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The Looming Video Codec Fight

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the battle-for-mpeg-la dept.

Google 235

itwbennett writes "With both Apple and Microsoft promoting HTML5 standards, you'd think that there would be joy in software freedom land. But instead there's another fight brewing. 'While it is true that HTML5 video is a step in the right direction, we also have to take into consideration the underlying codecs used to deliver the video content,' says blogger Brian Proffitt. The problem, says Proffitt, is that Microsoft and Apple's browsers will be supporting only the proprietary H.264 video codec by default. But Google supports only the WebM (VP8) and Ogg Theora codecs. 'So, basically, if Ogg Theora content starts making a dent in Apple and Microsoft's bottom line, or that of the MPEG LA's, then expect to see a lawsuit or two headed Google's way after 2015,' concludes Proffitt."

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235 comments

Or we could just fix patents and be done with it. (4, Informative)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497224)

Seriously, MPEG LA is going to create a new pool to try and kill WebM, I'm sure they're already working on it. The question is whether or not we're going to let a bunch of patent trolls control future development of the web. Standardizing around a standard that requires licensing fees is the wrong way to go.

Re:Or we could just fix patents and be done with i (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37497322)

They certainly make a lot of noise of how they are forming it and how patent holders have been identified. About a press release every three months, and no concrete facts. The pool has been textbook FUD so far.

Re:Or we could just fix patents and be done with i (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497602)

And, hopefully FUD is what it will remain. But, as long as they're unwilling to sign over royalty free use for the h.264 pool, then we need to be using something else. It's not acceptable, IMHO, for standards like this to be pay for play.

Re:Or we could just fix patents and be done with i (0)

Salvo (8037) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497598)

The Patent Pool isn't to kill WebM, it is to protect those who choose to use WebM from litigation.

Maybe if Apple, Microsoft and Google provided a similar Patent Pool to their mobile developers, for a nominal fee, we wouldn't see all these Patent Trolls. A licence to a patent pool is better than paying Protection Money to a dozen different extortionists.

Re:Or we could just fix patents and be done with i (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497632)

Kill WebM, extort money for using WebM, it goes the same way ultimately. As long as people are required to pay for the use of the codec, it can't be in Firefox or any other free browser without somebody infringing on the patent. Which is the problem.

I was referring to the patent pool that MPEG LA was trying to put together, although in retrospect that was probably not at all clear.

Re:Or we could just fix patents and be done with i (1)

node 3 (115640) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498770)

As long as people are required to pay for the use of the codec, it can't be in Firefox or any other free browser without somebody infringing on the patent.

Firefox can use patented codecs (like H.264 and WebM) just fine. You mentioned FUD before, but what exactly do you call your false claims?

Re:Or we could just fix patents and be done with i (4, Informative)

sg_oneill (159032) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498688)

Have you any idea how these pirates work? MPEG-LA is not a charity, its a business with an extremely predatory model. Collect patents together and then try and collect rent from developers.

If WebM needs protection, google will protect it. Nobody is asking MPEG-:LA to pool patents to sieze licencing rights to something they didnt invent (They didn't invent ANYTHING they licence out by the way, MPEG-LA is not MPEG. They just exploit the fact you cant trademark acronyms).

Patent pools are incompatible with free/open source. If someone forces mozilla to licence a patent, guess what only mozilla can use that code and its not free software no more. If parents cover webkit, its not free software no more.

We might well end up with a scenario that the only browsers distributable with linux are those without video.

A world without firefox, VLC , and so on is a world without free access to user created content, and that ultimately is a spike in the heart of free speech.

Re:Or we could just fix patents and be done with i (-1, Troll)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 2 years ago | (#37499036)

Patent pools are incompatible with free/open source.

I'm sorry, thats flat out false is most ways.

It has nothing at all to do with 'open', well if it does, its only in that the MPEG-LA license is pretty much the definition of open license. It also has nothing at all to do with 'Free as in speech', it does however have something to do with 'free as in beer'. The open part may not be what you define open as, but it fits pretty accurately for everyone not part of the RMS cult.

If someone forces mozilla to licence a patent, guess what only mozilla can use that code and its not free software no more.

Completely untrue. You can do whatever you'd like with the source, as long as you hold a patent license. You're required to license the software from Mozilla, but you think its different because you would also be required to hold another license ... for the technology that Mozilla uses?

Why is it that its okay for Mozilla to have restrictions on their code and require conditions of a license to be met, but its not for MPEG-LA?

You're just upset you won't be able to get someone elses work for free, nothing more.

They didn't invent ANYTHING they licence out by the way, MPEG-LA is not MPEG.

