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MPEG LA Announces Permanent Royalty Moratorium For H264

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the free-samples dept.

Media 262

vistapwns writes "MPEG LA has announced that free h264 content (vs. paid h264 content which will still have royalties) will be royalty free forever. With ubiquitous h264 support on mobile devices, personal computers and all other types of media devices, this assures that h264 will remain the de facto standard for video playback for the foreseeable future."

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Paging lawyers (5, Insightful)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386010)

Is this one of those soft "pledges" that's not worth the paper it's written on, or is this something legally binding?

Re:Paging lawyers (-1, Troll)

not already in use (972294) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386138)

Is this one of those soft "pledges" that's not worth the paper it's written on, or is this something legally binding?

Yeah, you know, kinda like Java and the GPL?

Re:Paging lawyers (5, Informative)

John Whitley (6067) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386266)

Is this one of those soft "pledges" that's not worth the paper it's written on, or is this something legally binding?

Any attempt by the MPEG-LA to renege on this grant (a massive public announcement within this industry) would be blocked by Estoppel [wikipedia.org] (at least in legal systems which have that concept). Plus MPEG-LA has the additional deterrent that the backlash would be exactly what they're trying to avoid, only worse: it would promote market fear of H.264 for web use, forcing one of the format's competitors to rise to the forefront.

Re:Paging lawyers (2, Interesting)

Moryath (553296) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386448)

What does "free" mean?

Does a guy with a blog who occasionally posts a video of his cat acting stupid, and has a google ad just to try to defray a bit of the hosting costs, count as "for profit"?

Welcome to the land of weasel words. MPEG-LA has previously proven that their promises are worth less than the paper they were written on right before MPEG-LA wiped their asses with the aforementioned promises.

Re:Paging lawyers (3, Funny)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386520)

You lost me at "cat".

Where can I find this blog. Sounds like a riot.

Re:Paging lawyers (1)

duguk (589689) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386552)

You lost me at "cat".

Where can I find this blog. Sounds like a riot.

Maybe he meant this: http://www.simonscat.com/ [simonscat.com]

Re:Paging lawyers (4, Interesting)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386832)

MPEG-LA has been very clear publicly in an official capacity on numerous occasions that only charging *for the viewing of the video* constitutes a commercial broadcast.

As long as the customer doesn't "pay per view" you are in the clear. Ad supported... whatever. All fine.

Re:Paging lawyers (1)

Americano (920576) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386842)

According to TFA, it covers videos that are "free-to-view over the internet."

Sounds to me like, if I charge people to access my site - where they can then view videos of my cat acting stupid - that is not free to view. If I put it up on youtube, or vimeo, or my own site and don't erect a paywall in front of it, then it would be free-to-view, and thus not require royalties.

Re:Paging lawyers (2, Insightful)

Cley Faye (1123605) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386896)

I wonder how this "sounds to me like..." stuff works when lawyers get in the way...

Since IANAL either, I'm not sure about anything about this, so for some time h264 will remain off limits, at least until it's really made clear.

Re:Paging lawyers (1)

Stan Vassilev (939229) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386900)

Does a guy with a blog who occasionally posts a video of his cat acting stupid, and has a google ad just to try to defray a bit of the hosting costs, count as "for profit"?

The definitions I've read say that if end users have free access to the video, then it remains royalty free. Including if he has other products or ads on the site. If the guy wants to sell the video itself for, say $0.49 over PayPal, he may have to give a fraction of a cent to MPEG LA.

Re:Paging lawyers (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33386746)

"Any attempt by the MPEG-LA to renege on this grant (a massive public announcement within this industry) would be blocked by Estoppel"

This only means something if a potential defendant has the legal resources (read "money") to defend against a threatened lawsuit, rather than immediately caving.

"Plus MPEG-LA has the additional deterrent that the backlash would be exactly what they're trying to avoid, only worse: it would promote market fear of H.264 for web use, forcing one of the format's competitors to rise to the forefront."

First off, you're assuming that MPEG-LA will always act in a completely rational way. Corporate entities are not immune from making completely irrational decisions. If MPEG-LA wants to shoot themselves in the foot, that leaves everybody else scrambling to deal with the consequences.

