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Nero Files Antitrust Complaint Against MPEG-LA

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the hot-topics-getting-hotter dept.

Patents 247

hkmwbz writes "German technology company Nero AG has filed an antitrust complaint against the MPEG-LA, the company that manages the H.264 patent pool. Nero claims that the MPEG-LA has violated the law and achieved and abused 100% market share, by, among other things, using 'independent experts' that weren't independent after all, not weeding out non-essential patents from the pool (in fact, it has grown from the original 53 to more than 1,000), and retroactively changing previously-agreed-on license terms."

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About time. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32328478)

Good luck guys, may the force be with you.

Re:About time. (5, Insightful)

DavidR1991 (1047748) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328638)

Agreed. MPEG-LA is a glorified protection racket - any corp. brave enough to take a stand against it (and the myriad of other companies it 'shields') is worth standing behind

Re:About time. (4, Interesting)

DavidR1991 (1047748) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328692)

That said:

"According to the MPEG-LA, Nero's case is nothing special. "I think we're looking it as a typical response by a company that has not abided by the terms of the license they've taken,"

Have Nero not abided by their licence deals? Or are MPEG-LA going to paint it this way to try and throw the case out as a tit-for-tat?

The supreme court would say MPeg LA is illegal (5, Interesting)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329264)

The supreme court just ruled today [cnn.com] that the NFL can't license the team trademarks collectively. It seems to me this should extend to any collective pool of IP - including patents. Each patent holder should have to license their patents individually.

Re:The supreme court would say MPeg LA is illegal (3, Interesting)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329384)

It seems to me this should extend to any collective pool of IP - including patents.

Possibly, it depends on how broad the SCOTUS ruling was. The laws for trademarks and the laws for patents are very different, and each are different from the laws for copyrights.

We'll have to wait and see, but it definitely sounds like this case could be used for a strong argument in Nero's case.

Re:The supreme court would say MPeg LA is illegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32329858)

That's not what they said and your interpretation is wrong. The closest analogy... let's say Sony has a patent that's part of the MPEG-LA h.264 pool. You want to license Sony's patent (and only Sony's patent) but the MPEG-LA steps in and says, "Sorry, you have to license through us and you need to license all these other patents as well." The supreme court said, "You can license patents individually". They didn't say patent pools are invalid.

Re:About time. (5, Informative)

yincrash (854885) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329426)

FTFA, Nero claims that MPEG-LA has not abided by the license and changed it's policies against what there was previously written agreement of.

Re:About time. (1)

DavidR1991 (1047748) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329658)

That doesn't really answer the question - what has Nero done in terms of breaking agreements? If MPEG-LA are confident to write this off as just a typical "licence non-abider" then what grounds do they have? I know Nero are accusing them of agreement screwiness, but if MPEG-LA are saying this is just Nero's kneejerk for doing something wrong and trying to get out of it, have they got grounds for that? Has Nero broken some agreement themselves?

Re:About time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32329720)

Yes and No.

Re:About time. (3, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329806)

Not to mention thanks to software patents being broad to the point of insanity it is pretty much impossible for anyone doing video compression of ANY software to not trip over an MPEG-LA patent mine. If the MPEG-LA patent pool is upheld it will hold the entire Internet hostage, as to do pretty much anything with AV one with have to pay the MPEG-LA "toll". Hell they even claim patents on part of the firewire [wikipedia.org] spec, it is just nuts!

So here's to Nero, may they kick some serious MPEG-LA ass. and for the "corporation Yay!" trolls that usually scream when anyone dares to risk corporation profits and scream "nobody will innovate!" there is a BIG difference between real hardware patents and the mess that is software patents. And with the major corps forming a cartel via MPEG-LA they have made a barrier to entry in AV that only corps with seriously deep pockets can afford to traverse, which is the exact opposite of the original purpose of patents, which were to keep the little guy from being crushed like a bug by big corps that could steal their ideas and beat them on price.

As we have seen with some of the crazy things being patented by big corps like Amazon, IBM, and MSFT, such as the wave of "...on the Internet!" patents we had a few years back, software patents have become WMDs in the software world, with cartels like MPEG-LA and patent warchests making anything truly innovative in the field simply too expensive for anyone but the fortune 500.