MPEG-LA represents the combined companies who invented the technologies in the codec. Instead of having to deal with 900 companies to license it, you deal with one. Which is ... almost exactly like the function Mozilla holds for its contributors. Much of Mozilla is code they didn't create, but redistribute on behalf of the creators. Its the same thing.

We might well end up with a scenario that the only browsers distributable with linux are those without video.

I'm sorry your OS sucks, but out of the top 3, yours is the only one that can't effectively deal with the situation in a clean way. In both Windows and OS X, Firefox could simply support video supplied by the OS codecs, and no one would have a problem.

Instead, in typical OSS fashion, Firefox uses no system wide systems anywhere it can avoid it, so you don't really get to take advantage of built in codecs.

Unfortunately for you, OS X and Windows support this facility ( and have for years ), pretty much everyone running one of Windows has at least one h264 codec already installed for some other random app anyway (lets face it, the licenses are dirt cheap, so lots of apps include it already), OS X of course has a license built in. Safari and IE are happy to use the system wide codec system, I presume Chrome does as well on Windows as it never gives me any problems.

So basically it'll just be Linux and Firefox users without video.

If you want to 'take the moral high ground' to the extreme, then you just have to recognize that there are going to be plenty of times when you don't get your way because no one else cares about your irrational response to what you perceive as a problem in the natural order of things.

A world without firefox, VLC , and so on is a world without free access to user created content, and that ultimately is a spike in the heart of free speech.

Really? I seem to remember free speech and user created content before GNU, GPL and Netscape existed, let alone Mozilla or VLC.

You're pretty delusional. No one is ever going to take you seriously with those kind of theatrics.

You're acting like Al Gore.

Re:Or we could just fix patents and be done with i (3, Insightful)

visualight (468005) | more than 2 years ago | (#37499082)

If you want to 'take the moral high ground' to the extreme, then you just have to recognize that there are going to be plenty of times when you don't get your way because no one else cares about your irrational response to what you perceive as a problem in the natural order of things.

This will not be one of those times. Also, you're wrong about everything else, particularly your attempts to redefine open and paint anyone who disagrees with you as a cult member. You're delusional if you think you're litany changes the fact that software patents are the opposite of open.

Re:Or we could just fix patents and be done with i (4, Informative)

a_n_d_e_r_s (136412) | more than 2 years ago | (#37499146)

|| Patent pools are incompatible with free/open source.

|I'm sorry, thats flat out false is most ways.

Actually its very true.

You, mine friend, need to learn how patent pools work and how it stops anyone from freely distribute the code using GPL.

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/stallman-mec-india.html [gnu.org]

Given that GPL is the most used license for open source software - patent pools are very bad.

Re:Or we could just fix patents and be done with i (2)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#37499148)

It has nothing at all to do with 'open', well if it does, its only in that the MPEG-LA license is pretty much the definition of open license. It also has nothing at all to do with 'Free as in speech', it does however have something to do with 'free as in beer'. The open part may not be what you define open as, but it fits pretty accurately for everyone not part of the RMS cult.

I don't know where you get this impression, as the MPEG-LA isn't really even "free as in beer".... or at least you need to check their licenses out a little better before you make such statements.

The problem is that the royalties are sent downstream, and represent barriers to entry in the form that developers of products have a minimum price they must sell software or devices simply due to how the licensing scheme is set up. It is also a protection racket where content authors or even patent holders (in the case of MPEG-LA royalties) almost never get anything from the money collected. Most of it goes into the overhead of simply operating the MPEG-LA.

If you are selling a high-end audio editing software suite or a commercial MP3 player, the royalty payments for the MPEG-LA really are inconsequential.... but they aren't free.

Most significantly, their licensing terms are completely incompatible with something like an "open source" software project, particularly with the GPL. It isn't so much that the GPL or "open source" licenses are explicitly prohibited, but that the royalty collection system simply isn't in place for that kind of software or product. Even building an MP3 player or a hand-held computer with video playback with an Arduino home-brew kit where you publish the source code and schematics is incompatible with anything under the terms of the MPEG-LA.

Simply put, you can't call that an "open license" other than it doesn't discriminate against multi-national companies wishing to produce commercial products using formats claimed under licenses offered by the MPEG-LA. They are no different than ASCAP, but then again I'm not a big fan of that organization either.

Re:Or we could just fix patents and be done with i (4, Insightful)

EdZ (755139) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497650)

a standard that requires licensing fees

Only in the US. In places where software patents are a load of hogwash (e.g. europe) h.264 and VP8 are equally open.