Secondly, it's only an irrational move in the current business environment. Simply because it's a bad move now doesn't mean it wouldn't make more sense five years from now.

It may or may not be relevant to this case, but the first thing I thought of when I read this was Rambus. Even if MPEG-LA is acting magnanimous and benevolent at this instant, I still wouldn't want to get anywhere near this potential patent clusterfuck. You can work on preparing an adequate legal defense, I'll spend that time instead working to migrate to something less insidious.

Re:Paging lawyers (3, Insightful)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386864)

I imagine pulling this promise would result in a class action. Lawyers love juicy class actions against big industries and tend to take them on contingency.

Re:Paging lawyers (4, Interesting)

Crispy Critters (226798) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386854)

Estoppel can be a little more complicated than that. If they change their minds and take you to court, estoppel would be your defense. But to use it, you would have to argue that their reversal has harmed you; saying "my company spent a million dollars creating and distributing free videos describing our product" would be a way to win, but "I have 10 GB of videos of my cat on my home page" would not. Also, defense of estoppel might be blocked if the program which initially encoded the video wasn't properly licensed or if you engaged in some other behavior that would be considered bad faith. If it's really important, get a lawyer. Or use a completely unencumbered codec.

Re:Paging lawyers (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386462)

You seem to be assuming that their is a distinction between those two concepts. The only important factor here is how many lawyers each side can afford and how much money will be at stake.

Oh snap. (5, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386022)

Ok. Looks like Google wins this one. Basically, for ~100 million, was it, for On2, they get some tech that might possibly be interesting, and they get a bargaining chip that just made youtube immune to MPEG LA royalties.

Re:Oh snap. (4, Interesting)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386054)

unless google develops a better codec, which is probably why mpeg la decided to have a royalty moratorium.

Re:Oh snap. (1)

Mongoose Disciple (722373) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386088)

The way things have been going, it seems like it'd be more like: until Google buys a better codec.

They've made some cool stuff but I'm fearful that they're turning into a Yahoo! that can largely comes up with cool products by buying them.

Re:Oh snap. (4, Informative)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386144)

They havent been doing anything _but_ buing for the last years.
Nearly all things "Google XXXXX" besides search are external aqusitions.
Here for some quick reminders where google maps or picasa came from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_acquisitions_by_Google [wikipedia.org]

Re:Oh snap. (3, Insightful)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386446)

Google's smart enough to buy good matches for it's aims. Why reinvent the wheel? I'm not saying Google is a saint or anything, but they're hiring/buying the best and the brightest and recognizing new markets... better than Yahoo! when it passed on opportunities to improve search by buying Google and so on.

Re:Oh snap. (1)

Mongoose Disciple (722373) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386566)

There's nothing wrong with buying things that make sense, but I think we would question the long-term future of a tech company that could ONLY buy things.

Assuming the wikipedia link upthread is accurate, most of the cool things I thought Google actually invented, they bought.

Re:Oh snap. (2, Insightful)

vlueboy (1799360) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386546)

Ouch!

I never thought to look at how much the US business news mentioning them this year. A look at your Google list of acquisitions shows that have ballooned back to 2007 levels this year (between 14 and 16 mergers) and that they're not afraid to spend a billion or three for big fish like Youtube, Doubleclick and even 5% of AOL (ugh.)

So, I present Apple, [wikipedia.org] which is the other golden boy in the eyes of tech investors in this down market. Though it has decades more behind it, there's only about 37 transactions, in comparison with the 77 on the Google list. Google's long list is probably par for the course for giants like IBM, Intel and Microsoft's yearly acquisitions, but this being slashdot, please think of what "giants" and "par for the course" mean for Google's faltering "don't be evil" motto.

Once you have that many companies in your corporate bloodstream, your original identity starts to fade and your decisions are no longer yours --they're made in consultation with previously alien VP's who all had different directions prior to the merger. Scary times ahead.

Re:Oh snap. (2, Insightful)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386642)

Sometimes its cheaper to buy innovation than to do it yourself, depending on what you're innovating.

Re:Oh snap. (1)

phyrexianshaw.ca (1265320) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386796)

it often ends up cheaper to buy a company that has invested some time developing something and researching the patent protection they hold than trying to invent against them.

many times in google's history, a company comes along that has been doing exactly what an internal google team has been doing/planning at almost the same time. those companies get integrated with the existing team, and progress get's made.

google, unlike many companies, is happy to give out information. they go to great lengths to innovate.