THEY ARE SAFE (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32328992)

Blobus the giant galatic penis bird will fight for them !

I didn't know Nero AG had time for this (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32328486)

They seemed so busy turning their superior burning tool into another bloated intrusive dog.

Re:I didn't know Nero AG had time for this (4, Informative)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328630)

They seemed so busy turning their superior burning tool into another bloated intrusive dog.

There are other completely free products that have matched Nero's (former) minimalist approach. CDBurnerXP is great on Windows. Brasero works great on Linux. On OS X, Burn is not quite as much my style, but it's simple and get it's job done.

Essentially, Nero got priced out of the "dirt simple I just wanna burn a damned CD" market. Bloatware is all that's left.

Re:I didn't know Nero AG had time for this (4, Informative)

theArtificial (613980) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328744)

Another worthy Windows mention is InfraRecorder [infrarecorder.org] and it's opensource to boot.

I don't have any affiliation with this project.

Re:I didn't know Nero AG had time for this (3, Interesting)

Sylver Dragon (445237) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329416)

You can even keep a copy of it on a thumbdrive and run it from there without installing:
PortableApps Version [portableapps.com]

Also not affiliated with the project or the portable apps folks, just like both.

Re:I didn't know Nero AG had time for this (3, Insightful)

mindbrane (1548037) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328878)

There are other completely free products that have matched Nero's (former) minimalist approach.

I don't disagree and would add in CDex as another example, but Nero is one of the few for profit companies that seem to have made an effort to put out a good product at a fair price. There's always been a few companies whose PC products are reasonably priced and worth the cost. Norton Utilities was perhaps the most shining example. I almost always get a free light version of Nero software when I buy a high end optical drive or a TV card/ripper. I'll pick up their latest full suite when it pops up on my radar screen at half price because the lite version still measures up well against the free stuff. One of the biggest problems vendors like Nero face is that MS knows it has to keep adding brain candy apps for the point and click crowd and MS will drive niche vendors out of business to keep their OS/Office products afloat. It's just a temporary bother because an OS in 10 years time will come with a full suite of audio video scrapbook apps for mom and pop and the kids to play with.

just my loose change

Don't forget (1)

ArchieBunker (132337) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328900)

BurnAware. Its how Nero used to be many years ago. I stopped using Nero when the "suite" stopped fitting onto a 650Mb CDR.

Re:I didn't know Nero AG had time for this (3, Funny)

charliemopps11 (1606697) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328928)

yea, it's pretty sad when I wont even pirate your software. The final straw with Nero was "Nero Scout"

Re:I didn't know Nero AG had time for this (4, Funny)

Dragoniz3r (992309) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329546)

Finally, effective piracy countermeasures! Someone alert Ubisoft!

Re:I didn't know Nero AG had time for this (2, Insightful)

alfredos (1694270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328986)

Bloatware is all that's left.

In other words, payware with little value. Which of course will get fewer and fewer sales. And that explains why Nero AG needs to start selling something else without delay. What to sell? It is reasonable for a company that has quite a bit of knowledge in the CD/DVD area to jump to the next big thing in a related technology; they seem to have chosen video and in mid-jump, slammed into the brickwall of MPEG-LA.

Re:I didn't know Nero AG had time for this (1)

havardi (122062) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328998)

Actually I am still looking for something that makes multisession cdburning as dead-simple as it is on Windows. Ya know, so I can get my father-in-law to use Linux. Don't try to tell him to use a flash drive.

Re:I didn't know Nero AG had time for this (0)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329066)

Let me get this straight. Your father-in-law has a harder time using a flash drive than CD burning software?

Re:I didn't know Nero AG had time for this (-1, Flamebait)

Seth Kriticos (1227934) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329110)

I don't get why people are still making so much fuss about CD/DVD's. They are already obsolete.

Seriously, I only played very few optical media in the past year, and burned maybe one or two.

USB drives have replaced DVD's some time ago already. We are beating a dead dog here. Why?

Re:I didn't know Nero AG had time for this (4, Insightful)

djdanlib (732853) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329290)

Zomg, what will the pirates do if they can't burn DVDs??

OK, for real though, here's the other side of the debate.

Higher end tech is too expensive - BD-ROM is the current highest end consumers can buy, but the entrance cost to using that technology is sufficiently high that Joe Middle Class Consumer with his wife and 2.5 kids and a mortgage can't afford it.

