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218 comments

Hmmm... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32715086)

Is anyone else worried by..

They were able to keep the line-count low by relying on heavy reuse from the existing H.264 codebase."

I bet the MPEG-LA will see that as proof that it violates their patents.

It gets worse (4, Interesting)

Chrisq (894406) | about 4 years ago | (#32715126)

Is anyone else worried by..

They were able to keep the line-count low by relying on heavy reuse from the existing H.264 codebase."

I bet the MPEG-LA will see that as proof that it violates their patents.

From tfa:
since H.264 (the current industry standard video codec) and VP8 are highly similar, we can share code (and more importantly: optimizations) between FFmpeg’s H.264 and VP8 decoders (e.g. intra prediction).

What is the problem? (0)

Snaller (147050) | about 4 years ago | (#32715642)

If VP8 is supposed to be free there can be no conflict surely. greedy mpegla owns odd coyrights on certain encoding rules not written code, right? So that a line of code ("Print 'hi!'") can be reused isn't really relevant is it?

Re:What is the problem? (4, Insightful)

Abcd1234 (188840) | about 4 years ago | (#32716184)

Oy vay... how the heck did that get modded interesting?

Yes. VP8 is supposed to be free. And the code Google released is free. But the issues surrounding VP8 have absolutely nothing, zero, nada, to do with copyright law.

The question is: Does VP8 include technology/methods covered by patents contributed to the MPEG-LA H.264 patent pool? The fact that a huge amount of H.264-related code could be reused in their VP8 decoder strongly suggests that, at minimum, VP8 and H.264 are very similar, and that greatly increases the odds that this is the case, and that any codec implementing VP8 would violate one or more of those patents.

That's bad.

Re:What is the problem? (0, Offtopic)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | about 4 years ago | (#32716378)

Actually I was reading that comment as sarcastic. Maybe that is what the moderators were doing as well.

Re:What is the problem? (-1, Troll)

bug1 (96678) | about 4 years ago | (#32716452)

Oy vay... how the heck did that get modded interesting?

Yes. VP8 is supposed to be free. And the code Google released is free. But the issues surrounding VP8 have absolutely nothing, zero, nada, to do with copyright law.

Umm, i cant see anything in the parent or grandparent about copyright, they only mention patents.

Who are you trying to argue with ?

Re:Hmmm... (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | about 4 years ago | (#32715148)

Well, besides being a free to use standard, what advantages does VP8 have over H.264?

Re:Hmmm... (3, Informative)

Nerdfest (867930) | about 4 years ago | (#32715188)

Just that is enough. That alone is enough in some cases to even outweigh some disadvantages.

Re:Hmmm... (3, Insightful)

TheKidWho (705796) | about 4 years ago | (#32715250)

Is it? The vast majority of mobile phones including Apples iPhone/iPod/iPad devices have hardware decoding of H.264. Can the same be said of VP8?

Re:Hmmm... (5, Insightful)

MrHanky (141717) | about 4 years ago | (#32715342)

No, and it never will. Apple's support for "open standards" is limited to only support for such standards when they depend on proprietary formats like AAC, mp3, h.264, etc. No support for Vorbis, Theora, VP8 or anything that can be implemented freely without a patent license. You wouldn't want free software to be able to compete, would you?

Re:Hmmm... (3, Insightful)

TheKidWho (705796) | about 4 years ago | (#32715372)

Free software should be able to compete and it does, unfortunately most free software is usually around 5 years behind the state of the art.

Re:Hmmm... (2, Funny)

6ULDV8 (226100) | about 4 years ago | (#32715494)

most free software is usually around 5 years behind the state of the art.

But it fits so nicely with the state of my wallet.

Re:Hmmm... (1, Insightful)

crmarvin42 (652893) | about 4 years ago | (#32715510)

Exactly... If Vorbis, Theoria, VP8, et al. were on par with state of the art, and unlikely to expose Apple to patent litigation then I fail to see why they wouldn't. Apple spends more money on licensing AAC and H.264 than it makes off of their contributions to the patent pool that make up those standards.

Apple cares about the quality of the final experience. They are willing to pay if it will make a noticable difference (and Steve has a discerning eye), and whether the "Free" brigade wants to admit it or not, Vorbis and Theora are not up to snuff and VP8 is a patent lawsuite waiting to happen. Whether Vorbis and Theora can be brought up to date is almost irrelevant because unless something dramtically changes, they never break new ground performancewise. They are always playing catchup and that is not a good place for them to be if they want competitive companies like Apple to use their technology. VP8 is supposed to be very promising performancewise, but the patent situation is very unclear and even the most flattering reviews I've read of VP8 say that H.264 still has an edge performancewise. The free options may be "Good Enough" for many here on /., but "Good Enough" is almost profanity as far as Apple is concerned.

Re:Hmmm... (1)

tepples (727027) | about 4 years ago | (#32715558)

Free software should be able to compete and it does

Free software needs compatible hardware, and devices such as Nokia Maemo handsets aren't widely available in the United States, which is Slashdot's home country. One has to mail-order them without trying the screen or input, and even then, AT&T still won't give a discount on a SIM-only service plan.

unfortunately most free software is usually around 5 years behind the state of the art.

The Wii console was half a decade behind at launch (it's an overclocked GameCube with a Bluetooth receiver), yet you don't see free games competing with Wii games.