Not just that (1)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386510)

Unless Google has some kind of undocumented power to plant "webm decoder chip" to billions of devices.

TV&Video&Movie territory is way more different than "web". They should have consulted or at least visited a professional/high end studio to see what kind of workflow they are dealing with.

"I am giving free, die you evil codec" doesn't really work. It is not mail.

Re:Oh snap. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33386714)

unless google develops a better codec

Oh, yes, you're right. If Google develops a better codec, THEN they will have lost.

Oh, wait...

Re:Oh snap. (1)

twotommylong (794494) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386098)

until they start charging for youtube views... (e.g. http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-10221501-93.html [cnet.com] )

Re:Oh snap. (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386214)

True enough. I suspect that, in such cases, Google will have to pay something(either in royalties or in extra bandwidth); but will be able to bargain with the MPEG LA in the following terms:

"We both know that h.264 is somewhat better than WebM. We can get equivalent quality for x% more bandwidth, which would cost roughly $y. I hope that your proposed fee is lower..."

Re:Oh snap. (2, Insightful)

cgenman (325138) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386164)

Does "free" count Ad-supported? Not everyone does, and that little problem (as there are ads everywhere) has caused such headaches.

Re:Oh snap. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33386328)

"Free to access" is the distinction. If a random internet user can see it without paying anyone for the privilege, then the streaming is royalty-free.

Still Requires Licensing! (5, Informative)

pavon (30274) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386228)

This announcement changes little. First, it is still uncertain whether videos served on pages will be required to pay royalties, so YouTube may very well still be required to pay royalties. More importantly, developers of H.264 encoders/decoders are still are required to pay patent licenses, regardless of whether they make money or not. This makes it impossible to have legal open source implementations of H.264 in the US anywhere that respects our patents. That is the complaint that Mozilla and Opera had against H.264 and so this minor licensing change will have no affect on the appropriateness of H.264 as an web standard.

Re:Still Requires Licensing! (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386254)

The second sentence should have been "served on pages with ads will be"

Re:Still Requires Licensing! (1)

BarryJacobsen (526926) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386584)

The second sentence should have been "served on pages with ads will be"

What is uncertain about "will continue not to charge royalties for Internet Video that is free to end users" - unless you're charging your users and still showing them ads then there are no royalties.

Re:Still Requires Licensing! (1)

Dwonis (52652) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386834)

It says nothing about software.

Re:Still Requires Licensing! (1)

iammani (1392285) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386778)

Then bundle them with adblock!

Ten cents a dance (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386674)

More importantly, developers of H.264 encoders/decoders are still are required to pay patent licenses, regardless of whether they make money or not. This makes it impossible to have legal open source implementations of H.264 in the US anywhere that respects our patents.

Canonical licenses H.264 for distribution to its OEM Ubuntu partners.

Explain to me how "open source" translates as "free-as-in-beer."

The fee is scarcely a back-breaker:

For branded encoder and decoder products sold on an OEM basis for incorporation into personal computers as part of a computer operating system, a legal entity may pay for its customers as follows: 0 - 100,000 units/year = no royalty (available to one legal entity in an affiliated group); US $0.20 per unit after first 100,000 units/year; above 5 million units/year, royalty = US $0.10 per unit. The maximum annual royalty ("cap") for an enterprise (commonly controlled legal entities) is $5 million a year in 2010. SUMMARY OF AVC/H.264 LICENSE TERMS [mpegla.com]

 

Re:Oh snap. (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386350)

Ok. Looks like Google wins this one. Basically, for ~100 million, was it, for On2, they get some tech that might possibly be interesting, and they get a bargaining chip that just made youtube immune to MPEG LA royalties.

The enterprise cap on H.264 royalties is $5 million a year. Bandwidth for YouTube - 75 billion video streams a year - costs $1 million a day. YouTube May Lose $470 Million In 2009 [multichannel.com]

Re:Oh snap. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33386352)

Yes, seeing as the maximum Google would end up paying MPEG LA in licensing is capped around $5m. Duuuur!