Re:Or we could just fix patents and be done with i (1)

Riceballsan (816702) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497702)

Which works great, as long as you have no intention of ever releasing your website or program on a international level.

Re:Or we could just fix patents and be done with i (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497894)

Except for the fact that there are already websites and programs that are international that use patented software but don't pay royalties?

Re:Or we could just fix patents and be done with i (0)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498028)

What are you talking about? Software patents are fully legal in Europe:
http://www.eweekeurope.co.uk/news/german-court-declares-software-patents-legal-7211 [eweekeurope.co.uk]

Re:Or we could just fix patents and be done with i (2)

Meneth (872868) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498186)

That's only Germany, and the final legality of that declaration is still unclear.

The European Patent Convention clearly excludes computer programs from patentability, as seen in Article 52 (2) c [epo.org].

However, the European Patent Office has flatly ignored this paragraph, and granted many software patents.

The debate continues.

Re:Or we could just fix patents and be done with i (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498262)

Hmm... that sounds like the US: having a law on the books but blatantly ignoring it.

Re:Or we could just fix patents and be done with i (1)

Caesar Tjalbo (1010523) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498228)

a standard that requires licensing fees

Only in the US. In places where software patents are a load of hogwash (e.g. europe) h.264 and VP8 are equally open.

You're still paying for it when you purchase a gadget with the codec.

Re:Or we could just fix patents and be done with i (1)

warrigal (780670) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498556)

Is anybody behind these "free" codecs willing to indemnify the implementers against submarine patents that surface once the codecs gain enough market-share to be worth litigation? There's no way anyone can know if Ogg, Theora, WebM etc are not infringing (or can be alledged to infringing) somebody's IP until it's tested in court. And even then... I note that Apple has been to bat for its developers against patent trolls. Anyone else?

Firefox (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37497238)

Why is there no mention of Firefox? Are they assuming that Mozilla is being stupid enough to kill itself before Firefox hits version 87 (approximately 1 year from now)

Re:Firefox (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497282)

TFA does mention Firefox

"But Google (even though it's still listed as a licensee of H.264, right alongside Apple and Microsoft) has opted to avoid the 2016 problem altogether and support only the WebM (VP8) and Ogg Theora codecs, dropping support for H.264. Mozilla has opted for the same codecs for its Firefox browser."

Re:Firefox (1)

Baseclass (785652) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497580)

I'm OK with this, let the best browsers win.
Also, there will be plugins/hacks available in no time, officially supported or otherwise.

So what about Konqueror?

You forgot - MS wants to eliminate plugins.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37497788)

You forgot - MS wants to eliminate plugins in Windows 8.

No plugins, then no plugin for open codecs.

Re:You forgot - MS wants to eliminate plugins.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37498136)

I don't suspect that the lack of plugins will bode well for IE's market share.

Re:Firefox (2)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498476)

Are they assuming that Mozilla is being stupid enough to kill itself before Firefox hits version 87 (approximately 1 year from now)

I look forward to that. Then when I'm using Firefox 87, and I see someone using IE9 or IE10 (if it's out then), I can tell them they should use Firefox 87 instead. When they ask what's better about it, I can tell them "IE only goes up to 10. Firefox goes up to 87!".

FFMPEG To The Rescue (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37497242)

Seriously, who gives a shit? Patents are for lawyers. FFMPEG will play just about anything.

Re:FFMPEG To The Rescue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37497382)

Absolutely! Browsers should just use libavcodec.

Re:FFMPEG To The Rescue (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497662)

FFMPEG, which works until folks get sued for infringing the patent. It doesn't really matter who is doing the infringing ultimately, if you're having to either infringe or pay a fee to use a standard. For years the main headache I had from running FreeBSD as my primary desktop was no Flash, which meant no Youtube and same for dozens of other poorly designed sites.

Which is the way that this is likely to end up.

Re:FFMPEG To The Rescue (1)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497690)

Seriously, who gives a shit? Patents are for lawyers. FFMPEG will play just about anything.

That is not a rescue. If you are using FFMPEG you can be sued for patent violations.

Re:FFMPEG To The Rescue (1)

nzac (1822298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37499038)

Only if the patient are valid in your country, which i'm fairly sure is not here.
Don't know about exporting the finished product back to US though but no ones going to extradite over that.

Re:FFMPEG To The Rescue (1, Informative)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#37499170)

Only if the patient are valid in your country, which i'm fairly sure is not here.
Don't know about exporting the finished product back to US though but no ones going to extradite over that.

Which implies that any engineering, design work, or for that matter manufacturing can't happen in America without paying off this protection racket. Yeah, that really helps promote a competitive "free market". And people wonder why manufacturing companies are leaving America?

