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Google and MPEG LA Reach VP8 Patent Agreement

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the you-drive-a-hard-bargain dept.

Google 112

First time accepted submitter Curupira writes "The official WebM blog announced that MPEG LA has licensed all VP8 essential patents to Google Inc., allowing the company to sublicense the described techniques it to any VP8 user on a royalty-free basis." TechCrunch offers a bit more analysis.

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Woo hoo (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43110461)

Score one for freedom

Re:Woo hoo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43110551)

But patenting mathematics is still legal.

Re:Woo hoo (4, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year and a half ago | (#43110805)

Yes, so in reality, this is actually still counted against freedom. This is fundamentally no different than allowing someone to patent Pi, and then someone and paying for a license so all their customers don't have to pay to calculate the properties of circles.

Re:Woo hoo (1, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#43112581)

This doesn't really substantially increase or decrease freedom. It slightly increases freedom by slightly mitigating a restriction on it, thus permitting distribution of stuff based on VP8 without having to worry about being sued by a member of the MPEG-LA codec pool.

Re:Woo hoo (1)

thoughtlover (83833) | about a year and a half ago | (#43120025)

That's what I was thinking about 'increased freedom' vs 'decreased freedom'... I can't really discern if this is a win for the average user, and I have to say that my gut tells me it's not.

So, in the end, should we just say, "Thank you, Google" ?

Re:Woo hoo (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | about a year and a half ago | (#43114163)

It legitimizes the patents in question and if I want to abide by the license I have to use them ONLY to implement VP8, not a fork of VP8 which doesn't obey the VP8 specification ... score one for collaboration with the enemy.

Re:Woo hoo (1)

IRWolfie- (1148617) | about a year and a half ago | (#43114439)

As far as I'm aware licensing agreements aren't an admission that the patents are valid in any way.

the Hollywood mafia (3, Funny)

ozduo (2043408) | about a year and a half ago | (#43110533)

isn't going to like this. Google watch out for a horse's head in your bed.

Re:the Hollywood mafia (1)

game kid (805301) | about a year and a half ago | (#43111349)

On the contrary, the "horse's head" already hit the bed, when the MPEG LA all-but-threatened to sue if Google STFU-and-GTFO'd them. So Google bent over, let 'em through the skirt, and paid the "protection" fee.

Seems like Horn was..."pleased for the opportunity [slashdot.org] " to shake down even more video-format developers.

Re:the Hollywood mafia (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43114501)

Please don't let it be Mr. Ed, Wilburrrrr.

So MS may now back WebRTC??? (3, Insightful)

Qwavel (733416) | about a year and a half ago | (#43110589)

TFA indicates that MS was only holding back on WebRTC (which uses VP8) because of patent concerns, so they may now move forward on it.

That seems to defy history. MS drags its feet and tries to undercut every new web tech it can. That's just MS - their strength is the desktop and they see the web and the Internet in general as a threat.

I can well believe that MS said that patents were the reason, but making random excuses for why they won't support a web tech - and then creating new ones as necessary - is just how MS operates when it comes to the web and open standards.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43110719)

MS is got sued by Alcatel Lucent for billions over Mpeg patent royalties.

Google claimed VP8 was patent-unencumbered, but refused to offer indemnity. Now Google goes and licenses the relevant patents, so their initial stance is proven false, yet you use that to throw slime at MS.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43110795)

Your point does not contradict what GP said. Microsoft drags its feet whenever a web tech standard is proposed.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43111035)

Google proposed a patent-encumbered standard and lied about it. MS made the correct call. You interpret that as MS dragging it's feet. Well done.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43111297)

But that doesn't matter because google is good and microsoft is evil. WebRTC isn't a standard and CU-RTC-Web isn't meant to be an alternative to WebRTC, it is an implementation that proposes equality for browser-to-browser, browser-to-server and things like browser-to-PSTN rather than just focussing on browser-to-browser, something that should be merged with WebRTC and is relevant to the standards discussion, but that doesn't matter either because microsoft is evil.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (5, Informative)

ozmanjusri (601766) | about a year and a half ago | (#43111799)

but that doesn't matter either because microsoft is evil.

Well spotted.

As a participant in WebRTC, Microsoft had the opportunity to improve that standard. As the developer of the protocol, they had the opportunity to make CU-RTC-Web genuinely platform agnostic. Instead they chose to preserve their ability to Balkanise VOIP communications, and ensure their platform(s) could be advantaged for the foreseeable future.

Their decision to be evil is what makes it dangerous to adopt their suggestion as a standard.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43112223)

As a participant in WebRTC, Microsoft had the opportunity to improve that standard.

And since the other participants are intent on maintaining WebRTC be an inflexible black box they have come up with an alternative which could be utilized to develop WebRTC into a less constrained standard that doesn't require a bastardized implementation of SDP.

As the developer of the protocol, they had the opportunity to make CU-RTC-Web genuinely platform agnostic.