Why buy a BD-R or flash drive when you only have 1 GB of photos to give to Aunt Mabel, anyway? A blank DVD only costs a few cents.

Burning CDs to listen in your car is cheaper than buying an mp3 player. Those are still a luxury item, especially with the outrageous cost of the kits you have to use to hook them up to your car. (Let's face it - I'm not going to buy a luxury car just because it plays mp3s.) Hitting the next track button on your stereo is safer than fiddling with your handheld mp3 player, too.

CD/DVD-ROM discs will outlast a frequently-used USB drive. I've had some Flash devices that lasted, some that didn't make it 2 years.

In the business world, $100,000+ software is still distributed on CD and DVD, or an image thereof. Drivers for certain brands of servers are downloaded as ISO format, so you are supposed to burn them. Firmware drivers come in bootable ISO form now. Yes, I know, 7-zip can unpack all of the above. But when you're setting up an OS on a new server or zeroing a disk or recovering a failed machine, you usually need a disc because they DON'T boot off the USB ports.

USB drives cannot normally be write-protected without arcane magik tricks, and not many can be write-protected at all. Read-only media is more secure when you're up against malware. This is important when performing security breach remediation, such as antivirus on a live system.

And now, for Slashdot brownie points: Linux installs are available as CD/DVD ISO images. ;) Of course you could use USB for this, but when you can give someone Linux for essentially free (CDs are dirt cheap) how could you go wrong there?

I've seen people using floppies and tapes as recently as last year. So, just because something's obsolete on the cutting edge, doesn't mean hordes of people aren't still using it.

Must be nice to have the money and time and modern hardware to get rid of optical media!! :)

Re:I didn't know Nero AG had time for this (1)

Miseph (979059) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329418)

I suspect the GP will point out the dirt cheapness of small flash drives. I will now beat him to the punch.

One could reasonably afford to distribute Linux installers on fairly small USB flash drives (1gb no longer counts as "big"... my inner child is appropriately stunned) for only a few cents more per unit than CDs or DVDs, and they are substantially sturdier for the purposes of travel by pocket.

Actually, I'll probably mention that to the next Ubuntu type I see handing out discs at a convention.

Where? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32329712)

I just got a 100 disk cakebox of taiyo yuden Cds for around I think 30 bucks shipped. Where can I get 100 1 gig flashdrives for similar, plus a few cents more a unit?, call it total price 33 bucks?

Re:I didn't know Nero AG had time for this (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329318)

USB drives have replaced DVD's some time ago already. We are beating a dead dog here. Why?

The cost of a USB drive hasn't dropped to the point where I can keep a couple dozen of them on hand and give them out willy nilly to any friends who might want a copy of something I have.

Re:I didn't know Nero AG had time for this (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329834)

The cost of a USB drive hasn't dropped to the point where I can keep a couple dozen of them on hand and give them out willy nilly to any friends who might want a copy of something I have.

You pay for USB thumb drives??

Re:I didn't know Nero AG had time for this (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329882)

I don't pay for them. On the other hand I don't attend enough conferences or deal with enough sales people to amass enough of them to simply hand them out at will either.

Re:I didn't know Nero AG had time for this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32329502)

Yeah, it's not like anyone plays games, listens to CDs, watch DVDs/Blu-Rays or anything of the sort. Clearly USB drives have replaced all these usages of CDs/DVDs/Blu-Rays... oh wait.

Re:I didn't know Nero AG had time for this (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329762)

Thats pretty funny. CDs and DVDs are still the defacto method of making physical copies for offsite storage, the defacto way to give mom photos of the kids, the easiest way to give a distributor a physical copy of images for their catalog, the best way to make a compilation of music that will play in any car, the preferred way to backup and archive settings of the old computer when you buy a new one so you have a hard copy in case of crash, and it is dirt cheap, fast and easy.

Yes, I use USB hard drives more than 4 years ago (and USB thumb drives much less) but the CD and DVD are still an important part of archiving, copying and sharing information for the majority of people.

Re:I didn't know Nero AG had time for this (1)

markdavis (642305) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329300)

>There are other completely free products that have matched Nero's (former) minimalist approach. [...]