Re:Hmmm... (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | about 4 years ago | (#32715612)

[quote]The Wii console was half a decade behind at launch (it's an overclocked GameCube with a Bluetooth receiver), yet you don't see free games competing with Wii games.[/quote]

That's wrong, the Wii beat the PS3 and the Xbox360 to the motion control game, they made the rules.

Re:Hmmm... (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about 4 years ago | (#32715672)

That's wrong, the Wii beat the PS3 and the Xbox360 to the motion control game, they made the rules.

They demonstrated the marketability of a gimmick. Once they lose exclusivity of that gimmick, they have nothing else to compete on except for price.

Re:Hmmm... (2, Insightful)

TheKidWho (705796) | about 4 years ago | (#32715708)

They demonstrated the marketability of a gimmick. Once they lose exclusivity of that gimmick, they have nothing else to compete on except for price.

That and the quality of the software.

Re:Hmmm... (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about 4 years ago | (#32715714)

So true.

Re:Hmmm... (4, Interesting)

MrHanky (141717) | about 4 years ago | (#32715644)

Vorbis isn't any worse than the competition. Certainly better than mp3, and AFAIK with better encoders than AAC. Quality isn't the reason why Apple refuses to support it. Denying competition is.

Re:Hmmm... (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | about 4 years ago | (#32715688)

And yet, strangely, being free is a killer-feature for some application that makes these old 5-year lagging format seem revolutionary...

Re:Hmmm... (1)

b4dc0d3r (1268512) | about 4 years ago | (#32715896)

"State of the art" is the current knowledge, right now. By the time something is patented an implemented in hardware it's already old. By the time it's ubiquitous it's already in hardware, and already past old. When free software takes on something, it's usually because it's either popular or important.

To put it another way, if free software took on state of the art, there would be millions of unused, useless code bases and a mond-boggling number of wasted development hours.

I would argue that the useful bits get filtered out by proprietary/paid software, and free software can then devote time to the important ones. Thanks for discovering what people *don't* want, non-free software!

Re:Hmmm... (1)

10101001 10101001 (732688) | about 4 years ago | (#32715938)

Just to FTFY: Free software should be able to compete and it does, unfortunately most ... software is usually around 5 years behind the state of the art.

When proprietary software innovates, it's usually one group/person. When free software innovates, it's usually one group/person. Most simply copy others because why not copy a good idea? (There's also the obvious point that few if any groups or people are oracles of all the good ideas, so they're left copying a lot of good ideas from others even if they have a few of their own; good idea oracles only tend to happen when they have a monopoly, they exist in a niche, or they just have really good marketing which makes you think their ideas are good.)

Having said all that, if I had a good idea which I thought could make me a lot of money, greed might very well make me "sell out" to proprietary software. If that point is a general truth and proprietary software tends to have more innovation/good ideas sooner, then they obviously come at the cost of more money (the premium of early adoption). So, it's obviously a trade-off of whether to wait for others, proprietary and free, to copy or to pay the money upfront and hope one obtains enough in return for being an early adopter. However, most software is pretty standard and generic and the value of software depreciates so quickly (as you suggest, only 5 years for state of the art to become zero price) precisely through heavy competition (nearly infinite supply of a digital good does that).

In short, I'm not really sure how any of that is unfortunate or how one could say free software is in any way not competitive for most practical purposes. Perhaps that's what Linus meant when Linux would have the unintended consequence of destroying Windows; eventually Linux, as a platform, will become "good enough" and do to Windows what Windows did to its even more proprietary fore bearers. Don't be surprised if that takes a few decades in total, though.

Re:Hmmm... (1)

deathguppie (768263) | about 4 years ago | (#32716204)

Free software should be able to compete and it does, unfortunately most free software is usually around 5 years behind the state of the art.

This is a strange thing to say in a thread related to ffmpeg, which is free, and IMHO is one of the most advanced encoder/decoders out there period.

Re:Hmmm... (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about 4 years ago | (#32715498)

You wouldn't want free software to be able to compete, would you?

It can compete. It's called Android, and it's competing rather well [osnews.com]

Re:Hmmm... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32715606)

No, and it never will. Apple's support for "open standards" is limited to only support for such standards when they depend on proprietary formats like AAC, mp3, h.264, etc. No support for Vorbis, Theora, VP8 or anything that can be implemented freely without a patent license. You wouldn't want free software to be able to compete, would you?

MP3, AAC and H.264 are not proprietary. They are maintained by international standards bodies and developed by consensus.

This does not mean that they are free, Free, or GPL compatible and these would be genuine complaints but you weaken them by using the inaccurate complaint that they are proprietary.

Re:Hmmm... (4, Insightful)

MrHanky (141717) | about 4 years ago | (#32715764)

Calling the MPEG-LA a cartel would be more accurate than calling it "an international standards body".

Re:Hmmm... (1)

Goaway (82658) | about 4 years ago | (#32716438)

Nobody called them that. They are a licensing group. They did not develop the formats in question.