It *is* platform agnostic, it also doesn't lock you in to specific codecs like W3C WebRTC attempts to do.

Instead they chose to preserve their ability to Balkanise VOIP communications, and ensure their platform(s) could be advantaged for the foreseeable future.

And thus you prove you are totally without any knowledge of the subject whatsoever, their initial demo showed CU-RTC-Web communications between IE on Windows and Chrome on a Mac, there is *no* locking in to their platform at all.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (2)

ozmanjusri (601766) | about a year and a half ago | (#43113151)

It *is* platform agnostic, it also doesn't lock you in to specific codecs like W3C WebRTC attempts to do.

The point of having a standard codec is so two different systems always have a common codec to communicate through. Microsoft's intent is to be able to have platform-specific, patent-protected codecs so they can block interoperability with other platforms. VP8 was an excuse. Now that it's gone, they'll "discover" another one.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43113223)

The point of having a standard codec is so two different systems always have a common codec to communicate through.

Limiting it to a particular codec is stupidity, disallows extensibility and creates lock-in.

Microsoft's intent is to be able to have platform-specific, patent-protected codecs so they can block interoperability with other platforms.

Wrong again. CU-RTC-Web does no such thing, dont make up shit just because you dont know what you are talking about.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (2)

ozmanjusri (601766) | about a year and a half ago | (#43113237)

I don't think you understand how this is supposed to work.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43120023)

I don't think you understand how this is supposed to work.

I'm sorry.. I forgot my blind hate of Microsoft and for a moment my judgment was unclouded.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about a year and a half ago | (#43113815)

Limiting it to a particular codec is stupidity, disallows extensibility and creates lock-in.

Limiting to a single codec makes perfect sense, that way you guarantee that every implementation supports the standard codec(s). You can always create updated versions of the spec later which support different codecs, and then users are left in no doubt over compatibility.
If you allow arbitrary codecs then you might as well not have a standard, since you have no idea what codecs any given implementation will support.

Microsoft's intent is to be able to have platform-specific, patent-protected codecs so they can block interoperability with other platforms.

Wrong again. CU-RTC-Web does no such thing, dont make up shit just because you dont know what you are talking about.

They do nothing to prevent this, thus leaving the door open for doing it in the future. Given MS' past history the chances of them doing so are extremely high and it would be foolish for anyone else to take the risk.
Mandating a specific codec does act to block implementations from coming up with their own proprietary codecs for lock-in purposes.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43116433)

Limiting to a single codec makes perfect sense

No it doesn't. Making a single common codec mandatory makes perfect sense. Limiting to a single codec is dumb.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (2)

exomondo (1725132) | about a year and a half ago | (#43113311)

Microsoft's intent is to be able to have platform-specific, patent-protected codecs so they can block interoperability with other platforms.

So then why would they contribute patents to and collaborate with Mozilla, Xiph.org, Google and others to create Opus which is licensed royalty free and for IETF standardization? This is also the audio codec Google has proposed to accompany VP8 video for Webrtc, also in theory I don't think there's any reason you couldn't use that codec combination with microsoft's cu-web-rtc.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | about a year and a half ago | (#43113759)

in theory I don't think there's any reason you couldn't use that codec combination with microsoft's cu-web-rtc.

Then why in practice did Microsoft not specify it as a default fall-back codec in CU-Web-RTC?

They chose not to, and chose to preserve the ability to Balkanise instead of creating the opportunity for a genuinely interoperative standard.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43114231)

So then why would they contribute patents to and collaborate with Mozilla, Xiph.org, Google and others to create Opus

They didn't -- Skype did, long before they were bought up by Microsoft.
I suppose we can give them some credit for not pulling out and threatening to sue just before standardization, but it's a sad state of affair when we have to credit a company for not enacting particular arbitrary acts of evil. It feels like giving the Catholic church credit for the altar boys their priests didn't molest.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (2)

sjames (1099) | about a year and a half ago | (#43114025)

Easy answer, make the standard read MUST support VP8, MAY support additional codecs, then allow codec negotiation.

Then you get a standard that always works and the ability to go beyond it.

Later, when the standard is updated, make it SHOULD support VP8 for backward compatibility and MUST support new-whizz-bang-codec.

A "standard" that leaves 2 fully compliant peers unable to communicate isn't much of a standard. Then it starts getting implemented in flash as a move of desperation because that is more likely to be supported even if it sux.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43111603)

Way to miss the point :/ I'm talking about the future. Microsoft should now support webrtc right? I'll bet it will continue dragging it's feet.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (1)

Goaway (82658) | about a year and a half ago | (#43111733)

The point being that Microsoft is always wrong, no matter what it does.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43113805)

It's a choice they keep making, yes.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43111641)

MS/Skype wanted the opportunity to include its own patent encumbered "standards" in CU-RTC-WEB.