Re:FFMPEG To The Rescue (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 2 years ago | (#37499210)

That is not a rescue. If you are using FFMPEG you can be sued for patent violations.

Bullshit. You can't get sued for USING ffmpeg. That's not how the law works. You can get sued for DISTRIBUTING it in the without a proper license in areas in which the software patents are in effect, but that's a completely different thing.

Since when? (3, Informative)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497262)

But Google supports only the WebM (VP8) and Ogg Theora codecs.

Wrong. It still plays HTML5 video that is H.264.

Re:Since when? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37497380)

Last I heard they removed that capability in January (and Microsoft swiftly released a Chrome plugin to put it back, on Chrome for Windows). Are you saying they backed off the position?

I'm currently on Windows so I can't verify for sure since Chrome on Windows has H.264 in the same sense that IE9 has WebM.

Re:Since when? (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497420)

No, last January they said they were planning to drop it. But, no, they haven't done so. I just tested it by playing an H.264 video in an HTML5 player.

Re:Since when? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497688)

They haven't finished converting the videos. Last I heard, they hadn't managed to ad advertising to their WebM selection. But, I can attest to the fact that there are plenty of WebM videos on Youtube, they just haven't gotten around to converting the whole site.

Re:Since when? (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497868)

Even still they won't drop H.264 then unless they are planning to fuck over people using the youtube app that gets streamed H.264 video due to the hardware accelerated playback. And I wasn't talking about Youtube when I was playing the video, anyway. The whole H.264 thing with Google is mostly posturing anyway otherwise they would have dropped it in Chrome months ago.

Re:Since when? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497962)

I'm not so sure, Google has to pay a licensing fee for the codecs that handle the encoding and decoding process. Also, didn't they dump the codec only to have MS provide a workaround on Windows computers?

Re:Since when? (2)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498034)

I'm not so sure, Google has to pay a licensing fee for the codecs that handle the encoding and decoding process.

Yeah, at max they will pay a "whopping" $6.5 million a year which is less than a fraction of 1% of their yearly revenue. Secondly, mobile devices do not have hardware acceleration for WebM and there are no future models that list that as something to be included so are they going to force people to use a software decoder and draing their battery many times faster? Doubtful.

Also, didn't they dump the codec only to have MS provide a workaround on Windows computers?

No, they didn't dump it as I already said. Microsoft was goign to release an extension or something for Chrome if they had dropped it to provide H.264 support but I have no such thing installed. Just go to the HTML5 test and you can see that Chrome still lists H.264 support. Also go: here [vorwaerts-gmbh.de] which is an HTML5 video in H.264 which plays just fine even in the most up-to-date dev version of Chrome.

Re:Since when? (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498088)

Oh and if you still don't believe me that Google isn't dropping H.264 here [webmonkey.com]:

A Google Spokesperson tells Webmonkey that the announcement is related to "Chrome only and does not affect Android or YouTube."

H.264 is still going to live on.

Re:Since when? (4, Informative)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497990)

But Google supports only the WebM (VP8) and Ogg Theora codecs.

Wrong. It still plays HTML5 video that is H.264.

Spot on - they only announced the intention to remove it; however H.264 HTML5 video still plays just fine in Chrome.

Additionally, they're only removing it from the desktop Chrome browser - not Android. When asked about H.264 support in Android, they specifically drew a (rather artificial IMHO) distinction between the desktop and mobile platforms.

Re:Since when? (2)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498098)

Yep, they were just posturing which is why if they were really going to do it they would have already done it by now. Google was just trying to use the whole WebM vs H.264 thing to push Google TV and all that but when that fell through it's amazing how we heard no more news about H.264 support being dropped.

Re:Since when? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37498212)

That distinction isn't artificial. Mobile chipsets don't decode vp8 or theora in hardware and that's that. It will take quite a while before any HW implementation of these codecs actually make any way inroads so dropping h264 becomes a viable option.

Bring it on (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37497308)

Personally, I say bring it. If indeed WebM and/or Ogg Theora are in violation then they need to fix the violation or get out of the video business. The whole premise that this is wrong is based on the notion that patents on software is wrong which is idiotic IMHO.

Re:Bring it on (3, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497386)

Personally, I say bring it. If indeed WebM and/or Ogg Theora are in violation then they need to fix the violation or get out of the video business. The whole premise that this is wrong is based on the notion that patents on software is wrong which is idiotic IMHO.

You'll need to explain that in more detail. Most people that I know who are in the software industry (myself included) take a diametrically-opposed view of software patents.