(You neglected to mention the excellent k3b for Linux, but whatever).

The issue with Nero is that they are obviously doing more than just burning discs, they must be including the ability to either create video or transcode video (I don't know, I don't use MS-Windows, thus I don't use Nero). Other "burning" programs, even commercial ones, should not need any type of license from MPEG-LA just to burn discs... only if they are transcoding/creating new video into one of the formats covered by their patents.

Re:I didn't know Nero AG had time for this (2, Interesting)

Draek (916851) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329320)

As with everything, YMMV though. Personally I can't stand Brasero's UI, and feel K3B is too bloated for my poor, old laptop so yeah, I use Nero Linux on it. Runs smoothly, works great and it even works as a CD ripper in a pinch.

Perhaps the Windows version is still the bloated hog that I remember from so many years ago, but the Linux version at least is incredible and well worth its money.

Re:I didn't know Nero AG had time for this (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329402)

My favorite is DeepBurn for Windows. There is a paid pro version, but I haven't even bothered to look up its features because the free version does everything I've ever needed it to do.

Re:I didn't know Nero AG had time for this (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329548)

Essentially, Nero got priced out of the "dirt simple I just wanna burn a damned CD" market

yes, when Microsoft added the capability to burn DVDs to XP, what was Nero supposed to do (apart from roll over and die?).

Re:I didn't know Nero AG had time for this (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329234)

They seemed so busy turning their superior burning tool into another bloated intrusive dog.

I'm genuinely curious here...

I've been using an older version of Nero for years now. I recently had to install Nero on a Windows 7 machine, which my old version wouldn't support, and acquired a copy of Nero Burning ROM 10.

There were other things I could have installed... I didn't really pay much attention to the options... I just installed Burning ROM 10... And it looks pretty much like my old version. I'm not seeing a whole lot of bloat there.

What's so bad about Nero these days?

MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (3, Informative)

Useful Wheat (1488675) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328514)

Although I disagree with most of what that company does, their MPEG licensing fee is on the order of $2 per manufactured device to use their technology. This isn't really extortion. HDMI is 4 cents per device, but you're required to maintain a $10,000 license fee on top of that. I think gross abuse would be more on the order of $50/device.

Either way, I support the free and open standard provided by displayport, which dispatches with the fees.

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32328570)

MPEG_LA's official stance is that nobody can create a codec for compressed video of any sort without violating at least one of their patents.

Non-infringing video (4, Informative)

crow (16139) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328870)

Well, you probably would have trouble getting a modern compression system that doesn't infringe on one or more of their patents, but you can use an older video format.

Consider that DVD was developed in 1995, so the base MPEG-2 patents expire within 5 years, if not earlier.

The draft MPEG-1 standard was out in 1990, so a codec based on MPEG-1 technology should be free of patent issues.

H.264 dates from 2003, so we probably have another 13 years there.

Ultimately, it may take a legal battle with Google to invalidate or narrow some of the H.264 patents such that VP8 or something similar can compete patent-free.

Re:Non-infringing video (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32328916)

Thing is that in computing, stuff gets obsolete extremely fast.

Re:Non-infringing video (1)

Dragoniz3r (992309) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329594)

Thing is that in computing, stuff gets obsolete extremely fast.

Consider that DVD was developed in 1995, so the base MPEG-2 patents expire within 5 years, if not earlier, and people are still using it.

Better for you?

Re:Non-infringing video (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329428)

Consider that DVD was developed in 1995, so the base MPEG-2 patents expire within 5 years, if not earlier.

Patents last 28 years (in the US at least), that puppy has another 13 years or so on it.

Re:Non-infringing video (4, Informative)

reebmmm (939463) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329626)

Consider that DVD was developed in 1995, so the base MPEG-2 patents expire within 5 years, if not earlier.

Patents last 28 years (in the US at least), that puppy has another 13 years or so on it.

Huh? US Patents don't last 28 years. New patents have a term of 20 years from the earliest filing date. Patents filed before June 8, 1995 have a term that is the longer of (i) 20 years from the earliest filing date; or (ii) 17 years from the date of issue.

Citation, please? (2, Interesting)

KingSkippus (799657) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329178)

No, I'm not being facetious. This is not a passive-aggressive way of saying you're wrong, I simply do not know.