They weren't just dragging their feet, they were actively sabotaging the process.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (1)

pentadecagon (1926186) | about a year and a half ago | (#43113705)

Nobody ever came up with a single patent that applies here. So "patent encumbered" is just the usual MS crap.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43115303)

I take it that you didn't read the headline on this story.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (1)

asshole felcher (2655639) | about a year and a half ago | (#43111537)

Google (via Motorola) is also currently suing Microsoft over H.264 patents.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (2)

IRWolfie- (1148617) | about a year and a half ago | (#43114587)

Actually, Microsoft sued them (so that the Judge would declare a royalty fee, rather than through negotiation) over the patents that Motorola holds.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (1)

delt0r (999393) | about a year and a half ago | (#43114273)

MPEG-LA offer no indemnity either you know.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (1)

cheater512 (783349) | about a year and a half ago | (#43110793)

No this won't change a thing. Microsoft will make up another excuse.

They are a significant party of MPEG LA after all. If they were concerned they could have done this ages ago.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43111069)

They are a significant party of MPEG LA after all. If they were concerned they could have done this ages ago.

How exactly? They are a licensor and contributor to the patent pool just like dozens of other companies, they aren't a part of MPEG LA.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43111251)

It's just mind-boggling how Google lies about patent coverage for VP8 (which places people who buy into it at serious risk), admits to their lies by finally licensing patents, and idiots like you are still here throwing mud at MS.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (4, Insightful)

DragonWriter (970822) | about a year and a half ago | (#43111433)

Google lies about patent coverage for VP8 (which places people who buy into it at serious risk), admits to their lies by finally licensing patents

Executing a blanket license to any and all patents that members of the MPEG LA may or may not hold that turn out to be essential to implementing either VP8 or VP9 (which isn't even specified yet, so that's pretty much a blank check from MPEG LA) is not admitting that VP8 is patent-encumbered. Its just an indication that the value to Google of eliminating, for potential users, the uncertainty raised by MPEG LA over VP8's status, plus the value to Google of assuring that MPEG LA can't do the same thing with VP9, is greater than the cost of paying off MPEG LA.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (1)

Rosyna (80334) | about a year and a half ago | (#43113317)

VP9 (which isn't even specified yet, so that's pretty much a blank check from MPEG LA

If you look at how VP8 was based on a draft of either MPEG-4 Part 2 or MPEG-4 Part 10 (or both) then VP9 will be based on a draft of H.265 from 2007 or some such.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43113949)

I don't see how Google have lied here. OnDigital developed VP8 specifically to avoid the known MPEG patents. They made some slightly odd choices in technical terms to avoid essential claims on known patents. Pre-google, they'd marketed their VP* codecs as patent free and had sold them without their customers being sued.

It is true that being owned by Google, and being pushed as a web standard, VP8 is much more visible and more at risk of a patent claiment coming out of the woodwork, and Microsoft has history of being burned by this, so have reason to be cautious. Since patents are a legal costruct, the only totally sure way to know that a patent is not a threat is to have been sued and won. In this climate the MPEG-LA have been pretty successful in throwing FUD around, but so far there has been no named patent which can be demonstrated as reading against the VP8 "standard".

It seems that Google have paid them off in order to relieve doubt, which is no doubt the easiest route to encouraging greater update of their technology. Nowhere in the press release do Google admit to MPEG-LA managing any relevant patents, instead refering to "any techniques that may be essential to VP8". It looks like the MPEG-LA have achieved a good result for their FUD throwing.

I'm no great fan Google's self-styled ethics, but it's pretty easy to come out well in a comparison with MPEG-LA.

It will be interesting to see how interested MS are in suporting the technology. It may be that MS find another reason to avoid using the codec owned by one of their largest rivals. Apple have expressed concerns about lack of hardware support for VP8 and Google have been developing a freely licenced hardware implementation SoC makers can use, but that doesn't necessarily mean Apple will support VP8 either.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (1)

Instine (963303) | about a year and a half ago | (#43113999)

Skype.

Re:So MS may now back WebRTC??? (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | about a year and a half ago | (#43114555)

That seems to defy history. MS drags its feet and tries to undercut every new web tech it can.

I'm not sure this is true. It's true MS has the reputation for that, but the fact is until Microsoft basically decided with IE6 that there was no need to ever do anything again in the web browser world, that IE6 was perfect and any flaws weren't an issue because the whole world was using IE anyway, Internet Explorer was more standards compliant than its biggest rival, Netscape Communicator 4.x.

This isn't to say IE complied with all standards. It's not to say that Mozilla didn't change things. But anyone in the late nineties who had to code for both Netscape 3.x/4.x and IE noticed that IE at least gave lipservice to modern HTML and CSS, while Netscape kept doing its own thing and getting increasingly creaky as a result. Arguably it was because of the standards gap that the Mozilla Foundation threw out the code for Netscape and started again from scratch.