Re:Hmmm... (1)

itzdandy (183397) | about 4 years ago | (#32715912)

not to defend apple's logic, but if they pay a license to someone, then that someone takes on the responsibility and risk for future patent infringement lawsuits. Apple, in good faith, licensed the technology from a party who was understood to own the IP. Granted, this doesnt necessarily totally shield Apple but its much better than an open source codec that has no buffer. If someone decides that VP8 infringes on their patent, then they would sue anyone that used a product based on the patent..

all the better reason for major governments to acknowledge some codec and either cut a deal or public domain it making it a defacto standard. VP8 is an excellent candidate for this, considering google open sourced it. The process of identifying such a codec should then make everything that uses it immune to patent trolling.

please be sure to read patent trolling as 'having a patent, watching that patent be violated, then sitting on it until the market is thoroughly saturated with the product before sending the cease and decist"

Re:Hmmm... (2, Insightful)

samkass (174571) | about 4 years ago | (#32716352)

Apple's support for "open standards" is limited to only support for such standards when they depend on proprietary formats like AAC, mp3, h.264, etc. No support for Vorbis, Theora, VP8 or anything that can be implemented freely without a patent license.

Oh please. Apple will include anything that lets them sell substantially more hardware. If Vorbis or Theora would sell millions of units, they'd rapidly be well-supported across Apple's hardware line. The fact of the matter is that the standard codecs you mention (AAC, MP3, h.264) sell the most units, and because of the widespread industry support actually offer the best experience for the user.

Re:Hmmm... (1)

cgenman (325138) | about 4 years ago | (#32715370)

MPEG-LA charges for encoding as well as decoding.

Re:Hmmm... (5, Informative)

BZ (40346) | about 4 years ago | (#32715386)

> Can the same be said of VP8?

Not yet. Of course the format is less than 2 months old, and there _were_ several hardware companies who committed to implementing support for it at launch.

Also, note that mobile phones don't support "hardware decoding of H.264". They support hardware-acceleration of operations needed to decode a particular profile of H.264: the Basic profile. The one that has lower quality output than VP8 does.

So if you start bringing the hardware accel issue into the picture, then your quality metrics are suddenly in VP8's favor...

All of which is to say that the situation is complicated. ;)

Re:Hmmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32715900)

All phones based on the OMAP 3XXX with 600+ MHz Cortex A8 should decode 720p30 H.264 High Profile at sane bitrates (~5 Mb/s) just fine. For instance the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 have no problem with such files although Apple says support is limited to Main Profile on their website.

Re:Hmmm... (4, Insightful)

Svartalf (2997) | about 4 years ago | (#32716472)

And do you know WHY it should be able to (I know you do because you brought it up- this is for the crowd that don't get what I'm about to mention here...)?

This is because not a single one of the mobile devices out there with an A8 SoC really use "dedicated hardware" to decode h.264 or any of the other codecs you care to mention for video or audio.

What do they use?

A high-performance DSP chip. Not. Dedicated. Hardware.

The same goes for anything with a Snapdragon or similar SoC. In fact, most devices don't use dedicated anything because you'd ned a bunch of special silicon for MPEG 1/2/4, MP3, WMA, etc. When you think about it, throwing a bunch of DSP muscle at the problem is cheaper than the dedicated hardware for all but a narrow range of applications.

All one has to do write a DSP program for the codec in question and go for most devices.

The "dedicated hardware" line is less of a real argument and more of a straw man argument that keeps getting trotted out every time some competing codec comes along.

Re:Hmmm... (4, Informative)

tepples (727027) | about 4 years ago | (#32715566)

"Hardware decoding" on these ARM-based devices usually doesn't mean H.264 is implemented directly in silicon. A lot of these codecs with "hardware support" are implemented either on a secondary CPU optimized for digital signal processing, which might even be a GPU running shaders. It isn't expected to be too difficult to port VP8 decoders to these DSPs because, as the article points out, VP8 is so similar to H.264's baseline profile that it has been called H.264 with the patent numbers filed off.

Re:Hmmm... (2, Funny)

Khyber (864651) | about 4 years ago | (#32716080)

With Google behind it now, VP8 will likely exceed anything MPEG-LA can create. Google, despite doing some boneheaded things at times, does have some of the brightest minds working for them.

Re:Hmmm... (3, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 4 years ago | (#32715678)

No it isn't
Right now H.264 is free as in beer to every Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPod, iPad, Android, WinMo, and Palm WebOS users on the planet. And probably a good deal more people that I am leaving out.
For the vast majority of them that is free enough.
To make this work Google is going to have to get VP8 out on a lot of devices convince a lot of developers to produce video in that format.
Will it happen? Maybe one can really hope.
The other solution will be if we can ever get software patents overturned.
BTW which I am all for.
But to even state that just being free is good enough goes 100% counter to history.
MP3 isn't free Vorbis Ogg is. You just don't see much music in Ogg format do you?
You have to have the support in devices to make a format fly.

Re:Hmmm... (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about 4 years ago | (#32716096)

Take a trick from other companies:

"Youtube, now with VP8 technology inside enabling superior playback and user experience with reduced download requirements making it fast, better and nicer to the planet". Then auto-install a Firefox plugin that you can't remove and job's done!

Alternatively, just encode some stuff in it on YT and wait for everyone to upgrade anyway.

Re:Hmmm... (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 4 years ago | (#32716398)

Yes but I do not see YouTube throwing away iPhone, IE, and Safari users just to push VP8.
Yes it will help but YouTube will always support H.264 as well.
I know it sounds like I am not for VP8 but that really isn't the case.
I just have been around long enough to know how things work.

Re:Hmmm... (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 4 years ago | (#32716374)

Only because those platforms have paid for a license. If you're using software on a different platform, then you're not covered by it. Moreover there's no guarantee that they'll keep up the present terms and price structure. Arguing that it's free really beggars the concept of free as it isn't free in any way shape or form. The end users ultimately have paid for it at several levels, probably several times on hardware and additionally on any software that's meant to deal with it as well.