Re:Oh snap. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33386438)

Ok. Looks like Google wins this one. Basically, for ~100 million, was it, for On2, they get some tech that might possibly be interesting, and they get a bargaining chip that just made youtube immune to MPEG LA royalties.

Who cares about Google hosting services, they'd have the money to pay for their youtube services themselves anyway. I think this was more about integrating h264 into the browser, which they probably didn't want to pay the royalty for each copy for.

I think the bigger issue is the opensource distributions, like any modern linux distribution. GPL doesn't stop you from wanting payment for the software, or for example the media it's distributed on.

Re:Oh snap. (1)

Trufagus (1803250) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386916)

Not so fast. The whole thing is much more complicated then the summary makes it sound.

Speaking of which, why did Slashdot choose a summary that reads like a one-side press release? Look at this again "With ubiquitous h264 support on mobile devices, personal computers and all other types of media devices, this assures that h264 will remain the de facto standard for video playback for the foreseeable future."

So they got scared? (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386024)

Subject says it all.

Re:So they got scared? (1)

Calavar (1587721) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386062)

I'm guessing that yes, they did get scared: They dropped royalties on free videos so that VP8 wouldn't steal away all of their share of both the free _and_ the paid markets.

Re:So they got scared? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33386152)

I don't think so. These are the same terms they offered before, they just removed the time limit. And their pattern with the expiration of previous time limits has been to extend the time limit.

Finally? (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386050)

Now can Microsoft, Firefox and Opera finally add H.264 support to their browsers?

Re:Finally? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33386114)

Firefox won't be getting it. Their complete refusal to work with H.264, even refusing to allow the use of system codecs indicates that they'd rather create a browser for RMS than the general public.

Re:Finally? (4, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386166)

That isn't a specifically H.264-related policy: Firefox doesn't use system codecs for anything, because they want the exact same experience on all platforms. For example, they use internal image decoders, rather than relying on OS services like OSX's CoreImage. The downside is that therefore OSX on Firefox doesn't support everything that CoreImage does, unlike with WebKit, which just passes off to the system decoder. The upside is that the list of image formats Firefox supports doesn't vary by platform.

Re:Finally? (-1, Flamebait)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386304)

Firefox doesn't use system codecs for anything, because they want the exact same experience on all platforms

is that the exact same bad experience on all platforms?

Re:Finally? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33386890)

Walled garden.
Some people hate walls because they block the view.
Some people love walls because they block the view.

Re:Finally? (2)

Dynedain (141758) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386836)

The next downside is that Firefox has to waste time reinventing the wheel, and is a big reason why it's getting bloated. Apple and Microsoft have both spent a lot of time and money figuring out ways to offload things to hardware (especially graphics) through standardized APIs. The great thing about this is that if the abstraction layer improves, or if the underlying hardware improves (h.264 hardware decoding) the improvement is a net freebie for every program running on the system.

By going it alone, Mozilla loses out on the ability to capitalize on the OS vendor's work and has to reinvent all kinds of things best left to the window manager or lower layers. Granted, they're not the only ones doing this. I hate how Safari renders text on Windows.

Re:Finally? (3, Informative)

bersl2 (689221) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386200)

No, I think it's only for those who are distributing media in the format. Opera and Mozilla are still SOL if they don't want to pay to license the decoder. If that is the case, shame on the submitter for either not reading more closely or for being a tool.

Re:Finally? (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386222)

Isn't the license for the decoder based on number of products sold? Since Firefox and Opera are free to download, would the decoder fees still apply?

Yes, free software still has to pay. (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386570)

While the H.264 licensing summary [mpegla.com] might lead you to think otherwise, the MPEG-LA has made it clear [osnews.com] that licensing is based purely on the number of units, not the amount of money made, and is absolutely required for free software.

Re:Finally? (1)

ConfusedVorlon (657247) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386628)

opera makes quite a few paid variants. (set top boxes, smartphones, etc)
no idea if they support video at the moment, but I'm sure they will.

Re:Finally? (1)

WankersRevenge (452399) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386260)

Question ... why doesn't firefox just license the decoder? Don't they make millions of dollars? I mean ... where exactly is that money going?