Microsoft seems perfectly able to adopt standards, they do, however, have an annoying habit of adding their own spin on things. Their use of Kerberos and LDAP is almost completely standard except for some entirely optional extensions and a decision to write a new schema from scratch rather than build upon the POSIX schema. They pioneered the use of CSS in web browsers. They've been willing to adopt HTML5 for video, albeit unhappy with open codecs. When they restarted IE development, IE has genuinely gotten much closer to being standards compliant to the point that you can reasonably suggest every rendering fault of IE is a bug, not an "embrace and extend" tactic (if it's the latter, why do they keep fixing things in later versions?)

Even Lync speaks SIP.

So, actually, I think it's quite possible they'll adopt WebRTC.

Remember when Google said WebM was patent-free? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43110613)

The dream is dead.

Re:Remember when Google said WebM was patent-free? (5, Informative)

jockm (233372) | about a year and a half ago | (#43110749)

They never said it was patent free, they said that they held all the patents (and licensed them royalty free) and that it didn't infringe on any others.

What they didn't do was indemnify people using WebM from litigation. MPEG-LA said they had a portfolio of patents that covered WebM, and said that they would indemnify... for a price.

So what Google has done is to cross-license parts of their own portfolio to ensure that people can use WebM for free and with (little) threat of litigation.

While most of use want to get rid of software and process patents, that isn't going to happen in the short term. Google did a good thing here...

Re:Remember when Google said WebM was patent-free? (1)

Qwavel (733416) | about a year and a half ago | (#43110831)

These days, if a big patent holder in a related field (e.g. MPEG-LA) says they are going to gather all their patents and attack you, then they can do serious damage regardless of what any experts might say about actual infringement.

A company deciding to license patents that it believes it hasn't infringed it pretty common-place unfortunately.

Re:Remember when Google said WebM was patent-free? (4, Insightful)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year and a half ago | (#43111077)

These days, if a big patent holder in a related field (e.g. MPEG-LA) says they are going to gather all their patents and attack you, then they can do serious damage regardless of what any experts might say about actual infringement.

A company deciding to license patents that it believes it hasn't infringed it pretty common-place unfortunately.

MPEG-LA isn't a patent holder. They are a licensing authority

What happens is all the patent holders of various standards like h.264 got together, negotiated a fee schedule and split up the payments such that if you wanted to license everything related to h.264, you basically paid a fee per device or implementation. That licensed you all the patents you need (they're FRAND).

It's a little better than what we have in 3GPP which results in having to license patents from individual patent holders - if you need to negotiate with 10 or 20 or 50 of them, your legal feels rise substantially versus just go and paying the fixed fee.

All Google did here was negotiate with all the patent holders together through the MPEG-LA. So now as long as you paid the fee, (or in this case, it's royalty free), no patent holder in the pool can go after you for that implementation (if you didn't pay for h.264, you can be sued for that, even if the patent was granted for VP8 - it's only valid for VP8 and not for technologies related).

Re:Remember when Google said WebM was patent-free? (3, Insightful)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#43110991)

Google did a good thing here...

By kicking the can further down the road? I don't think so. It only delays resolution of the matter, and in no way deters the need to abolish patents and copyright.

Re:Remember when Google said WebM was patent-free? (1)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about a year and a half ago | (#43111165)

they will probably still fight on the issue. What happened here is the licences the technology as a stopgap measure to buy time while they fight the good fight as it were. It is still in Googles best interest to fight against software patents and copyright reform. While some will say that Google does not really support those and use their not publish their site ranking algorithm as a example I would classafy that as a trade secret rather than as a copyright or patant issue.

Re:Remember when Google said WebM was patent-free? (1)

delt0r (999393) | about a year and a half ago | (#43114275)

MPEG-LA said they had a portfolio of patents that covered WebM, and said that they would indemnify... for a price.

No they didn't. What they said was we will licences Their patents for a price. There is explicitly no indemnity offered in MPEG-LA licences. Its even in the licence.

When Google stops paying? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43110615)

In some future scenario when Google stops paying the licensing fees, what happens to the (developers/users/businesses/etc) who are using/developing with VP8/9/10/*/etc. Are these entities going to now be at risk?

Re:When Google stops paying? (1)

LordLucless (582312) | about a year and a half ago | (#43111205)

Depends how long in the future. Patents have a pretty short shelf-life.

Re:When Google stops paying? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about a year and a half ago | (#43111475)

In some future scenario when Google stops paying the licensing fees, what happens to the (developers/users/businesses/etc) who are using/developing with VP8/9/10/*/etc. Are these entities going to now be at risk?

The agreement appears to cover all use of VP8 and the still-in-development VP9 forever (or, well, for the life of any of the notional patents that MPEG LA members may or may not have that impact VP8 or VP9), so I don't think there is any risk of that for VP8/9

VP10+ would require a new agreement, presuming that when it comes around MPEG LA can raise enough of a specter of patent litigation that such an agreement would be worthwhile.

THIS IS WHAT IS WRONG WITH AMERICA !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43110635)

Everyone wants to be a pimp !!