Re:Hmmm... (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 4 years ago | (#32715194)

From what this article [multimedia.cx] say, really none

Re:Hmmm... (3, Interesting)

poetmatt (793785) | about 4 years ago | (#32715232)

so you're saying an x264 development blog by an x264 developer is going to be biased against vp8, has been quoted a million times, and has no real world tests (there are real world tests out there). color me surprised! /sarcasm.

Here a real article, trollop. [streamingmedia.com]

Saying that H264 is better or worse than vp8 shows straight up ignorance because they both have specific scenarios which they cater to. To avoid recognizing that is a lie.

In the real world, studies have shown the two perform quite similarly, actually. Also, at the rate VP8 adoption is going MPEG is going to have to sue a lot of people, and they're going to lose in public image among other things.

Re:Hmmm... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32715534)

h.264 has hardware support by almost everything from computer GPUs to standalone media players to mp3 players to video game consoles to phones. That alone makes it superior to VP8. _If_ hardware manufacturers decide to support VP8, it'll take years before anything serious comes of it and by then there will be a new, better format.

VP8 will be a losing format, regardless of its technical merits.

Re:Hmmm... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32715786)

Looks like we have some crybabies with mod points today.

Waah! Waah! Somebody gave a sound, logical argument against my personally preferred format and I'm a little open source faggot bitch. I'll just mod it down because I can't argue against it rationally.

Re:Hmmm... (5, Insightful)

Virak (897071) | about 4 years ago | (#32715638)

The post the parent linked to goes into extensive detail about the technical aspects of the codec, has a real [doom10.org] world [doom10.org] comparison [doom10.org] , a proper one, and is overall an excellent article. In contrast, the article you linked to uses poor quality source videos, JPEG for their comparison images, and by their own admission didn't even manage to use the same frame for both codecs in the images, among other problems. If you're calling that a "real article", you are in no position to be calling someone else a troll.

And enough of these fucking asinine claims about the x264 developers being out to get your poor, precious VP8 that crop up every time someone posts that link. They don't work for MPEG. They don't make obscene mounts of money off of all the people using their free (as in both sense of the word) open source software. They're not secret Chinese agents working to destroy the West from within through the patent system. There is absolutely no motive for them to lie about this sort of thing. VP8 is simply not as good of a codec, and no amount of baseless accusations will change this.

Re:Hmmm... (1)

DrXym (126579) | about 4 years ago | (#32715736)

In the real world, studies have shown the two perform quite similarly, actually. Also, at the rate VP8 adoption is going MPEG is going to have to sue a lot of people, and they're going to lose in public image among other things.

No, they'll just sue a couple prominent users of the technology, receive a squillion dollars in punitive damages and then everyone else cough up whatever licence fees bring them into compliance. It's obvious from various postings that VP8 is dangerously close to H264 in a number of ways so litigation is a very real threat. Furthermore, if it does turn into a legal battle that ultimately VP8 loses, there is no reason whatsover to continue using it since H264 is the industry standard.

Re:Hmmm... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32716030)

>No, they'll just sue a couple prominent users of the technology, receive a squillion dollars in punitive damages and then everyone else cough up whatever licence fees bring them into compliance. It's obvious from various postings that VP8 is dangerously close to H264 in a number of ways so litigation is a very real threat. Furthermore, if it does turn into a legal battle that ultimately VP8 loses, there is no reason whatsover to continue using it since H264 is the industry standard.

You are assuming that VP8 is the "copy", and that H.264 holds the patent.

On2 have been in the video codec business longer than most of the H.264 patent holders. All that time, they studiously avoided MPEG-LA patents, and their main business method was in fact to offer video codecs that worked as well any from MPEG-LA, but far cheaper and utterly free of MPEG-LA patents.

On2 made these claims for many years on end, and MPEG-LA never did find a way to sue On2. Not even for VP3 (used in Theora). For quite a while, Adobe used VP6 in Flash, because it performed as well and was far cheaper than any MPEG-LA codec.

Google spent about six months doing due a diligence patent search on VP8, and it came up clean. Google would have been utterly foolish to spend $106 million (or whatever it was) buying On2 if VP8 was not clean. Google simply aren't that silly.

Re:Hmmm... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32715788)

Oh, a comparison by the "expert" Jan Ozer.
The guy is know for his "H.264 vs. Theora" comparison which both the Theora and the x264 developers called one of the worst codec comparisons in history. He didn't encode the files in the comparison you linked himself which is probably the only reason why there are no major problems in the encodes. Still, no settings are given so it's not reproducible. Also the guy had to be told to replace the gif (256 color) screenshots he initially posted and he replaced them with lossy JPG instead of the lossless PNG format.
The comparison does say the same thing the x264 development blog you find so highly biased says. VP8 has the potential to be competitive with H.264 Baseline profile. The encoder needs to be improved and the VP8 people are working on that. They still have to do code cleanup and improve speed and quality. If you check the webm mailing list there is a lot of work being done one the former two points and there is also discussion about improving quality by adding something similar to adaptive quantization soon. Again as the x264 development block says they won't do straight adaptive quantization because the way it is specified in the VP8 standard is to costly at the bitrates people are generally encoding at.