I've seen a lot of people talking about MPEG LA, including veiled threats against people who use Theora and WEBM, but I haven't heard much from MPEG LA itself. Where exactly is this "official stance" you speak of? I'd like to read it for myself.

It's my understanding that what MPEG LA does is gather patents that apply to encoding, license them out, and pay the owners of said patents. They also indemnify any manufacturers and/or users in case any of its patents are deemed to be invalid or infringing on other patents. Now, I 100% agree that we need to do away with these patents altogether. I also 100% agree that given that they exist, we should be use patent-free software so that the whole issue would be moot.

But given that they exist and that the issue isn't moot, has MPEG LA actually threatened to go after someone who violates one of these patents, or that creating any compressed video violates their patents? I've always viewed MPEG LA not so much as the enforcement arm of evil, but more like the record keepers of evil. Hell's accountants, so to speak.

Re:Citation, please? (4, Informative)

Kalriath (849904) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329606)

Actually, they don't indemnify at all. I've seen stories that apparently they are forming a patent pool for Theora and WebM/VP8, but the only place I can't find any confirmation of that is from MPEG LA themselves. The "official stance" referred to by the AC was mentioned in the story about them forming a VP8 pool, but said statement (and VP8 plan) doesn't exist on their site.

And they sue. A lot [mpegla.com] .

They are founding a patent pool for human gene patents though. That can't be evil at all.

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (1)

mr_lizard13 (882373) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329220)

They might yet turn out to be right.

Shame on those who preside over the patent system for allowing that to happen.

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (5, Insightful)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328574)

Any non-zero fee is bad for free (as in beer, and as in speech) software. When you have no price you're charging, then you can't really add in any fee on top of your price.

It basically means that if you want to distribute software, you have to implement a means to SELL it. If you goal is to distribute software free of charge, then even a $0.01 licensing fee totally cripples that.

A better solution for "free as in beer" software would be to make the fee a percentage of the sale price, though that still is somewhat problematic from the "free as in speech" angle.

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32328846)

It sounds good, but I think it would be fraught with implementation details. For example, I could see a company sell some "file management software" for $99, then if you wanted to "burn DVDs" using it you would buy a plugin from them for $1. So the percent of the fee would be on the $1 sale and not really the complete price of $100.

There's always somebody gaming the system.

That's just what Microsoft did to Spyglass (3, Interesting)

Rob Y. (110975) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329362)

When Microsoft bought the spyglass browser and turned it into IE, they agreed to pay spyglass a percentage of the sale price. Ultimately, they made the sale price $.00, wiping out spyglass's revenue stream in a classic MS double-cross.

I don't know why Spyglass never sued. IE was made a part of Windows, which was definitely not free. Sure, they made IE available as a free download, but they also included it on every Windows CD. Maybe there was a quiet suit and settlement?

Re:That's just what Microsoft did to Spyglass (1)

Kalriath (849904) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329646)

Although I agree that it was bad, the outcome (free browsers - as in beer and in speech) certainly was to everyone's benefit. Netscape needed to die.

Re:That's just what Microsoft did to Spyglass (3, Interesting)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329690)

They did sue. The settlement, however, was for a pathetic $8M according to this source [businessweek.com] .

Re:That's just what Microsoft did to Spyglass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32329738)

"I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further" works in a lot of situations.

Re:That's just what Microsoft did to Spyglass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32329816)

Spyglass got a paltry $8m payoff. That's how much it cost to take down the billion dollar netscape.

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329228)

If you goal is to distribute software free of charge, then even a $0.01 licensing fee totally cripples that.

The cost of duplicating and distributing your free-as-in-beer software bundle are surely going to be much more than a penny a a disk.

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (4, Funny)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328696)

That's like saying Satan is not evil because there's also Cthulhu.

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (4, Funny)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328990)

That's like saying Satan is not evil because there's also Cthulhu.

Cthulhu is not evil... He's just misunderstood...

Here! Have a Taco, they are deliriously delicious, although a tad non-euclidean.

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (2, Funny)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329482)

I hope that taco doesn’t go commander! :P

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (2, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328700)

Nope it is pure evil. Okay not pure evil but just your normal unrestricted greed.
Software patents are just evil.