Furthermore, even if (and it's a big 'if') software patents have any real benefit to anyone but anti-competitive corporate sociopaths such as Apple Computer, the way the law and the United States Patent Office are handling them is an abomination. Inventions are an expression of an idea: patenting the expression is one thing ... patenting the mere idea is another, and that is very wrong.

Re:Bring it on (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498544)

A video codec is about as close to the expression of an idea as you get get without limiting patents to actual machines (and I just have to switch around a gear or something to make my expression different than yours).

Stupid software patents like CSS tricks and one click are bad, but they're bad because they're obvious or trivial, things that are already not supposed to be patentable. Clever, nontrivial or obvious algorithms themselves should be patentable just like a clever chemical process or mechanical process should be patentable. Video codecs fall into the latter category.

Re:Bring it on (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#37499192)

Perhaps you might be correct here.... so far as the ideas expressed in a patentable video codec would need to be rather narrow in definition where the patent really only covers the specific approach used with a particular codec.

Sadly, particularly with software patents, they are typically interpreted very broadly where you are being held liable for infringement merely because you wrote a single line of code.... in whatever language you are writing that software.

If you could write some software completely from scratch without having seen the work of somebody else, I don't think you should even be capable of infringing somebody's patent. Sadly, I think most programmers at the moment unintentionally violate several patents, often on a daily basis, merely because they can't constantly search the USPTO website to make sure they aren't infringing on somebody's patent. Where is the justice in that?

Re:Bring it on (1)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 2 years ago | (#37499108)

Absolutely. I own a software and hardware dev company. We are firmly opossed to software patents. I find the idea laughable. I know competition will try to implement the features I include, and I'll do the same. That drives innovation, and helps create both formal and ad-hoc standards. Whenever I include a feature that noone has included before, I try to make as complete as possible, and we start working on an update right on release date, knowing I still have to compete We don't own a single patent, and we develop both proprietary and GPL products. We have earned a nice marketshare playing fair, we give our customers free updates for life, and we free most of our code. If you want to play fair, you don't need no stinking patents.

Re:Bring it on (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497700)

Patents on software is one thing, patents on standards is quite another thing. It's completely unacceptable for a standard to require a party to license the patent to use the standard. You can sort of get away with it, when it's a standard solely for interacting with a particular software package, but otherwise it's obnoxious and has no place in a standard.

Just look at the headaches with GIF and JPEG, if you don't believe me.

Re:Bring it on (1)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498018)

Actually, GIF wasn't an official "standard", just an image format created by Compuserve and adopted in a bunch of other places.

And JPEG was specifically designed/created to be patent royalty free:

"The JPEG committee has as one of its explicit goals that their standards (in particular their baseline methods) be implementable without payment of license fees, and they have secured appropriate license rights for their upcoming JPEG 2000 standard from over 20 large organizations."

There have been a few lawsuits over patents claimed to be infringed by JPEG, but they were from patent trolls who were ultimately unsuccessful.

But I agree that the way some standards like MPEG, JEDEC, etc. handle patent licensing is ridiculous (though I guess the JEDEC fiasco was mostly due to Rambus' douchy behavior...)

H.264 isn't closed (2, Informative)

vijayiyer (728590) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497314)

I don't know what it will take to get people straight on this. H.264 is open and is a standard, but patented. WebM isn't a standard, but isn't patented.

Re:H.264 isn't closed (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497384)

I don't know what it will take to get people straight on this. WebM is a standard, it just isn't standard. It is a static, published set of audio and video codecs, and a container to package them in. It is just not standard as it has limited browser support, and no hardware support.

Re:H.264 isn't closed (2)

Salvo (8037) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497674)

WebM is not a documented standard; The standard is the implementation. Google can change the implementation at any time and the standard follows.
H.264 is a documented standard; anyone can write their implementation and as long as it adheres to the standard, it can be called a H.264 codec.

The problem with documented standards is their lack of flexibility. It is also their greatest advantage. That is why there are always new versions of standards: HMTL, HTML2, HTML3, xhtml, HTML4, HTML5; MPEG, MPEG2, MPEG4, etc.
WebM is too dynamic, or has the potential to be dynamic. This is a huge disadvantage in a standard.

Re:H.264 isn't closed (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37498172)

I don't know what you're talking about. The VP8 bitstream is frozen. WebM and VP8 are well-documented formats. An alternative codec, libvpx, was written based on the spec alone and released over a year ago. It's actually better than Google's implementation. libvpx is a VP8 codec just as much as x264 (also by DarkShikari) is an H.264 codec.