Re:Hmmm... (2)

Kjella (173770) | about 4 years ago | (#32715894)

Just FYI, that test had so many issues with no encoder settings, not even the same frames, using lossy screenshots and so much other bull it originally deserved a troll moderation. It has fixed some of the more glaring errors but nobody takes that guy seriously.

Re:Hmmm... (2)

pavon (30274) | about 4 years ago | (#32716466)

If by "real-world tests" you mean comparing the results of the defaults settings of a mediocre encoder, then sure that is a "real article". But it does not show that VP8 is as good of a specification as H.264. For starters, they used a baseline H.264 encoder. Jason Garrett-Glaser himself (the supposedly biased x264 developer) stated that the VP8 specification was very simular to H.264 Baseline Profile, and he expected well optimized encoder to have simular quality. The comparison you posted completely validates that.

However, if you compare to H.264 encoder using any of the other profiles (Main, Extended, or High) they blow VP8 out of the water. Seriously, show me a single clip encoded with x264 that looks worse than VP8. The only scenario I have seen where VP8 is arguably better is very low bitrate, where VP8's blurryness looks subjectively better than the blockyness of most H.264 encoders using default settings. But even then, if you encode with the "-tune psnr" option of x264 you can replicate the softness of VP8 while still preserving more details.

There was nothing about Chrisg's post that was trollish. You should grow up and stop calling people trolls just because you don't want to hear what they are saying.

Re:Hmmm... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32715244)

Do you really expect me to open .cx links posted on Slashdot? I got burned once, many years ago, and it was horrible. I am never touching a .cx domain for as long as I live.

Re:Hmmm... (0, Offtopic)

TheKidWho (705796) | about 4 years ago | (#32715300)

Link is fine to visit.

Re:Hmmm... (4, Insightful)

The New Andy (873493) | about 4 years ago | (#32715258)

... or alternatively, it means that Google has found that it owns patents to bits inside H.264. So then as soon as someone sues Google (or "any entity") for stuff in VP8 they lose the right to use the bits of H.264 which are covered by patents that Google acquired when they purchased on2.

I wouldn't be surprised if the ace up Google's sleeve is a patent on something which is key in both H.264 and VP8.

Re:Hmmm... (-1, Offtopic)

bigtomrodney (993427) | about 4 years ago | (#32715274)

Post to correct accidental moderation.

Re:Hmmm... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32715466)

This whole software patent business is ridiculous, especially when it comes to applied mathematics.

Re:Hmmm... (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 4 years ago | (#32715570)

Google is not a member of MPEG-LA

The scorched-earth policy of MPEG-LA's anti-lawsuit scheme applies to members only. If Google has patents that apply, then MPEG-LA already doesnt have the rights to use the bits covered by googles patents.

Re:Hmmm... (4, Insightful)

Neil (7455) | about 4 years ago | (#32715930)

But, if the original poster's speculation were true, it would put Google in the traditional role of a technology patent holder who holds a defensive arsenal of patents: if MPEG-LA makes a fuss about aspects of VP8 which they claim infringe MPEG-LA patents, then Google can threaten to retaliate by suing everyone in the world who is currently shipping an implementation of H.264 for infringement of the On2/VP8 patents (and so publicly demonstrate the fact that being an licensee of the MPEG-LA H.264 pool doesn't protect one from all patent claims, and provides no insurance or indemnity).

Stalemate. Mutually-assured-destruction stand-off. Result: VP8 available for royalty-free for use, without MPEG-LA interference.

But only if Google really have inherited some killer On2 patents as part of their acquisition. I hope they have - it would make sense of their strategy and confidence in VP8 if this kind of thing were going on in the background.

Re:Hmmm... (1)

ThoughtMonster (1602047) | about 4 years ago | (#32715270)

The patent issues covering VP8 and H.264 are unproven. It's possible that H.264 infringes on VPx patents as much as VPx infringes on H.264 patents.

They also reused code from previous VPx versions. Maybe the "infringing" code in VP8 is actually older than the patents on which it infringes?

Re:Hmmm... (1)

diegocg (1680514) | about 4 years ago | (#32715288)

Well, it isn't violating more patents than the H.264 codebase itself....

wtf slashdot! (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32715316)

Jesus, do some investigation.

The ffmpeg VP8 implementation doesn't use a single function from their H.264 support. Not a single one!

There was some arm-waving speculation that it could use something in common made by people other than the ones actually doing the work. The code they are comparing includes a f@$@# encode. The full ffmpeg VP8 implementation is ~2740 lines. The VP3/Theora implementation which shares no codec functions is 2500 lines.

Re:Hmmm... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32715350)

They were able to keep the line-count low by relying on heavy reuse from the existing H.264 codebase."

I bet the MPEG-LA will see that as proof that it violates their patents.

They might, but that's not how patents work. MPEG relies on old math, when MPEG got together to write the spec they were deciding what the constants should be. For example, say they decided to use 20 taps in some filter, then one of the guys in the room went back to his company and said "patent using 20 taps in filter Y, stat!"* To avoid that patent all you need to do is use a different number of taps, say lets say 24 for concreteness.

ffmpeg decodes many different formats, so they use reusable code. It's not surprising that they have a function that just implements the age old function and takes a parameter for the number of taps you want.

*In some cases the constant was already patented, but because the MPEG process is "patent agnostic" there is no incentive to use some other non-patented constant and the guys owning a patent on that constant are in the room so they have every incentive to argue for using that constant.

Re:Hmmm... (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 4 years ago | (#32715364)

Is anyone else worried by..

