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US DTV Patent Royalties Are $24–$40

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @07:40PM (#28189729)

    Not really, there's patents covering all sorts of FCC mandated things, like wifi, CDMA, 3g, GSM, I could go on & on & on.

  • Makes Sense Now (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @08:14PM (#28190059)

    I think this might finally explain something I observed when preparing for the switchover. I was trying to find a VCR/DVD recorder with an ATSC tuner so I could record programs. (A converter box->regular VCR setup doesn't work well because the VCR doesn't have the ability to tell the converter box to change channels.)

    I couldn't find anything in a low end VCR. All of the low end VCRs or DVD recorders were all tuner-free. You had to go up to the mid- to high-range models before you found one with a tuner, and even then it was hit-or-miss. Contrast that with VCR buying 3-5 years ago, where even the lowest of low end VCR had an integrated NTSC tuner.

    At the time I thought it was a reflection of changing viewing habits, that no one was using VCRs to record television shows anymore, but it makes sense that if you need to spend $25-40 on just ATSC licensing fees, you'll just drop the tuner, or would only put it into more expensive models.

    (BTW, I finally went crazy, bought an ATSC capture card and converted an old computer into a MythTV box. It's slicker and arguably better than a VCR, but with more headaches and frustrations.)

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @08:18PM (#28190093)
    Well, basically what I would like to happen would be either the FCC would invalidate the patent or allow stations to feel free to broadcast in either digital or analog or both. And really only buy the patent if it was the only chance. Yes, I would rather it not happen and either the patent be invalidated or the freedom of choice of broadcast, but yes, it would still be government assisted extortion albeit at a more minor scale for each individual person.
  • Bullshit (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SteeldrivingJon (842919) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @09:00PM (#28190431) Homepage Journal

    Looks like most of the patent fees are in the 'confidential licensors' category. That's the *only* category that increases as the screen size goes up.

    And that category, being 'confidential', doesn't describe how, exactly the fees fit into Digital TV.

    MPEG2 and MPEG-LA are fixed fees, at $2.50 and $5, respectively, no matter how big the screen is.

    Somehow they "estimated" that the 'confidential licensors' category ranged from $6.15 to $20.65. Which looks like blowing smoke. They don't actually know, they just made up a number based on the price of the TV.

    (I'd also note that bigger, fancier TVs tend to have more features, including more advanced signal-processing features, so that also would explain why manufacturers might pay more, unspecified patent fees on larger TVs.)

  • Re:Early adopters (Score:3, Interesting)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @09:11PM (#28190497) Journal

    >>>Sony, Panasonic, and several other key players walked rather than spend another hardware generation paying through the nose for Toshiba's HD-DVD, and formed their own standards body to back Sony's proposed Bluray spec.
    >>>

    So basically this was a repeat of the 1970s, but with different players. Sony controlled the Umatic standard for VCRs in the late 60s and early 70s, and then Sony developed Betamax for recording, but JVC, Panasonic, and several other key players walked rather than spend another hardware generation paying through the nose, and formed their own standard body to back JVC's VHS spec.

  • Re:Makes Sense Now (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Optic7 (688717) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @09:18PM (#28190549)

    (BTW, I finally went crazy, bought an ATSC capture card and converted an old computer into a MythTV box. It's slicker and arguably better than a VCR, but with more headaches and frustrations.)

    I'm thinking about doing this as well, but I think I'm going to use an HD Homerun http://www.silicondust.com/ [silicondust.com] which gets really good reviews and seems to be relatively headache- and frustration-free since it's an external networked device, so no drivers issues, etc.

  • by Angst Badger (8636) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @09:31PM (#28190625)

    Did I miss something, or are we or are we not talking about television? From all the outrage being flung around, you'd think we were talking about something vital and necessary, like food or medical care.

    Requiring people to pay extra for access to lowest common denominator spectacle -- and actually getting them to do it by the tens of millions -- isn't an outrage, it's a hack. With extra bonus points for genuine irony.

  • Re:Early adopters (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sehnsucht (17643) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @09:39PM (#28190681)
    Don't paint Sony & Co as being any nicer than Toshiba. They were just as greedy and actually a little more underhanded, which helped their win. BR has it's points but HD DVD had it's. Yes, Toshiba did a lot to throw things in their favor at the DVD Forum but the other members of the forum let them - including Sony and other BR companies (as generally the BR companies were also DVD Forum members due to producing DVD hardware/software too). Mainly what separated the BR companies from the HD DVD companies at the outset, was that they wanted their slice of the pie (each generally only getting a small specific piece of the action), and they wanted to lock in the prices higher for longer than Toshiba would have, in order to maximize each slice. BR group wanted big margins up front on hardware (which would guarantee slow sales after the early adopters were covered) and for as long as possible (initially locking out the low cost Chinese firms) to get their individual slices to be highly profitable. The software margins weren't as good but the prices still high due to initial production issues. Toshiba would have had such a large slice of the HD DVD pie, that they wanted to go for overall volume as fast as possible (less per unit but more units), and rake in their profits from a wide range of patents (i.e., players and discs). The HD DVD discs were just barely more expensive than DVD to produce, so software prices were mostly profit. The more discs they sell, the more money they make. Most of the BR guys other than Sony (who did most of the initial disc manufacturing) were going to only see profits from the hardware sales themselves.