Outlaw Hip-hop today !! and return America to the land of the free, for free !!

What the Hell (-1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year and a half ago | (#43110723)

is a VP8?

Is that, like, some kind of veggie drink fortified with piss?

Re:What the Hell (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43110837)

Google it you fucking idiot.

Re:What the Hell (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43111575)

According to Google, it's when you're giving a pregnant woman a rimjob and she sharts in your face. Didn't realize that situation warranted its own term.

Re:What the Hell (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year and a half ago | (#43117833)

Develop a sense of humor, you fucking Philistine.

HEVC (1)

westlake (615356) | about a year and a half ago | (#43110757)

I would be absolutely amazed if Google can deliver a competitive codec before HEVC/H.265 becomes entrenched.

H.264's great strength is that it reaches far beyond the web.

Theatrical production. Broadcast, cable and satellite distribution. Home video. Industrial applications and so on. WebM is for all practical purposes a transcode for YouTube and that in the end is simply not enough.

Re:HEVC (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43111673)

Perhaps you should be paying a bit more attention to matters outside of Microsoft. This is about WebRTC and VOIP in the browser.

Re:HEVC (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43111873)

VoIP uses VP8? Perhaps you mean WebRTC? WebRTC may be a Google pushed standard (and a great one), but that still doesnt mean WebM is a better voice than h264.

Re:HEVC (1)

westlake (615356) | about a year and a half ago | (#43112371)

Perhaps you should be paying a bit more attention to matters outside of Microsoft. This is about WebRTC and VOIP in the browser.

H.284 is significant in video conferencing.

That makes it a legitimate candidate as a codec for VoIP in the browser.

Google also proposed ISO/MPEG standardize VP8 (1)

a-rob-glidden (2859855) | about a year and a half ago | (#43110809)

Closely connected, Google has proposed that ISO/MPEG standardize VP8 in its royalty-free Internet Video Coding activity. http://www.robglidden.com/2013/03/google-mpegla-vp8-mpeg-proposal/ [robglidden.com]

Re:Google also proposed ISO/MPEG standardize VP8 (5, Informative)

slew (2918) | about a year and a half ago | (#43111583)

It's a bit more complicated than that...

For those not familar with what is going on in the video compression standards group, there were 2 independent efforts: HEVC (the so-called high-efficiency video codec to update H.264) and the IVC (internet video codec). IVC was not meant to replace HEVC, but be optimized for internet applications. Many folks seem to be confusing these in their responses.

One of the goals for IVC was for it to acheive so-called "type-1" licensing (basically free-as-in-beer) which would require all those that contribute to the standard to freely licence their patents. Of course the ISO/IEC groups that standardize this stuff (aka the MPEG group) cannot assure that the standard is free of patents, but only that no contributor to the standard will charge for the use of their patents in conjunction with the use of the standard.

The original baseline for IVC was a stripped down version of MPEG2 (basically MPEG1++ or MPEG2-- depending on your point of view) that was thought to be unencumbered by patents (MPEG1 is really old and some of the patents that cover it are even older and expired). Google submitted their VP8 for consideration for IVC. Needless to say, the ITM (IVC Test Model used to experiment with IVC) didn't perform very well relative to the more modern VP8 in recent comparison tests in Bit-Distortion modeling.

I would venture to guess that Google decided that it needed to clear the air with MPEG-LA (not related to ISO/IEC, but a separate patent-pool/licensing company created by the owners of the patents of original MPEG standard and some other corporations) so that it did not hinder its proposal for being considered as the baseline IVC codec for the test model.

Lest folks think that current VP8 is going to get through unscathed by the MPEG group, I believe that they will warp it a bit so that it isn't exactly the same as the current VP8 (as that's what the ISO/IEC group's charter is to develop new standards). That's one of the reasons why Microsoft didn't try to standardize WM9/10 codecs with the ISO/IEC standards body and they instead went to SMPTE (which has a history of just stamping "standard" on proprietary implementations). Unsuprisingly, SMPTE dutifuly stamped Microsoft's codec as SMPTE 421M (aka VC-1) w/o any substantial changes.

Re:Google also proposed ISO/MPEG standardize VP8 (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | about a year and a half ago | (#43114187)

ISO/MPEG has a huge problem with NIH syndrome ... every time they are involved with video standards lately they just make it worse.

H.263+ was better than MPEG4, H.264 was better before MPEG involvement ... they have the reverse midas touch.

They are happy with each other's cooperation (1)

inglorion_on_the_net (1965514) | about a year and a half ago | (#43110819)

âoeThis is a significant milestone in Googleâ(TM)s efforts to establish VP8 as a widely-deployed web video format,â said Allen Lo, Googleâ(TM)s deputy general counsel for patents. âoeWe appreciate MPEG LAâ(TM)s cooperation in making this happen.â

âoeWe are pleased for the opportunity to facilitate agreements with Google to make VP8 widely available to users,â said MPEG LA President and CEO Larry Horn.

I LOLed.