They were able to keep the line-count low by relying on heavy reuse from the existing H.264 codebase."

I bet the MPEG-LA will see that as proof that it violates their patents.

Well, it's complicated. I wasn't worried when you first asked the question. But by the end of your post, I was a little worried, because after your question, you made that interesting point about patents. So I guess it depends on what you meant b "is".

Re:Hmmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32715418)

As I understand it (IANAL) A compiled binary may (in a country where it is possible to patent software) violate a patent but the code itself does not so the issue is only relevant to someone who wants to distribute binaries in a country that allows software patents

Binaries that must be distributed before use (2, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | about 4 years ago | (#32715692)

On a lot of platforms, especially handheld ones, an end user can't use binaries unless the platform's gatekeeper has distributed them. It's not as if the end user can just compile his own because the resulting binaries won't have a digital signature with a verifiable chain up to the gatekeeper.

Re:Hmmm... (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 4 years ago | (#32715704)

Yep I thought the exact same thing. It doesn't really mean a thing but would a jury understand that?

Length (1)

elewton (1743958) | about 4 years ago | (#32715088)

"They were able to keep the line-count low by relying on heavy reuse from the existing H.264 codebase."
Come on guys, that's not helping.

Re:Length (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 4 years ago | (#32715172)

It may not be helping, but the situation here is interesting because this isnt Grandma's codec. This is Googles codec, and as such, MPEG-LA would have to actually fight for their rights. Even if MPEG-LA has an honest-to-goodness valid claim, they might still fail!

All-in-all tho, H.264 is here to stay. Too much hardware support to choose anything else.

Re:Length (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32715314)

It may not be helping, but the situation here is interesting because this isnt Grandma's codec. This is Googles codec, and as such, MPEG-LA would have to actually fight for their rights. Even if MPEG-LA has an honest-to-goodness valid claim, they might still fail!

All-in-all tho, H.264 is here to stay. Too much hardware support to choose anything else.

Yeah, MPEG-LA might try to get Google/Youtube to pay its licensing fees. Then Do-No-Evil(TM) Google would fight the good holy war in court to invalidate every patent in the pool, right!

Oh wait, Google has already paid the licensing fees, and is listed as a "licensor in good standing" on the MPEG-LA list of conquests.

Re:Length (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 4 years ago | (#32715368)

Paying for a H.264 MPEG-LA license in no way gives them a free pass to release a different codec that uses MPEG-LA patented algorithms.

Re:Length (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32715378)

Sure does. The people using the free codec are in violation, not Google.

Contributory infringement (1)

tepples (727027) | about 4 years ago | (#32715724)

The people using the free codec are in violation, not Google.

United States copyright law has legal theories called "contributory infringement" (A&M Records v. Napster) and "inducement to infringe" (MGM v. Grokster), and I see no reason why the logic behind these theories would not apply equally well to patent law.

aaaa (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32715094)

post frist

Good idea? (2, Interesting)

surmak (1238244) | about 4 years ago | (#32715096)

Is is really a good idea to advertise how similar VP8 and H.264 are? Send in the patent trolls.

Re:Good idea? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32715124)

No, it's better to hide it and hope the problem goes away.

Send in the trolls? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32715416)

Who the heck do you think is paying for these kinds of claims to be made?

The whole post is moronic. Ffmpeg's VP3 support is smaller than VP8 code and it shares with nothing. The bink codec is 1012 lines and svq3 is 1084 lines and these are weird codecs which have almost no sharing potential. ffv1, a state of the art lossless codec is 1200 lines.

The only thing vp8 has which is all that similar to h264 is the intra prediction modes and even the x264 guy was forced to admit that the intra prediction modes significantly pre-date h264 and are thus UNPATENTABLE.

What does that tell you about the patent trolls... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32715120)

...chances? "heavy reuse from the existing H.264 codebase." I am quite aware that this isn't any sort of definitive proof of VP8 being derivative, but it sure qualifies as a red herring ;).

Re:What does that tell you about the patent trolls (2, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | about 4 years ago | (#32715242)

I am quite aware that this isn't any sort of definitive proof of VP8 being derivative

You misunderstand patent law. Patent law does not require that proof that VP8 is a derivative of H.264. Patent law only requires proof that VP8 uses processes and techniques that are substantially similar to those claimed in the patents for H.264.

OTOTH, in any lawsuit involving those patents, the H.264 patent holders will have to prove that those claims are novel (no prior art) and that even if they were novel, that were not already obvious to someone skilled in the art. And since we're talking about Google, I'm pretty sure they won't have any trouble hiring competent legal counsel should such a lawsuit be brought.

Re:What does that tell you about the patent trolls (1)

Entrope (68843) | about 4 years ago | (#32715310)

OTOTH, in any lawsuit involving those patents, the H.264 patent holders will have to prove that those claims are novel (no prior art) and that even if they were novel, that were not already obvious to someone skilled in the art. And since we're talking about Google, I'm pretty sure they won't have any trouble hiring competent legal counsel should such a lawsuit be brought.

The patent's issuance is prima facie evidence of novelty (and all the other elements that are required for a valid patent). A prospective defendant would have to refute that presumption. Hopefully the Supreme Court will make it easier to overturn software and business-method patents in the ruling for Bilski v Kappos...