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (5, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328742)

The problem is principle, even if I use totally clean-room reverse-engineering without even taking one look at their patents, I still am guilty of patent violations, how?

Not to mention their patents become so broad that if you want to create your own compressed video standard you still have to license it out.

Really, they should license certain software for $2 and if you use clean-room reverse engineering, you should be perfectly entitled to distribute and use it. And if you make a different standard, you should be able to distribute and use that without fear of patent lawsuits.

Any company that does not make use of their patent "portfolio" to advance art and sciences is an abuser of patent laws plain and simple.

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (4, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328782)

The problem is principle, even if I use totally clean-room reverse-engineering without even taking one look at their patents, I still am guilty of patent violations, how?

Among copyright, patent, and trademark, only copyright cares about the pedigree of any copy. Patents and trademarks can be infringed whether you have had any contact with covered goods or not.

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (3, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328860)

Which is an abuse of law.

Even if it is technically legal, I can't support it. I probably can't help supporting it financially (as so many products have it included) but I certainly can't support it morally.

The entire point of patents are to instruct how something works and how to make it. However, these patents are too broad and cover far too much.

Patents are supposed to encourage different ways of doing things, however, with "patent pools" like MPEG-LA and large corporations having far to many patents and lawyers plus patent trolls, you can't do anything without running into one of them.

If you don't do things exactly like the patent papers say and make non-trivial modifications, you should be able to use it. That is the only way in this day and age that patents can "promote the sciences and the useful arts"

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (3, Insightful)

unix1 (1667411) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329196)

If you don't do things exactly like the patent papers say and make non-trivial modifications, you should be able to use it. That is the only way in this day and age that patents can "promote the sciences and the useful arts"

There's no such thing as "exactly" with software patents. Most of them are so broad and hopeless, they claim ideas, not specific implementations. Most software patents do not state and present any actual software that is being patented - i.e. no code, and no algorithm. In fact, it wouldn't make sense for them to list any actual code to patent because copyright already gives them a far greater protection than patents would.

Software patents don't make sense.

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329628)

Which is an abuse of law.

Uh... I'm not sure you've got the idea of patents down yet.

The entire point of patents are to instruct how something works and how to make it.

And how do they do that? With a limited monopoly on the idea, not the implementation. It's the exact opposite coverage of copyright, which grants a limited monopoly on the expression but not the idea. Trademarks is a monopoly over a name under certain conditions.

However, these patents are too broad and cover far too much.

The patents themselves aren't, it's the pools that are far too broad and cover far too much. On that I agree. However there is a sharp distinction between what the MPEG-LA is doing and what ordinary patents do.

The alternative situation here is potentially just as stifling - with a thousand patents you may be infringing, creating new codecs can be frightening, especially if the patent holder you've infringed isn't doing so hot economically (or worse, they're doing fantastically well and want to keep it that way). You can be hit with outrageous licensing terms after you've already invested your time and money into creating your codec, or you could be sued outright and bankrupt for infringing a patent you didn't know about.

MPEG-LA takes away a lot of uncertainty, and that's a definite boon. However, in my opinion such a large patent pool has the potential for incredible harm, far worse than the individual patents could if all were taken separately.

Taking out MPEG-LA tosses everything up in the air, and won't necessarily allow for more innovation. It can't allow for less, however, so I think it's definitely worth the risk.

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (1)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328804)

The problem is principle, even if I use totally clean-room reverse-engineering without even taking one look at their patents, I still am guilty of patent violations, how?

That's how patents are supposed to work. They'd be kind of pointless if they didn't work that way.

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (4, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328908)

No they wouldn't be pointless, they would be useful to promote the progress of the sciences and useful arts.

Think about it this way, there are a number of ways to create an image, you can use ink, CRT, LCD, LED, etc. but with patents like the patent pool that MPEG-LA has, they have a patent for a "technology to display an image" with the result of being an etch-a-sketch, if I want to make a CRT, I still have to pay them money because it is "technology to display an image" despite me not even using their technology at all.

So unless I feel like paying extortion money, the technology lags behind because patents are preventing me from creating "technology to display an image" even if I want to do it in a radically different way.

Not to mention that half the time it isn't the people who would have created the etch-a-sketch technology but rather a business out in Texas or someplace which does nothing to do with display technology and they only target me once I'm making money with my CRT monitors.