Re:Finally? (4, Informative)

Confusador (1783468) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386434)

Just licensing the decoder wouldn't be enough. For code under an open source license you have to be able to sub-license to everyone who gets your code.

Re:Finally? (3, Informative)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386454)

They want to allow forks and redistributors to use their code without patent issues.

Re:Finally? (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386634)

Don't they make millions of dollars? I mean ... where exactly is that money going?

Developers, advertising, servers, bandwidth, electricity, etc.
Running a project that big ain't cheap.

Question ... why doesn't Firefox just license the decoder?

Wikipedia says Mozilla Corporation made $75 million dollars in 2007. There's a little download counter on the right side of the firefox.com page:

127,200,922 Firefox 3.6 downloads

That's a little over $0.58 per download.

Re:Finally? (1)

LUH 3418 (1429407) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386264)

Distributing free content is free, but, unless I'm mistaken, that doesn't mean it's free to ship products that implement the codec.

Re:Finally? (2, Informative)

FunPika (1551249) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386414)

Not unless they also stop charging fees for merely implementing the codec into a browser...because even if Mozilla pays the fairly large fee it won't cover anyone distributing it downstream (Linux Distros). That would mean that MPEG LA would be able to sue the creators of any Linux distribution that includes Firefox without paying MPEG LA.

Royalty Free Forever... (1)

IICV (652597) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386052)

I'm sure what they mean to say is "it'll be royalty free forever or until we change our minds, whichever comes first".

Public statements might have legal weight (2, Interesting)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386160)

IANAL, but when you make a well documented public claim, I think that claim can be presented to a judge in court, and may have the weight of a contract or license. In any case, there must be an actual written license which will go along with this claim, and whatever that license says, would have weight in court.

Re:Royalty Free Forever... (2, Insightful)

node 3 (115640) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386174)

Let the fear-mongering commence!

Re:Royalty Free Forever... (1)

IICV (652597) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386218)

Honestly, in this case, fear mongering is better than just taking it - I mean, it's nearly impossible to make a home video without creating something that MPEG LA thinks you should pay them for.

Re:Royalty Free Forever... (1)

node 3 (115640) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386332)

Honestly, in this case, fear mongering is better than just taking it - I mean, it's nearly impossible to make a home video without creating something that MPEG LA thinks you should pay them for.

This story demonstrates the exact opposite of your assertion.

Re:Royalty Free Forever... (2, Informative)

BarryJacobsen (526926) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386636)

Honestly, in this case, fear mongering is better than just taking it - I mean, it's nearly impossible to make a home video without creating something that MPEG LA thinks you should pay them for.

This story demonstrates the exact opposite of your assertion.

The license to create is different from the license to allow the viewing of what was created.

Re:Royalty Free Forever... (4, Informative)

IICV (652597) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386656)

No, they're saying they won't charge you for it. They haven't relented on their basic position.

This is like Microsoft saying "If you save a document in the Word format, we own a bit of it and you owe us money if you distribute it widely enough".

Then people say "Um that's stupid, I'm not paying you money for something I made incidentally using your technology"

Then (and this is where we are now) Microsoft comes back and says "Well okay, you won't have to pay us for it as only as you're not making money off of the document, but we still own a bit of the document."

The important part here isn't the royalty charge, it's the initial claim that they can charge a royalty to the end user in the first place. They haven't relinquished that position at all, they've just said "we can do it, but we're nice so we won't".

Excludes any comercial interests. Bad Summary-- (5, Insightful)

LordFolken (731855) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386056)

Comerical usage will still be subject to royalities. This is basically to get the people hooked on h264 so that streaming sites in the future need to pay roaylities. This is a common problem with "defacto" standards.

Re:Excludes any comercial interests. Bad Summary-- (2, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386150)

H.264 is a pretty standard standard, with all kinds of documentation and mutually interoperable implementations and stuff. It's just that it is patented to hell and back and even "RaND" licensing can strangle OSS implementations in patent-enforcing jurisdictions.

It is basically the complete opposite of a lot of the de-facto standards, where there are no patents of any real note because the "standard" is just some horrible set of hacks thrown together by a single company using standard CS techniques; but there is only one actually conformant implementation, and serious complexity obstacles in the way of 3rd parties.