Re:What does that tell you about the patent trolls (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | about 4 years ago | (#32715444)

The patent's issuance is prima facie evidence of novelty (and all the other elements that are required for a valid patent)

Not necessarily, no. Otherwise, patent attorneys wouldn't be advising their clients to do a novelty search [patentlawny.com] . The results of a novelty search that do appear on a patent are prima facie evidence that the elements claimed are novel over the references listed, but again, this does not necessarily preclude the possibility of prior art and is not prima facie evidence that there is absolutely no prior art.

Re:What does that tell you about the patent trolls (1, Informative)

BZ (40346) | about 4 years ago | (#32715420)

> requires proof that VP8 uses processes and techniques that are substantially similar to
> those claimed

Not even that. To be infringing, you have to be subject to _all_ the claims of the patent. "substantially similar" is not enough if there is one particular claim that doesn't apply to you.

A common way of working around a patent is to pick a particular claim from the patent and make sure that your work is not covered by that claim.

http://lists.xiph.org/pipermail/theora/2010-April/003769.html [xiph.org] has a pretty good summary of the state of the patent situation for H.264. Especially note the paragraph starting "It doesn't have to be this way".

Re:What does that tell you about the patent trolls (2, Informative)

tepples (727027) | about 4 years ago | (#32715770)

To be infringing, you have to be subject to _all_ the claims of the patent.

Where did you get that information? As I always understood it, only one claim of a patent has to read on a product for the product to infringe, but all elements of that claim have to be present for that one claim to succeed

Re:What does that tell you about the patent trolls (1)

BZ (40346) | about 4 years ago | (#32715830)

> As I always understood it, only one claim of a patent has to read on a product for the
> product to infringe, but all elements of that claim have to be present for that one claim
> to succeed

Ah, indeed. I'd misunderstood where in the hierarchy of stuff in a patent "claim" sat, apparently. Thanks for the correction!

Re:What does that tell you about the patent trolls (2, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | about 4 years ago | (#32716144)

Yep. One claim is all that is needed for a product to infringe, but all elements of that claim must apply in order for that claim to succeed.

As BZ is trying to say, a common workaround is to make your product so that one or more elements of each claim do not apply. This is not necessarily an easy thing to do however; it depends on how broad or narrow the given patent(s) is/are.

BTW--I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.

Re:What does that tell you about the patent trolls (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 4 years ago | (#32715264)

I think that it has been well understood, for some time, that VP8 is, by design, largely H.264-esque. Based on that "technical analysis of VP8 by an x264 developer" article that ran on slashdot shortly after Google's announcement, it would appear that the development strategy went more or less like this:

1. Examine H.264
2. Where the technique in question is not patent-encumbered, or patent encumbrances can be worked around, implement like H.264 did. Unless you have good reason to believe the contrary, your brilliant innovation probably isn't, and the guys who build decode silicon/write DSP firmware are not handing out prizes for novelty for its own sake.
3. Where the technique in question is patent-encumbered, and the encumbrance cannot be compatibly worked around, implement the least-worst alternative.
4. Get purchased by Google.

Obviously, from a standpoint of legal defense and market acceptance, a codec of breathtaking novelty and power, looking like an algorithmic refugee from the comp-sci genocides of the 32nd century, would be preferable. Unfortunately, such isn't available by any known means. H.264 more or less represents the present consensus on best available technique in the field; but is heavily patent encumbered. The only real reason to deviate from it is to avoid patents. Assuming that they did, in fact, perform steps 2 and 3 correctly, they will have achieved approximately the best available result at the lowest possible cost.

Re:What does that tell you about the patent trolls (1)

devent (1627873) | about 4 years ago | (#32716004)

It's like Einstein trying to make his special relativity theory and try to avoid patents from Hendrik Lorentz for his Lorentz transformations, because in 1903 he was a poor student working in a patent office. Thank you very much America, because you try to export this stupidity all over Europe. Yes, he worked in a patent office, but in that time patents were granted only for real machines and not for math.

Imagine, if at the beginning of the computer revolution the patent offices around the world would have had granted patents on software. We would now still using Windows 3.11 or DOS, because every day-to-day technology that you are so used to would have been locked down for 20 years. Quick-Sort patented; Factory pattern patented; MVC pattern patented; and so on, you get the idea. But luckily back then nobody would even have this idea that you can get a patent on software, because every computer science student will tell you that software is just math that runs on a general purpose calculation machine.

Finally, the software that is running will _not_ change the machine, because that is for what a computer was invented in the first place. An abacus will not be transformed into something else if you calculate with it; you brain will not change if you calculate 1+1; a piece of paper will not change if you write some math. formula on it. The abacus stays an abacus; your brain is still a brain and the paper is still a piece of paper.

The H.264 algorithms are not tied to a particular machine, they are not manufacturing anything, and are not composition of matter. And they are not a process in the original meaning. But if you argue that they are a process, which takes some input and produces a result, then you opened the door to patent every math out there. Not only math, but now everything can be patented, like composition of music, writing of text and film a movie.

I'm sorry but I really don't like or want software patents in any form. I'm a software developer myself, have gone to the college and university and study I.T. That anyone could grant any patent on software is just beyond me and in my opinion the software patents are holding a whole generation of ideas and implementations thereof back in the USA and other countries which accept patents on math.

Re:What does that tell you about the patent trolls (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32716248)

Utter nonsense. VP8 is codec number 8 of a series of On2 codecs that goes way back before H.264. Google On2 and see for yourself. On2 began marketing VP3 in 1999.