    Also, as far as Toshiba forcing anything... technically, for most of the format war, the BR companies could have outvoted the HD DVD companies, they outnumbered them on the DVD Forum. But they didn't, they just kept not voting on things, being all passive aggressive like a teenager. That's when Toshiba changed the bylaws such that only yes and no votes were the only ones counted, previously yes votes had to outweigh no votes and non votes. BR companies kept going the non vote route, as before, but Toshiba could finally move ahead.

    Sony and Panasonic had a patent empire previously with CD, lost the SD video round to Toshiba for DVD (honestly their multimedia CD standards were junk compared to DVD, essentially glorified SVCDs), and have now gotten the next round with BR. BR actually is built like an upside down CD. CD had the data close to the top, which meant it was well protected when set down (but easy to damage from the top), BR is the opposite (in order to get the data closer to the lens and improve data density) whereas DVD and HD DVD are both in the middle (well protected on both top and bottom, but not as high a density, density increase only from laser wavelength and not laser wavelength + closer to lens). This would also explain why BR discs require special coatings on them to protect the data layer from damage, since at the density the data is on the disc, even the slightest scratch can be unrecoverable. So both groups have modified existing techniques and mixed them with new technology. One trades capacity for reliability and cost of production (HD DVD), while the other trades reliability and cost of production for storage (BR). Most other features are comparable, at least if you compare the newer BR Profile 2.0 players vs HD DVD (and not the older 1.0/1.1 players, though I'll grant you most people have no use for the extra features ... )

    Mostly the production issues have been reduced (although I'm sure they still cost more to make than ye olde DVDs still, should become more fine tuned and cheaper over time as with anything else). And pretty much all current players are 2.0, and most of the 1.0/1.1 will be early adopters who (hopefully) knew what they were getting into. So now we're down to BR has a higher bitrate ceiling and more space, which are definitely points over HD DVD, even if most of the time you don't really need either, they do
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @09:41PM (#28190697)
    Hell, our 19" Sony color TV in the early 1980's cost almost $700. But...it also lasted 20 years.
  • Except (Score:4, Interesting)

    by maz2331 (1104901) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @09:45PM (#28190753)

    Some frequency bands DO regulate the permissible modulation as a term of the license. In the "TV Bands" broadcasters are required to use the patented ATSC system, which includes patented MPEG.

    The issue isn't mandating technical standards at all. What IS an issue is mandating the use of something that requires a private-party royalty payment.

    Perhaps a better model would be something similar to bidding on a public contract. A patent adopted as a public standard under such a system would revert to the public domain in exchange for a payment, which could be collected from licensees as part of the license fee, but must remain free for use in recievers.

  • Re:Early adopters (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @10:48PM (#28191139) Journal

    Toshiba built HD-DVD on top of their existing patent portfolio, and unilaterally altered the rules of the trade association charged with helming DVD's future, the DVD Forum, in order to push through adoption of their arguably-inferior standard over Sony's more advanced, more open, less expensive competing proposal.

    Ok, I used to work in the industry, and that is probably the most biased and uninformed opinion I've heard. Let's break this down:

    Toshiba built HD-DVD on top of their existing patent portfolio,

    And Sony didn't do the same with Blu-Ray?

    and unilaterally altered the rules of the trade association charged with helming DVD's future, the DVD Forum,

    Citation needed. The DVD Forum has 159 registered members as of 2008, according to Wikipedia. Looking at the structure of it, I have trouble seeing how any one company could alter the rules.

    In fact, reading to Sehnsucht's post, it actually looks like a reasonable change. What is the point of counting an 'abstain' as a no?

    in order to push through adoption of their arguably-inferior standard over Sony's more advanced

    At launch, Blu-Ray had no implementations of any sort of network access, even on the PS3. Any players other than the PS3 had absolutely abysmal performance, due to the use of Java for everything -- a simple animation, sliding a menu in that would cover a tiny portion of the screen, had to be redrawn in chunks, painfully slowly. No mandatory network, no mandatory local storage, I'm not even sure they had picture-in-picture support.