Re:H.264 isn't closed (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37498420)

(replying to self) Oops, mixed the names up. libvpx is the Google codec. ffvpx is the alternative VP8 decoder, and I think it's still more performant than the libvpx decoder. A new encoder based on the x264 framework is in the works. Other hardware and software implementations [wikimedia.org] are also being developed. You can't pretend it's just one opaque codec owned by Google. WebM might not formally be a standard yet, but it's an open and well specified format.

Re:H.264 isn't closed (1)

vijayiyer (728590) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497742)

If it's not a formal standard issued by a standards body, and it's not a de facto standard, what really makes it a standard? If simply publishing defined a standard, almost anybody could create a standard, and there would be nothing standard about it.

Re:H.264 isn't closed (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497946)

WebM is a standard, it just isn't standard.

In what way is it a standard? Is it an ISO standard? Is it an ECMA standard? Is it a W3C standard? Right, it's not a standard of any standards body. Just because something is open source does not make it a "standard".

Re:H.264 isn't closed (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37498108)

In the same way that RFCs are standards. They put out documentation and code, people adopted it.

Re:H.264 isn't closed (1)

MrHanky (141717) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498422)

It doesn't need a standards organisation behind it to be a standard. For instance, ed, the standard editor, is standard because it's ed!

Re:H.264 isn't closed (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 2 years ago | (#37499062)

And its included by default in everything UNIX install this side of the moon basically. Defacto standard.

WebM is used in ... (crickets)

See the difference?

Re:H.264 isn't closed (1)

kvvbassboy (2010962) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497388)

It has the same effect in that Mozilla will not be able to license the patents to implement H.264.

Re:H.264 isn't closed (4, Insightful)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497704)

I don't know what it will take to get people straight on this. H.264 is open and is a standard, but patented.

In practice it's the same thing as you still cannot implement H.264 encoding or decoding without a license.

Re:H.264 isn't closed (1, Informative)

Meneth (872868) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498244)

Tell that to x264 [videolan.org] and FFmpeg [ffmpeg.org].

Re:H.264 isn't closed (5, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498482)

To lawfully use x264 and FFmpeg without a license from MPEG-LA, I'd have to 1. move out of the United States and other countries where software patents are enforced, and 2. move all my customers out of the United States and other countries where software patents are enforced.

Re:H.264 isn't closed (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37498878)

Tell that to x264 [videolan.org] and FFmpeg [ffmpeg.org].

I did. They said something about being based in France...

Re:H.264 isn't closed (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497724)

H.264 requires people to pay a licensing fee to use. They have magnanimously agreed to allow people to stream H.264 for free, knowing that they've been paid for the software to encode the stream and for the software to decode the stream. That's enough to prevent the software from being freely available and shouldn't be the case with an open standard.

Re:H.264 isn't closed (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497986)

H.264 requires people to pay a licensing fee to use.

Not true. For non-commercial streaming use it's royalty-free and if you ship an encoder and/or decoder you only pay royalties for any units over 100,000 that you ship. Outside of a Google it is pretty much free for anyone. And even for someone like Google the royalties cap out at like $6 million dollars a year which is a pittance to someone pulling in 10s of billions of dollars in revenue.

Re:H.264 isn't closed (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37498106)

you only pay royalties for any units over 100,000 that you ship

Its a darn good thing then that all these free software projects like GStreamer or VLC have thousands of dollars to spend on royalties when users download their software and distributions package it up for users.

Oh wait.

Re:H.264 isn't closed (1)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498460)

Decoding h.264 streams is free as long as the content in the stream is free. So you can stream and decide content without paying.

There still is a significant license fee for encoding.

Re:H.264 isn't closed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37498134)

WebM may or may not be patented.

There is no way to really tell until patent holders come out of the wood work, which would certainly happen if WebM becomes the winner.

H.264, on the other hand, seems to have brought the patent holders out already. And there is a coherent licensing scheme in place to make those patent availables.

So:
H.264 = patents, but manageable.
WebM = no clue, might get lucky, might get sued shitless.

It's a very real problem (3, Interesting)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497348)

The $25-PC Raspberry Pi project is struggling about which codecs to include right. Even at a few bucks or less a codec, that's a huge cost when you try to hit $25 for a functional PC.

Re:It's a very real problem (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497512)

Back in the day, some Linux distro's included them in the non-free repositories maintained outside the US. Why don't we find a legal loophole like that and just let the customer (who usually doesn't have to pay for the license) decide?