Don't forget hardware too (2, Interesting)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386450)

h264 and mpeg SP are in virtually every satellite box/smart phone and even dumb phone (e.g. Nokia S40, SE non smart stuff). It must be well over billion installed territory.

What kind of plan exist to have these devices support WebM? Will Google do it? For example, they simply ignored a 32bit/64bit processor architecture from their -once- partner while releasing Chrome. Yes, I talk about PowerPC. It isn't really 80286 running MS-DOS you know.

Lets also talk about TV World where, you _must have_ something, a huge plus to have something replaced by newer one. It is not "trendy developers abandoning older devices" area. TV business has happily run with PAL/NTSC standard/variants for decades until "HDTV" came along. It was the day when MPEG/H264 showed millions/billions of dollars in savings thanks to great compression without noticeable loss of quality.

H264 is still at "growing" phase and as some companies/academics/organizations spent billions of dollars while creating it, sorry gmail users, they will want to go even at least.

Re:Excludes any comercial interests. Bad Summary-- (1)

node 3 (115640) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386162)

If you're making money you should be paying for the tools you use. This isn't some nefarious trick, it's honest business. I don't see how this is a problem at all, unless the royalties were absurd (which they aren't).

Re:Excludes any comercial interests. Bad Summary-- (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386262)

paying for the tools you use

How about if you encode using, say, x264? The tool is free, but you'd still have to pay the MPEG-LA for... well, owning some specific variants of some algorithms.

Funny thing is (1)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386370)

I know one company who are in professional video business does use x264 (donated too) and ffmpeg (again, donated) but they keep licensing h264 commercially to stay on "lawyer happy" legal grounds. Are they big fan of open source? No but ffmpeg and x264 scales amazingly well in their server farm and can be scripted.

BTW; I really think different about WebM and H264 (patents) and it is completely unrealistic to "give up h264" but I got my lesson here a while back. So, not going into it. I just say, I keep wondering why people treat to Google like FSF or even BSD which they aren't.

Re:Excludes any comercial interests. Bad Summary-- (1)

node 3 (115640) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386388)

paying for the tools you use

How about if you encode using, say, x264? The tool is free, but you'd still have to pay the MPEG-LA for... well, owning some specific variants of some algorithms.

Most people already have an h.264 license. However, if you use x264 and don't have an h.264 license (pretty much impossible these days unless you run Linux), then yes, you probably owe them like a dollar or something. But they aren't going to go after you for this.

And this still falls under the category of paying for the tools you use. I don't see why there's anything wrong with that. This is especially true if you make money using those tools.

Re:Excludes any comercial interests. Bad Summary-- (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33386702)

Most people already have an h.264 license. However, if you use x264 and don't have an h.264 license (pretty much impossible these days unless you run Linux), then yes, you probably owe them like a dollar or something. But they aren't going to go after you for this.

A licence only entitles you to use the licenced implementation. Having a licence to use one implementation doesn't magically entitle you to use any implementation.

And this still falls under the category of paying for the tools you use. I don't see why there's anything wrong with that. This is especially true if you make money using those tools.

The only category that matters here is whether or not a particular video format is compatible with the web. To be considered part of the web the video format must be open and royalty-free for all use cases. That's something that H.264 isn't and won't be until it really is open and royalty-free for all use cases.

Ultimately the discussion isn't very interesting. Open video has won out over closed video on the web. Open video is currently supported in all browsers (some already released, some still in development) either natively or via system codecs. The world's largest video site (YouTube) is in the process of making all of its videos available in an open format. It's game over for closed video on the web. All we're doing now is watching open video steadily displace closed video.

Re:Excludes any comercial interests. Bad Summary-- (1)

dave420 (699308) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386512)

You'd still have to pay MPEG-LA for the work done by the companies they represent, which the writers of x264 ripped off. If the x264 guys came up with their codec completely independently from h.264, with no knowledge of the codec, then you'd have a point. But they didn't. The creators of h.264 spent millions of $CURRENCY developing those "some algorithms" you speak of. It's not exactly strange to imagine they'd like some compensation for their work.

Re:Excludes any comercial interests. Bad Summary-- (2, Insightful)

raynet (51803) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386750)

This all assuming ofcourse that a) those patents are valid and b) you live in a country which allows software patents.