Granted, this is a terrible example, but when you look at software patents and such, they are effectively cornering the market with an "etch-a-sketch" because a CRT or LCD would violate the "technology to display an image" patent.

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (1)

waambulance (1766146) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329132)

lmao the qualification of "the useful arts" is hilarious.

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329648)

I believe that's the wording in the US constitution.

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (1)

toooskies (1810002) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329566)

I'd argue that it isn't. The "clean room" example is a measure of obviousness: if there is clearly one way to solve a problem, and someone can figure it out simply by being told to produce the outputs, I'd argue that it's obvious. Now, that's not at all what happened with the MPEG_LA. VP8 (or WebM, or whatever) has a ton in common with H.264, which isn't independently likely or obvious given the mature state of the video compression field.

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (2, Informative)

JAlexoi (1085785) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329292)

Wow, there! Patents protect exactly against reverse-engineering, that is the whole idea behind patents. Copyright does not.

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (4, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328764)

Although I disagree with most of what that company does, their MPEG licensing fee is on the order of $2 per manufactured device to use their technology. This isn't really extortion.

There are numerous other terms attached to MPEG licening, including requirements that you not facilitate the infringement of copyrights, your device respects HDCP, etc, etc. You either do as they say and pay their fee or they sue you. Sounds like extortion to me.

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (1)

robot256 (1635039) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328884)

Wait, does that mean when I use my MPEG-generating camera to record clips of my friends watching a movie, with the movie in the background, and then post it on Youtube, that the camera company will get sued for facilitating copyright infringement?

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (3, Informative)

EyelessFade (618151) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329122)

well no, not yet anyways. But if you make a shortfilm with your camera and decide to sell it, then you have to pay up big time.

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (5, Interesting)

JAlexoi (1085785) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329332)

That is the whole problem, because patents were not intended to be applied to users of said invention, but only to protect the inventor against copycats.

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32329386)

Actually a girl got sued for recording a bit of Twilight at a birthday party some time back (whenever the last movie was in theatres). Suing the camera company though... same slippery slope as suing gun makers. After all, that device was made to record things, it's only logical it would be used for the evil piracy!

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (1)

Capt_Morgan (579387) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329044)

Actually it's quite bad and goes against the basic principles of the free market and a free society in general. If I want to write my own software to do something using my own skills alone I should be able to do it. These patents are totally nonsensical

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (1)

alfredos (1694270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329074)

Given that you can buy a new DVD player for $30, and assuming prices end up in the same range, that is over 6% of the price paid by the consumer. Not bad for a bunch of algorithms that have zero manufacturing cost and virtually zero cost per unit sold. The other ninety-something percent needs to be shared among the companies that build, transport, market and sell the device, all of which have expenses which are, at best, proportional to the number of units sold. So MPEG-LA is the only party that always wins. When I grow old, I want to be an MPEG-LA shareholder.

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (5, Insightful)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329076)

Although I disagree with most of what that company does, their MPEG licensing fee is on the order of $2 per manufactured device to use their technology. This isn't really extortion. HDMI is 4 cents per device, but you're required to maintain a $10,000 license fee on top of that. I think gross abuse would be more on the order of $50/device.

If Vinny and Guido show up at your business with a baseball bat and remark that you have really unbroken knees, and it would be a shame if anything happened to them, it doesn't really matter if they demand $2 or $50. Once they show up at your business, willing to make threats about how they need a cut of the sales of a business that they may not have contributed anything to, they have gone too far. MPEG-LA are, at this point, basically operating under exactly the same business model as Mafia running a protection racket. They just invested enough in politics to make their game somehow legal.

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329092)

their MPEG licensing fee is on the order of $2 per manufactured device

MPEG-2 PATENT PORTFOLIO LICENSE SUMMARY [mpegla.com]

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329396)

You're missing the point entirely!

The point is that any commercial movie you make might infringe the patent because you exceeded the MPEG LA license. That really sucks.