Alternative method:

1. Look at your existing technology in codec VPn that existed before MPEG LA, and think of an improvement.
2. Immediately apply for a patent on the improvement.
3. If said patent application is rejected because of an existing patent, think of another entirely method to achieve the same result, and go back to step 2.
4. If the patent was rejected due to prior art, or even better if the patent was awarded to you, then implement the improvement using the cleared methods.
5. Rinse and repeat from step 1 until a significantly improved codec emerges.
6. Release and market the new codec as VPn+1.

After a number of iterations, you have collected a few patents of your own, and developed a pretty good codec which avoids any patents which you don't own.

codec? (2, Insightful)

quenda (644621) | about 4 years ago | (#32715132)

and wrote their own native decoder

It sounds like more of a dec than a codec.

Re:codec? (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | about 4 years ago | (#32715200)

and wrote their own native decoder

It sounds like more of a dec than a codec.

I don't understand.

I'm just hoping that I stop seeing the missing codec errors when viewing some of my porn.

Re:codec? (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 4 years ago | (#32715208)

and wrote their own native decoder

It sounds like more of a dec than a codec.

And did they build it with ant? .......... get it "ant and dec" ....... oh never mind please yourselves.

Re:codec? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32715530)

. get it "ant and dec" ......

No.

Same codebase? (2, Interesting)

Mystra_x64 (1108487) | about 4 years ago | (#32715352)

What does "relying on heavy reuse from the existing H.264 codebase" actually mean? For example, if you make some kind of new a superfast array sorting algorithm for 1 project and 'reuse' it elsewhere it does not mean both projects are the same. [Of course I haven't RTFA.]

Re:Same codebase? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32715502)

It means exactly that- using common video signal processing functions used for everything in ffmpeg, plus it also means adding hundreds of lines of VP8 support to the h264 code:

$ grep -i VP8 x86/h264_intrapred.asm
; void pred16x16_tm_vp8(uint8_t *src, int stride)
cglobal pred16x16_tm_vp8_%1, 2,5
cglobal pred16x16_tm_vp8_sse2, 2,6,6
; void pred8x8_tm_vp8(uint8_t *src, int stride)
cglobal pred8x8_tm_vp8_%1, 2,6
cglobal pred8x8_tm_vp8_sse2, 2,6,4
cglobal pred8x8_tm_vp8_ssse3, 2,3,6

Re:Same codebase? (2, Interesting)

WWWWolf (2428) | about 4 years ago | (#32715550)

What does "relying on heavy reuse from the existing H.264 codebase" actually mean?

It means exactly what it says: The developers added a VP8 decoder to FFmpeg, and only had to write very little of completely new code, while making extensive use of the code that already exists in FFmpeg. This way, VP8 decoder will improve when the rest of FFmpeg improves, and all codecs that share the same bits of code benefit from those improvements.

Re:Same codebase? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32715614)

Except that's a bunch of FUD. VP8's only use of the h264 code is that "intra prediction" stuff, and half of that is code which was added to the ffmpeg h264 intra predictor specifically for VP8. The code which isn't VP8 specific amounts to only about 100 lines (not counting the 1001 asm variants) out of the almost 15000 lines of h264 code.

1400 LOC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32715640)

Since when has LOC been a good measure of software?

Re:1400 LOC? (2, Informative)

Machtyn (759119) | about 4 years ago | (#32716024)

It is fairly well known that the more lines of code the more prone to errors the code base can be. Therefore, the fewer lines of code, the less chance there is that a coding error will occur. If there is an error, it is easier to find than by perusing a 10k LOC or a 1000k LOC codebase.

Now will someone write a spec? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32715946)

Several parts of the spec are incomplete (“what if a MV points outside the frame?”) or confusing (the MV reading is oddly spread through 3 sections in a chapter, where the code in each section specifically calls code from the previous section, i.e. they really are one section), which means that in the end, it’s much quicker to just read libvpx source code rather than depend on the spec. Most importantly, the spec really is a straight copypaste of the decoder’s source code.

So the existing "spec" is just commented code, and even as such it is _less_ helpful than the code itself. And to think that we're letting Google write the HTML5 spec...

FFmpeg? (1, Funny)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 4 years ago | (#32716130)

But what if you don't play Final Fantasy?

Google vs Adobe (1)

MountainMan101 (714389) | about 4 years ago | (#32716376)

On one hand Google is a friend of Adobe - mutual hatred of Apple and using Flash for You Tube, bundling Adobe Flash Player in Chrome.

On the other hand Google is a strong proponent of HTML5 + VP8, which would replace Flash in some situations.

Google seems to be the master of sitting on the fence. I mean they back the biggest competitor to the iPhone (Android) and yet remain #1 search engine on the iPhone/pad/pod.

???

VP8 Disappointment (1)

DaMattster (977781) | about 4 years ago | (#32716400)

I am a little disappointed in VP8 and it looks like it may not be the game changer that it was touted to be. It basically comes down to the fallacy of the software patent. It scares off innovation because people are afraid of being sued. It is my belief that patents were designed to protect tangible, mechanical or electrical engineering innovations not pieces of code which drive a machine. I fully believe in the philosophy behind patenting a mechanical engineering innovation. It seems like weekly we hear about the US PTO granting a software patent for something that really isn't an innovation. The patent laws of the United States are in desperate need of reform but, then again, so are the tax and financial laws. Software patents created a group of oligarchs called the MPEG-LA.
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