Re:Excludes any comercial interests. Bad Summary-- (4, Informative)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386308)

If you're making money you should be paying for the tools you use. This isn't some nefarious trick, it's honest business. I don't see how this is a problem at all, unless the royalties were absurd (which they aren't).

Except when those tools are 'open'. Then you can use them and not pay for them, provided you keep them 'open'. It's a mutual benefit scenario...

Re:Excludes any comercial interests. Bad Summary-- (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33386554)

If you're making money you should be paying for the tools you use.

That makes sense until you get into the case where you write/create your own tools. Then patents make it so that you have to pay someone else for your own work.

Willingness to pay (1)

sjbe (173966) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386654)

If you're making money you should be paying for the tools you use.

I don't think anyone is seriously debating that. (well, some are but mostly not the people actually making money) But you're missing the important question which is "how much are those tools worth"? I can think of lots of tools where the asking price is more than I'm willing to pay. I can also think of tools where I'd be willing to pay more than is being asked. It is also honest business to negotiate the amount you are willing to pay for a technology. Just because someone asks a price doesn't mean I am being unethical in offering a lower price in return. What you regard as a low price might very well be an absurd price to me. There is no way for you to know how much something is worth to me unless I tell you.

It might be that any price higher than free is higher than people's willingness to pay. We are after all talking about technology (software) which can be replicated for a marginal cost of approximately zero and which is used primarily for entertainment purposes. That doesn't mean the creators aren't entitled to ask for whatever they like but we're all well aware that most costs to them have already been incurred. I think Youtube is nifty and all but would I pay to use the technology? Not for many personal uses I can think of. It's a non-essential technology for me so my willingness to pay any sort of royalties (directly or indirectly) is low to begin with. (I don't subscribe to cable tv for instance because the cost is too high for the amount of utility I get from it) Saying you should pay for tools you use is fine but you HAVE to follow up with how much? If the price is too high you won't be making money anymore.

Re:Excludes any comercial interests. Bad Summary-- (5, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386270)

It's a little broader: it appears to allow any "free-to-view" internet video to use the codecs royalty-free, even if that video is being used to make money through e.g. ads. It does exclude video where users are paying to watch it, like Hulu.

From the license summary [pdf] [mpegla.com] , which hasn't yet been updated to indicate the indefinite moratorium:

In the case of Internet broadcast (AVC video that is delivered via the Worldwide Internet to an end user for which the End User does not pay remuneration for the right to receive or view, i.e., neither title-by-title nor subscription), there will be no royalty during the first term of the License (ending December 31, 2010) and the following term (ending December 31, 2015), after which the royalty shall be no more than the economic equivalent of the royalties payable during the same time for free television.

Commercial usage, even without charging end users, off the internet, e.g. with free television broadcasts, still requires royalties.

Re:Excludes any comercial interests. Bad Summary-- (1)

n8_f (85799) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386672)

I think you meant to say "Hulu Plus" rather than "Hulu".

Re:Excludes any comercial interests. Bad Summary-- (1)

tsm_sf (545316) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386436)

I'm not really sure how applicable my example will be to this situation, but when the gif patent issue was relevant most of the people working with the format just worked around the problem. It was a pain in the ass, but so were a lot of other things.

How does that line go? "The great thing about standards is that there are so many of them" or something. If licensing the proprietary standard ends up costing more than the bandwidth/time it saves, I can't see it being a very popular choice.

Re:Excludes any comercial interests. Bad Summary-- (1)

martinX (672498) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386572)

But wait, there's more: "there is no royalty for a title 12 minutes or less".

The biggest hassle isn't that it's "free for some" but it's knowing who the "some" is.

you have used "de facto" wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33386638)

De facto means basically an ad hoc standard which is the standard is as it is, instead of being defined. That is not the issue here, and not just because WebM is only defined by an implementation right now (the spec for VP8 was never written).

The alternative to de facto is de jure, which means by law. Essentially this means it is declared. H.264 is a declared standard.

I don't know what you meant to say by "defacto". Just that it isn't fully gratis?

Re:Excludes any comercial interests. Bad Summary-- (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386838)

So you're saying that they're licensing h264 for free now, only to pull the rug out from under implementors and re-instate the license at some future date? Sounds pretty far-fetched.

