofficial, but well-recognized plugins for Firefox support emerge.

Re:The route of mp3? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30878746)

AFAIK there was never licensing regulations on distributing content in mp3 format, like MPEG-LA reserves for h.264. Also, MP3 is so old one can argue it should be public domain any day now. h.264 is brand new in comparison, so MPEG-LA will fight for royalties for many, many years to come and hinder the development of the Web in the process.

Reasons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30878598)

H.264 looks better that Ogg and makes smaller files. Nobody is going to say, oh I'd like my video to look worse and cost people more to download please! High quality video providers will use H.264 anyway for this reason. If Ogg was the standard everyone will end up installing H,264 anyway and the standard will be ignored. Everyone already has H.264 software. Nobody has Ogg software. I bet if you checked outside of this thread you'd find 0.1% of people have it an about 90% can alreay play H264 Thirdly ogg just sounds stupid. I wouldn't implement it for the name alone. I might as well write "NOW SUPPORTS FARTY FARTY PLOP PLOP" on the outside of the box. The name shouldn't matter. But it does. A lot!

Free software from Google my *** (2)

suffix tree monkey (1430749) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878632)

Yeah, "free software from Google" indeed - too bad us Joe Sixpacks can't distribute it, only companies with the proper patent license portfolio can. If this debate tells us (free software fans) something, it's that it's time to move to GPL 3 before things get way worse.

And to all you people who don't care about this and just want their videos to work:

This video^H^H^H^H^H opinion is no longer available in your country.

Selecting compatibility for ideological goals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30878650)

What he basically states is that "we are ideologically opposed to H264, therefore we won't support it".

Which is a devastating indictment of the entire Open Source community and something Microsoft should pick up in arguments with the EU about why Firefox should be prevented from taking a dominant position.

More patent abuse (3, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878660)

Indeed, even distributing H.264 content over the internet or broadcasting it over the airwaves requires the consent of the MPEG-LA

Now that's ridiculous. Unlike many other technology subject to patents, it's pretty clear that H.264 is useful, novel, and non-obvious. But allowing claims that cover not just the encoder and decoder, but the actual bitstreams they produce, is completely abusive of the patent system. A fancy new saw to cut complex curves in wood might be patentable, but allowing that patent to cover the product would be silly on the face of it. This is no different.

HTML5 allows multiple codecs to be specified (1)

jrincayc (22260) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878682)

HTML5 allows multiple video or audio codecs to be provided. Therefore, Youtube and Vimeo can provide both H.264 and Ogg Theora/Vorbis support. If their concern is bandwidth, then they can just provide a slightly lower quality Ogg version with the same bandwidth usage.

http://www.whatwg.org/specs/web-apps/current-work/multipage/video.html#the-source-element [whatwg.org]

Crippling PPC Incompatibilities, too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30878704)

Starting perhaps a month ago, certain video players completely hang Safari on PPC machines. It's incredibly annoying, because often websites and even some advertising content feature embedded video which automatically plays (read: hangs) upon opening the page. This 'feature' has rendered many sites a crapshoot as to whether or not they'll bring a browsing session to a halt, and made some altogether unvisitable.

Soo... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30878708)

Forgive me for probably being completely retarded in the matter here, but can't applications like VLC and Handbrake decode H.264? How do they handle the these copyright things, and couldn't Mozilla do something similar with Firefox?

How to silently kill firefox (3, Interesting)

ammorais (1585589) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878798)

How to silently kill Firefox:

* Support Firefox trough funding (so that nobody can call you evil)

* Buy one of the most successful video sites.

* Implement a technology on this site that you know for sure Firefox can't use.

* Reduce competition on this site by using a video format not everyone can use on their site(increasing linking and video embedding to your own site)

* Support this video format on your own browser.

*Profit.

documenting it on http://en.swpat.org (1, Troll)

H4x0r Jim Duggan (757476) | more than 3 years ago | (#30878842)

    Regarding software patents, I've gathered some info already about H.264 and the standards problem:

It's a public wiki, help welcome.

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