Re:It's a very real problem (1)

slew (2918) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497654)

At less than 100,000 units/year, the H.264 royalty rate is zero.
From 100,000 to 5,000,000 units/year the rate is $0.20/unit (twenty cents)
and above 5,000,000 units/year, the rate is $0.10 (ten cents), until the maximum cap amount of $6.5 million/year is paid.

Source: http://www.mpegla.com/main/programs/avc/Documents/AVC_TermsSummary.pdf [mpegla.com]

Re:It's a very real problem (1)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497808)

I have no clue which other codecs are required and not free. Probably MPEG-2, MPEG-3... I'm guessing the total quickly reaches $1-$3, which is 5-15% of $25 and is, comparatively, a lot.

No more than 100,000 people (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498166)

Good luck making sure that no more than 100,000 people receive a copy of your program. That's even fewer people than, say, Jehovah's Witnesses think will go to heaven.

Re:No more than 100,000 people (1, Interesting)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 2 years ago | (#37499090)

As a software developer, I'm generally happy when my 'problem' is that I have to start paying royalties because my software has hit 100k users.

I don't know about what sort of ultra-awesome-kickass programmer you are, but by the time most of us start selling 100k units/year we've got enough accountants involved that dealing with MPEG-LA licensing is a drop in the bucket.

What a second... (1)

inject_hotmail.com (843637) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497372)

There have been a bunch of posts so far, and none of them were 1, 2, 3, ???, 4 Profitt?!

For shame Slashdot, for shaaaaaaame.

Re:What a second... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37497754)

So you're going to meta-post about it instead of creating your own? And I'm going to meta-meta-post about it.

Pretty Much The Standard.. (1)

RevSpaminator (1419557) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497424)

Who's implementation of this new standard will define what is considered the standard when people try to conform to the standard? That is to say...who's standard will become the most standard standard?!

Atack early, atack often (2, Insightful)

Graftweed (742763) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497628)

The patentability of software is basically flawed and has no place in any knowledge driven economy, but unfortunately this is the reality we're saddled with for the time being.

Nevertheless, I'm getting pretty tired of companies using software patents as a tactical weapon against competition. If I could introduce a single new law, is that any given company's patent claims would have not be valid unless they were exercised at the earliest possible opportunity. No waiting for years until your competition starts threatening your bottom line before you unleash your army of lawyers. Either they would deplete their resources against every single target out there that may or may not be a threat later on, or they would forfeit any claims they might have.

Sure, there would be loopholes, and I can think of a few right now, but it would still be fun to watch.

Re:Atack early, atack often (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498298)

Actually patents and IP law are the basis in which a knowledge driven economy can even work.

If work you've done could be decompiled and reverse engineered and your competitors can put a product on the shelf that undercuts your price because they didn't have to pay for R&D, then why bother even going to market? That's the end of innovation.

Yes, what patent trolls like Intellectual Ventures is blatantly wrong, but that's a flaw in the system, not with the patent concept as a whole.

Re:Atack early, atack often (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37498592)

If work you've done could be decompiled and reverse engineered and your competitors can put a product on the shelf that undercuts your price because they didn't have to pay for R&D, then why bother even going to market? That's the end of innovation.

You suffer from a severe lack of imagination.

That may be the end of big brand R&D and commercial exploitation but there are plenty of people, hobbyists, open source and academics, who would continue to innovate even if everyone else vacated the marketplace. Not everyone is motivated purely by profit, whether innovation would be slower due to lack of investment or faster due to lack of barriers (see fashion industry) isn't a foregone conclusion.

Actually patents and IP law are the basis in which a knowledge driven economy can even work.

In any case, thank you for deliberately conflating copyright, patents and trademarks as though they are somehow the same thing in order to build a strawman. GP talked exclusively about patents, his/her opinion on copyright and trademarks wasn't given.

Re:Atack early, atack often (2)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 2 years ago | (#37499286)

Software is already well protected by copyright.

Patents are for hardware stuff. Machines and the like. And they specifically allow for reverse engineering (figuring out how things work), as that advances the general knowledge. Then people inspired by one patented machine may design their own improved machine. With or without other patented bits. Also a patent is designed to be a full disclosure of how a particular machine works: you get your 20 or so years of protection, under condition that you fully disclose how it works. One of the requirements of a patent is that using only the patent a person skilled in the art can build the invention.

Patents, copyright, trademark rights: all great things, and when developed the "founding fathers" got it right. After that copyright terms were extended to unreasonable lengths, and patents got expanded in areas where they do not belong.

Re:Atack early, atack often (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 2 years ago | (#37499098)

The patentability of software is basically flawed and has no place in any knowledge driven economy

Without patents, there is no knowledge driven economy. Knowledge is only power if no one else has access to it. As soon as you release software (or hardware for that matter) into the while, its no longer a secret and without patents, you have no power.