VP8 is terrible (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43110859)

When the Codec that is now called VP8 was being developed, it was 'closed source'. This allowed the original company to rip off the technology behind H264 and other published Codecs. VP8 was, effectively, a very poor illegal copy of parts of the H264 standard, and this is what Google discovered when it offered the source up for scrutiny.

Of course, since the illegality was stealing the patented work of other Codecs, and these patents lie almost entirely under the control of MPEG LA, Google always had the option of licensing the relevant patents after the fact, and this is what Google has now done. This doesn't change the fact that VP8 is a horrible and inefficient rip-off of PARTS of H264.

Why on Earth should anyone use this dreadful Codec today? X264, the open-source H264 encoder, does a world-class job of compressing video, whether for quality, speed of encoding, or low latency encoding for game and videophone uses. VP8 merely stinks, offering either lousy video quality or insanely bloated file sizes. Worse again is the fact that VP8 usually requires CPU decoding, massively increasing power consumption (and 'ruining the planet' for all you green idiots that believe the propaganda paid for by groups like Google- what an irony).

Why on Earth didn't Google use its massive cash pay-out to make H264 an even freer codec instead. This is further proof that Google doesn't care how poor standards are, so long as they emanate from Google itself. Nothing cripples the web more than the use of standards that are massively inefficient.

As for VP9- what a joke. Google was conned into buying pure garbage with VP8, but Google lacks the tech ability to improve the codec into a next-generation version. Sure, they can mindlessly throw money at the project (all Google seems to be capable of doing these days). But, VP9 will end up on that endless list of 'cancelled' Google projects as H265 develops into another roaring success. Google cancels software projects almost as quickly as Fox cancels TV shows.

Re:VP8 is terrible (3, Insightful)

aztracker1 (702135) | about a year and a half ago | (#43110957)

Simple: Using x264 doesn't protect, limit you from patent litigation. If you now deliver VP8 content over the internet, or support it in your browser, you aren't going to get sued into the ground by MPEG-LA. Google licensed it for royalty-free use by others.

Re:VP8 is terrible (1)

samkass (174571) | about a year and a half ago | (#43111669)

Simple: Using x264 doesn't protect, limit you from patent litigation. If you now deliver VP8 content over the internet, or support it in your browser, you aren't going to get sued into the ground by MPEG-LA. Google licensed it for royalty-free use by others.

Near as I can tell, Google hasn't gone that far yet-- Google licensed it from MPEG-LA with the option of being able to offer royalty-free licenses to VP8 users. How much you'll have to pay Google for the royalty-free license, or whether Google will subsidize the cost for all VP8 users has not yet been announced, as far as I can tell from TFA.

And the scare tactics for x264 are getting a little old, don't you think?

Re:VP8 is terrible (1)

sapphire wyvern (1153271) | about a year and a half ago | (#43111887)

How much you'll have to pay Google for the royalty-free license, or whether Google will subsidize the cost for all VP8 users has not yet been announced, as far as I can tell from TFA.

Am I fundamentally misunderstanding some terminology here? It seems to me that a royalty-free licence is, by definition, free as in beer. Isn't that what royalty-free means?

Re:VP8 is terrible (3, Insightful)

Kalriath (849904) | about a year and a half ago | (#43112121)

No, it means "not charged per use". You can be charged an upfront fee for a royalty-free license.

Re:VP8 is terrible (1)

exomondo (1725132) | about a year and a half ago | (#43112965)

It seems to me that a royalty-free licence is, by definition, free as in beer. Isn't that what royalty-free means?

No, royalty-free means free of the requirement to pay royalties, not that the license is free.

Re:VP8 is terrible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43116247)

Google ships GPL'd implementations of this codec. If a codec is GPL'd and you have the RIGHT to give people a license to some required patent then the GPL says you implicitly give them and all subsequent downstream recipients such a license.

"Scare tactics" for H.264 implementations are doubtless as "old" as the worries about the lack of lifeboats for passenger carrying vessels at the start of the 20th century. The Titanic is unsinkable right? I mean, until it sinks.

Re:VP8 is terrible (2)

westlake (615356) | about a year and a half ago | (#43112477)

If you now deliver VP8 content over the internet, or support it in your browser, you aren't going to get sued into the ground by MPEG-LA

But the quality of the codec still matters. Hardware support still matters.

If H.265 delivers on its promises, distributing video at all resolutions is going to become dramatically less expensive.

VP8 does too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43114415)

Hardware support for H264/H265/etc is done with firmware and some very VERY basic routines in hardware that are not patent encumbered any more since they are so old and basic to even the idea of video compression.

That means that the hardware that currently supports H264 will be upgraded to support H265 by the same method that it will (or could, but won't in the case of Apple products) be upgraded to VP8. Firmware update.

Re:VP8 is terrible (1)

asshole felcher (2655639) | about a year and a half ago | (#43111631)

Google is already an MPEG-LA licensor so it doesn't matter (to them) if VP8 infringes on those patents.