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (5, Informative)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329128)

You might think differently if you got the manual your $8000 Pro HD camera out and read the manual

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=584693&l=d37e6ecc2a&id=1429834573 [facebook.com]

and then once you got that sorted out you read the manual to your $999 copy of Final Cut Pro

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=584692&l=a8a46fa560&id=1429834573 [facebook.com]

MPEG-LA is a virus

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32329134)

Who modded this informative? Do you have any idea how much this kind of stuff costs? When you ship hardware you're not shipping 1 or 2 - typically consumer HW vendors talk about millions of units. The incremental cost paying $1 per device instead of $2 is at least $1 million dollars (assuming you're only shipping 1 million devices). No one is ever going to put in anything that costs $50 per device. When everything else is on the order of tens of cents for actual hardware, $2 per device is huge. Do the math yourself:

10 000 + 0.04x vs 2x - which would you rather pay if you're shipping millions of devices?

Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (1)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329524)

Also, I believe that the fee doesn't kick in unless you've manufactured 10,000 units so the little guy who's developing an app for fun or limited distribution doesn't have to pay anything at all.

It's all perfectly legal (2, Funny)

catmistake (814204) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328516)

They have a patent pool for criminal activity, too.

pick your sides (1)

dx40sh (1773338) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328646)

So is Nero throwing its lot in with VP8 ?

Re:pick your sides (1, Insightful)

robot256 (1635039) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328890)

I thought VP8 still violated MPEG-LA's patent pool...? Has anybody actually sued over that yet?

No, probably because there's nothing to sue for. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32328972)

No, probably because there's nothing to sue for. It's just FUD.

Re:No, probably because there's nothing to sue for (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32329248)

It's just FUD.

Does FUD now mean "something that I don't really know anything about, but want very badly to not be true?"

Nero are still in Business? (0, Troll)

16K Ram Pack (690082) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328800)

There's a company I thought had gone the way of the Ashton-Tates.

Plenty of free burners for the rare time I need to do a DVD now, and their video editor sucked.

HOLY SHIT. (2, Interesting)

Khyber (864651) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328856)

It seems Nero listened to my e-mail. I told them they should be doing something about this because it would drastically affect their market otherwise. I sent that e-mail right after the original MPEG-LA brouhaha broke a couple weeks ago.

Re:HOLY SHIT. (1)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | more than 4 years ago | (#32328978)

Antitrust suits aren't started with mere weeks of research. They've probably been preparing for months.

Re:HOLY SHIT. (0, Troll)

Mr Thinly Sliced (73041) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329010)

Incredible job. If I forward my landlords address any chance you can get him to look into the sperm/hairball blocking the shower pipes?

Mr Dopely Lazy
Reluctant Owner Street
Wankingstone
Spermorton
England

For anonymity, please only call me "Dave", and the sperm and hair were from some big guy who broke in one night and went all "pope cleansing" in there.

Re:HOLY SHIT. (2, Funny)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329166)

I guess you and some windows Users have something in common.

Now all you need is a camera and some commercial time. Maybe a slogan like "nero 7,it was my idea".

All joking aside, they probably did listen to your email. There was probably a ton of others they listened to also. but rest assured, there is something in it for them outside of making you a happy customer. Companies tend to operate towards what is beneficial to them. IT may be that your email and they line up perfectly, but lets not get to carried away.

Re:HOLY SHIT. (1)

xavierpayne (697081) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329372)

Sorry but for some reason I can't help but picture you in a "I'm Khyber, and Windows 7... er the Nero law suit was my idea!" commercial! :-)

Obligatory... (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329388)

Correlation does not imply causality :)

Re:Obligatory... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32329500)

Cause and Effect does not imply correlation.

Re:HOLY SHIT. (5, Funny)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329710)

"My name is Khyber, and Nero's anti-trust complaint was my idea."

Re:HOLY SHIT. (1)

517714 (762276) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329752)

Let me guess. You're a PC and Windows 7 was your idea?

What timing! (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32329222)

This couldn't have come at a worse time for MPEG-LA. They're just now preparing for an epic struggle with Google over VP8 and Nero comes from behind and sticks a dagger in their spine.

Re:What timing! (2, Insightful)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329782)

In other news, it couldn't have come at a better time for the American citizen and consumer.

Patent pools. Now small feudal fiefs (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 4 years ago | (#32329516)

isnt the patent thing way past the point it should be abolished ? we were dreading the basic logic concepts being patented, but it seems these people already found ways to even circumvent such stuff, and created fiefs with 'pools' instead.

this is ridiculous beyond this point.
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