Shameless Ad (2)

phizi0n (1237812) | more than 2 years ago | (#37497668)

The battle between h.264 and Theora has existed for over a year and this article doesn't add any new insight to the table. The OP is full of name dropping and was submitted by someone at IT World but doesn't even throw in a "full disclosure" statement. We get it, Brian Proffitt wrote a stale article for you and your buddy Soulskill hooked you up again...

Re:Shameless Ad (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37497904)

"The battle between h.264 and Theora"

Err, WHAT battle between h.264 an Theora?

That's like saying there's a battle between Windows an Linux for the PC desktop. Technically true, but Windows won a long time ago, and Linux isn't going to ever move beyond it's minuscule market share.

Re:Shameless Ad (1)

phizi0n (1237812) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498804)

I should have said the battle between h.264 and open standards for the video tag spec. On one hand you've got some companies wanting h.264 because of hardware support for it and because they have patents in the spec, on the other hand you've got companies that believe an open standard (html5) should promote other open standards. In the end, they seem to have compromised on leaving codecs out of the video tag spec but that means that websites will probably continue to encode in h.264 and use Flash to play it except on Apple's devices where they'll have to use the video tag.

Btw, thanks for completely ignoring the point of my original post.

Theora? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37497848)

Why would anyone still use Theora? VP8 is twice as good in terms of compression : quality. The development of Ptalarbvorm also seems a bit stalled, I guess they themselves don't see much sense in it anymore.

Computational complexity (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498190)

Why would anyone still use Theora? VP8 is twice as good in terms of compression : quality.

What's the relative computational complexity of decoders for the two formats? I've been told Theora is comparable to MPEG-4 Part 2 (e.g. DivX) and VP8 is comparable to H.264. When trying to play back video on existing hardware, such as a video game console, it helps to know that you can hit the 24 fps target without overheating.

Jpg and gif (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37497980)

It's like the old days where gif died cause cmpuserve owned it

I'm really pissed about this whole mess. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37498112)

3 years ago I bought a car radio which plays ogg. Life was beautiful because the sound is better for the same file size vis-à-vis the mp3 alternative.

By that time I learned about insinuations about radio makers not advertising ogg support due to fears of being sued for patent violation -- which the ogg people firmly denied, citing that since the ogg codec existed for more than 10 years, obviously it didn't violate any patents -- or else someone would have already complained.

Now history repeats with video. A lot of smearing free solutions and veiled threats about (hidden) patents and companies prefering to settle rather than litigate.

Meanwhile we consumers cannot get the better sounding solution, but must use what pays someone bills. That sucks.

Re:I'm really pissed about this whole mess. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37499198)

Better sound from Ogg Vorbis for the same file size as MP3? *snort* you need to come clean the coffee off my monitor, I haven't laughed that hard in quite a while. I tried, I really tried, to get behind Ogg, but in side-by-side comparisons the sound quality was terrible. Warbly and artificial. Deity help you if you listened to solo acoustic or classical. Sorry, but I am a consumer, I want the better technology, and if it works in my devices, and well, that's what I will support (and purchase).

sponGE (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37498480)

Users With Large EFNet servers. fucking numbers, to get involved in the resources that Any doubt: FrreBSD

Taking the long (long) view? (1)

Dutch Gun (899105) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498832)

Sigh... I'm not very optimistic about the software patent situation. The only bright spot is the very long view. Companies are patenting absolutely anything they can get away with right now. While this poses a problem for short term software development, I wonder if this will have ramifications for long term development. That is... once all the "core technology" patents have expired, they'll be free to use henceforth.

There are likely natural limitations to how much audio or video data can be compressed. Once these patents expire, it will probably occur at a point in time when any incremental advancements in the next codec don't render enough of an advantage given the likely increases in network speeds. I think we've already hit that point with audio encoding - for nearly everyone, mp3 is now good enough and small enough that more sophisticated codecs don't really matter anymore, even if they marginally improve compression/quality ratios.

Scant comfort, I know, as 17 years is a hell of a long time to wait for things to be freed up. Still, it's nice to know these companies won't have an eternal lock on these methods.

Re:Taking the long (long) view? (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 2 years ago | (#37498880)

While this poses a problem for short term software development, I wonder if this will have ramifications for long term development. That is... once all the "core technology" patents have expired, they'll be free to use henceforth.

Wrong; they'll just patent them again with slightly different wording or "...on the latest shiny toy". Sure such patents are crap, but no one has the resources to fight them all.

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