Not sure if this is good news or bad news (3, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386066)

Having a free-as-in-beer-for-the-data-consumer-user-and-hobbyist-data-creator is a good thing.

Removing an incentive to support alternative codecs including unencumbered ones, not so much.

Re:Not sure if this is good news or bad news (1)

node 3 (115640) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386398)

Translation:

In practical terms, it's good news. In ideological terms, it's bad news.

Good news for me (0)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386588)

All my devices support h264 on hardware and I don't have a single bit tendency to upgrade a working device just because some ideological organization has unrealistic plans to go patent free without doing any real life/hard work.

I believe Google really means something when they release a "WebM" player, accelerated/asm one to all the competitor platforms to Android. Just like I started to take MS Silverlight a bit serious when they released the first mobile beta on Symbian, their competitor.

"We have done it, now use it" doesn't really work for an advanced video codec. I am not living in Google's dream world where everyone moves to android/gmail/youtube and has 14 pictures of them to let Google spy on them.

Probably to save THEM money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33386080)

Can you imagine the amount of paperwork and people hours to license every free POS on the internet? Problem solved.

You don't say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33386120)

I'm going to go with Admiral Ackbar on this one and assume that it's a trap.

There's more a couple of comments... (2, Informative)

vistapwns (1103935) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386136)

saying that MPEG LA will change it's mind, but my understanding from someone knowledgeable about this subject on arstechnica is that it would be illegal for them to do so, so this is the real deal it seems. I think this will be a very good thing for everyone and the web in general.

Re:There's more a couple of comments... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33386406)

I think this will be a very good thing for everyone and the web in general.

No, H.264 is still bad for the web. Nothing has changed. All they've announced is that they will keep doing what they have been doing. Exactly the same problems remain. Open video is the way forward for the web. Many videos on YouTube for example are already available in WebM and eventually all videos will be.

Pirating n00b here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33386186)

What's the difference between x264 and H264?

Re:Pirating n00b here... (5, Informative)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386252)

H.264 is the name of the standard.

x264 is a free software library for encoding video streams into the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC format.

Re:Pirating n00b here... (1)

19thNervousBreakdown (768619) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386282)

The first is an encoder/decoder, the second (H.264, note the dot) is a format.

Re:Pirating n00b here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33386422)

x264 is a software h.264 encoder. H264 is a misnomer.

Bad article title, bad summary (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33386346)

The MPEG LA hasn't announced a "permanent royalty moratorium for H.264" at all. They've announced that they will not collect royalties for one particular use case. You still need to pay royalties for the encoder. You still need to pay royalties for the decoder. You still need to pay royalties for streaming commercial video. Since the MPEG LA wasn't yet collecting royalties on video streamed for free nothing has changed here. Recognise this for what it is: the usage of open, royalty-free video is rising on the web and the MPEG LA is worried about that. I don't have Flash installed anymore because increasingly I don't need it. I only ever used it for web video and these days I watch all web video in Ogg Theora or WebM natively in my browser.

What's the appropriate pop culture reference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33386408)

I'm trying to decide what the appropriate pop culture reference will be for when they inevitably change their mind and start charging if/when WebM is killed. Admiral Ackbar is a true classic, but "It's a trap!" is more of a warning to prevent people from falling for it. I'm thinking Dark Helmet's "Fooled you!" would be a better, if obscure fit.

I hope they're too late. (1)

migla (1099771) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386428)

Unless I misunderstand (which sure is possible), us freewheeling schmoes using this shit will not have much chance suddenly makinhg a business out of our hobby of some sort of streaming video shit. Gotta keep the have-nots out of the haveses pockets!?

It's the ISO/IEC standard, not de facto (2, Informative)

gig (78408) | more than 3 years ago | (#33386888)

I know many Slashdotters have backgrounds in the PC industry, which does not have a history of respecting standards but rather prefers ad hoc monopolies, but audio video has been ISO-standardized for 20 years in consumer electronics and H.264 is part of the latest generation of that and it is already 8 years old itself. It is your responsibility if you publish video to publish in the ISO/IEC standard. The PC industry is being absorbed by CE, but H.264 is not some interloping monopolist, it's a real honest-to-goodness vendor-neutral open standard.

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