Re:VP8 is terrible (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | about a year and a half ago | (#43114207)

The MPEG-LA license pools don't offer non-standard restricted licenses ... Google being a licensor for say the AVC pool wouldn't give them any rights for VP8.

Re:VP8 is terrible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43116293)

Of course, since the illegality was stealing the patented work of other Codecs

Of course, the actually illegality was awarding invalid patents on mathematics for MPEG codecs.
Google could probably have got them all invalidated - eventually, at great cost. MPEG-LA knew this, did not want its bogus patents invalidated but knew Google did not want years of court room battles, so the face-saver was to license the bogus patents, probably for a token $1 or similar.

BTW Anyone who talks of 'stealing' patented technology is a shill or a moron or both. You *infringe* patents, it's a civil matter.

So, do we know now.. (1)

DigitAl56K (805623) | about a year and a half ago | (#43111225)

.. which patents MPEG LA were claiming to be essential?

Re:So, do we know now.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43113631)

I very much doubt we even will, given that this looks like they jumped the opportunity to get out of disclosing the sabers they kept rattling. Compare to Microsoft suddenly reaching an agreement with B&N over Nook. Wonder if money exchanged hands, and if so, who paid whom?

It wasn't the license uncertainty (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year and a half ago | (#43112983)

From a technical standpoint VP8 doesn't do anything significantly better than h.264, and isn't as good as h.264 in a number of ways. The only real advantage it ostensibly possessed was its licensing terms... and most people simply don't care about that.

Re:It wasn't the license uncertainty (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43114095)

Yeah, but some people who DO care about that were put off by the "uncertainty" that MPEG-LA might make using it as ideologically and/or financially expensive as h.264 eventually. That minority of a minority rejoice today! ~

Re:It wasn't the license uncertainty (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | about a year and a half ago | (#43114523)

One of the major reasons Apple and Microsoft have been anti-WebM was because of "license uncertainty". Given that they manage two of the four major browsers (in Apple's case I'm more concerned about the iOS version of Safari FWIW), this has been a major blow to WebM and a major blow to HTML5 video.

Now, to be fair, Apple has also criticized the power of WebM, but at this point simply arguing that a particular codec isn't as powerful as another one isn't really a good reason to refuse to support it if there's no downside to supporting it. There really isn't a downside to supporting WebM from the point of view of a browser maker if you're no longer concerned about patents.

My perspective (5, Insightful)

xiphmont (80732) | about a year and a half ago | (#43113285)

I'll add my own thoughts here, also posted at http://xiphmont.livejournal.com/59893.html [livejournal.com]

"After a decade of the MPEG LA saying they were coming to destroy the FOSS codec movement, with none other than the late Steve Jobs himself chiming in, today the Licensing Authority announced what we already knew.

They got nothing. There will be no Theora patent pool. There will be no VP8 patent pool. There will be no VPnext patent pool.

We knew that of course, we always did. It's just that I never, in a million years, expected them to put it in writing and walk away. The wording suggests Google paid some money to grease this along, and the agreement wording is interesting [and instructive] but make no mistake: Google won. Full stop.

This is not an unconditional win for FOSS, of course, the LA narrowed the scope of the agreement as much as they could in return for agreeing to stop being a pissy, anti-competetive brat. But this is still huge. We can work with this.

For at least the immediate future, I shall have to think some uncharacteristically nice things about the MPEG LA.*

*Apologies to Rep. Barney Frank"

Re:My perspective (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43113641)

Thanks for your hard work and great insights. We need more people like you.

Re:My perspective (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43114127)

Actually I heard that Google had inherited some On2 patents that they cover some parts from MPEG4 ASP and AVC and are older to any on the patents in the MPGLA pool. That patents can be had been use as a good negotiation point.

Some people have been telling that the VPx family of codecs where copying the MPEG/ITU codecs but they omitted that both are descendants of the h261, and that some techniques where applied before in the VPx family even before to be specified in a any MPEG/ITU draft.

Re:My perspective (2, Informative)

MrMickS (568778) | about a year and a half ago | (#43114137)

If Google won, full-stop, then why have they felt it necessary to license the MPEG-LA patents, and why is this license restricted to VP8 and one successor generation? Your spin on it is interesting, especially as it comes from reading the announcement by WebM which isn't exactly without interest.

Here is the press release http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20130307006192/en/Google-MPEG-LA-Announce-Agreement-Covering-VP8 [businesswire.com] .

Far from the rosy picture you are painting this seems to say that Google have recognised that VP8 was patent encumbered all along. Google will be paying substantially for this licensing deal and its nothing to do with a battle for the FOSS movement and everything to do with Google positioning itself for the future. In effect this is a loss for Google and they've had to stump up to get themselves out of a hole that they managed to dig themselves into.

Re:My perspective (5, Interesting)

xiphmont (80732) | about a year and a half ago | (#43114173)

When MPEG LA first announced the VP8 pool formation, a rush of companies applied to be in the pool, partly because everyone wanted to see what everyone else had. That gave way to some amount of disappointment. And by 'some amount' I mean 'rather a lot really, more than the MPEG-LA would care to admit.'

Eventually, things whittled down to a few holdouts. Those '11 patent holders' do not assert they have patents that cover the spec. They said '_may_ cover'. The press release itself repeats this. Then these patent holders said 'and we're willing to make that vague threat go away for a little cash'. Google paid the cash. This is what lawyers do.

That's why it's a huge newsworthy deal when companies like NewEgg actually take the more expensive out and litigate a patent. It is always more expensive than settling, even if you'd win the case, and very few companies are willing or able to do it. Google was probably able, but not willing.

We deal with this in the IETF all the time. Someone files a draft and a slew of companies file IPR statements that claim they have patents that 'may' read on the draft. Unlike other SDOs though, the IETF requires them to actually list the patent numbers so we can analyze and refute. And despite unequivocal third-party analyses stating 'there is no possibility patent X applies', these companies still present their discredited IPR statements to 'customers' and mention that these customers may be sued if they don't license. This is not the exception; this is standard operating procedure in the industry. These licensing tactics, for example, account for more than half of Qualcomm's total corporate income.

It's this last threat that Google paid a nominal sum to make go away. It's the best anyone can hope for in a broken system. If those 11 patent holders had a strong claim, it is exceedingly unlikely they would have agreed to a perpetual, transferable, royalty free license.

Re:My perspective (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43118261)

a perpetual, transferable, royalty free license.

If you're happy using vp8/9 or theora for the rest of eternity then okay, but most of the rest of us are going to want to use something which works better.

Re:My perspective (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43114441)

When a person tells you that they invented a machine that makes petrol for tuppence per hundred litres, you might be foolish enough to believe them.

But when they then tell you that an Oil company executive paid them $10 to never use the machine and destroy all plans for it and they took the money, you should at last spot that they were bullshitting.

The MPEG-LA took a one time undisclosed payment (that means it might be $1 although it's likely rather more) to shut up and go away essentially forever. That's not something you'd do unless your position was very weak and you knew any court was likely to throw out your bullshit and make you look foolish.

How does this affect Theora and Vorbis (1)

dgharmon (2564621) | about a year and a half ago | (#43114427)

How does this affect the Theora [theora.org] and Vorbis [vorbis.com] formats ..

Re:How does this affect Theora and Vorbis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43115163)

Nothing to do with Vorbis, although Vorbis is now widely regarded as safe. However, it does protect Theora.

NO. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43117481)

However, it does protect Theora.

No it doesn't actually!
It is curious, but Google let MPEG-LA slip a semi-open threat for theora (and VP6, but who cares about that) into the press release, which was no doubt carefuly crafted to suit the wishes of both companies (Google no doubt the "may infringe" in there).

"The agreements also grant Google the right to sublicense those techniques to any user of VP8, whether the VP8 implementation is by Google or another entity. It further provides for sublicensing those VP8 techniques in one next-generation VPx video codec." --- here they say that the licensing only covers VP8 and VP9 (no word on if VP9 is onyl covered for VP8 techniques, or new VP9 techniques that infringe additional IP, too. We shall see in the future hopefully.)

"entered into agreements granting Google a license to techniques that may be essential to VP8 and earlier-generation VPx video compression technologies under patents owned by 11 patent holders" --- here they say that the patents are perhaps relevant not onyl to VP8, but to earlier On2 codecs: VP3, VP4, VP5, VP6, VP7. Theora as you might know is based on VP3. In other words, this press release FUDs Theora, implying that those patents might be used against it.

Well, nobody cares about Theora anymore and it isn't widely used with attention shifting to VP8 (including Xiph sadly - where is that Ptalarbvorm - Theora 1.2 release that was supposed to come in 2010?). That means that Theora users are luckily safe, most likely.

@MPEGLA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43114511)

MPEGLA Is a horribly managed scam, bereft of any ethics whatsoever... They will settle any suit to keep their company financials out of the court system can't let the public know how much money they make...

What's the word I'm thinking of (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about a year and a half ago | (#43114591)

Ah! Here it is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danegeld [wikipedia.org]

I can't decide if Google is now just craven or cowardly.

Re:What's the word I'm thinking of (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43115379)

Or just thiefs...I'll go with the thief for me.

Google? Trust google? Hahahahaha (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43115247)

nobody in their right mind will trust google in ten years. They make all their money by mining your private data and showing you advertisements.... do no evil, almost they're entire income is evil.

hilarious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43115331)

Its hilarious if you search for this story on the net, you find headlines on both sides of the spectrum. One side, like on slashdot.org (google fanbois), just a side note saying they reached a licensing agreement. Now if you find the story on some different places of the net, you see things like "Google admits its VP8/WebM codec infringes MPEG H.264 patents", nice google, very nice...

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