    By contrast, HD-DVD had most of the features Blu-Ray was planning, but actually required and implemented in the first Toshiba players. I'm talking about a small amount of local storage, an ethernet port, picture-in-picture, scripting always enabled, and menus were written in Javascript, wrapped around an animation API that was presumably much lower-level -- menus slid smoothly onto and off of the screen, with nice translucency effects. There was a drawing API if needed, but we didn't need it.

    And yes, Javascript is a better language than Java. Javascript is very Lisp-y, whereas Java is like C++, only worse.

    Oh, and there's the technological advantage that an existing DVD factory can be upgraded to HD-DVD, easily.

    The only technological advantage of Blu-Ray was better bandwidth and storage. But with people producing for both, the HD-DVDs generally were shipped dual-layer (30 gigs), while the Blu-Ray discs were shipped single-layer (25 gigs). No one was using that extra space, and if they were using the extra bandwidth, I sure as hell couldn't tell.

    more open,

    HD-DVD used only AACS for its DRM, and had no region coding. Blu-Ray used AACS and BD+, and was region-coded. Given that I consider both DRM and region coding to be evil and anti-consumer, HD-DVD is certainly the more open in that sense.

    less expensive

    For the manufacturers? Maybe, but as I said, there's that advantage of being able to upgrade existing DVD hardware, so there has to be some advantage. But looking at the price of movies at the time, HD-DVDs were generally cheaper, and HD-DVD players were cheaper and better than Blu-Ray players. I never saw a $100 Blu-Ray player, ever -- indeed, as I understand it, the PS3 is the cheapest to this day.

    This is why you only saw Toshiba HD-DVD players, while dozens of companies were making blu-ray players.

    The Toshiba players were cheap, and there was also the Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive. I have no idea if it was Toshiba inside, but the Xbox itself certainly didn't use any code from Toshiba. And there seemed to be all kinds of third-party software players.

    Contrast this to Blu-Ray -- cheapest was the PS3, and it still didn't have all the features the Toshiba player did (like network access -- even though the PS3 is wired, yo

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @10:48PM (#28191147) Homepage

    Broadcast television in general is pretty absurd in the "mostly-rural" US.

    I am at the edge of a major metropolitan area and I still have problem tuning in digital TV channels.

    The US should have shifted to something unencrypted and satellite based.

    The idea that ATSC can reach 150 miles is most likely wishful thinking at best.

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @10:57PM (#28191237) Journal

    >>>Low VHF (i.e. between channels 2 and 6 inclusive) is actually not very good for the 8-VSB modulation method.

    Yeah but DVB-T is even more susceptible to impulse noise, so even for Low VHF the 8VSB is the better choice. That's why the FCC picked it. ----- And yeah I've heard those stories from enthusiasts but I've never had a problem getting VHF-8; it comes in much, much stronger than their old UHF-58 signal which was blocked by the surrounding trees.

    >>>DVB-T has been improved and there's DVB-T2, along with Mpeg4 will allow for 3 HD channels to be broadcast on a 8Mhz TV frequency.

    So..... are Europeans going to be forced to throw-away their old tuner boxes to upgrade to a new one??? Jeez. ATSC/8VSB has been extended with MPEG4 as well, but most consider it too late to have any impact since most consumers are now locked-in with the old MPEG2 standard.

  • by seeker_1us (1203072) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @11:15PM (#28191371)
    And when "RCA television" was adopted, it was market driven.

    There was NO market drive to force the adoption of digital-only broadcast.

    And before some knucklehead starts to say "HD," digital TV has nothing to do with HD. It had everything to do with selling off bandwidth to private corporations.

  • by NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @12:39AM (#28191913)
    This is really an old story, actually a continuation of the NTSC/PAL battles. VSB is the acronym for vestigial sideband, a variation of the modulation scheme used for NTSC. Coded Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (COFDM) is a different and more complex modulation scheme used by Digital Video Broadcast (DVB) in Europe and Japan. The general consensus at the time (way back in the last millennium) was that OFDM was better for penetration but the receivers were more expensive. VSB had a greater service area but could not handle noise (especially reflections) as well. In Europe and Japan, there are more large concentrations of people and DVB/COFDM made more sense.

    THE REAL REASON, however, was that European companies owned the patents on COFDM, and Zenith had the patent on VSB-8 (some say 8-VSB, 8 for the number of levels of signal amplitude used, there is also a 16-level version for cable that was never used). So, America "bought American" and chose Zenith's solution. Later, LG Electronics bought Zenith. LOL!

    Note: Bell Labs patented OFDM in 1966, but Philips and STM wrote patents covering DVB COFDM in 1987. I am sure there are others too.
  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @12:41AM (#28191923) Journal

    Talk to someone living in Montana, Wyoming, or Oklahoma and convince them they are not rural. These people rely on broadcast televsion (and radio) as their only means of news, weather, and entertainment, and the FCC decided it was cheaper for these states to operate 8VSB at lower power levels.

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @06:51AM (#28193643) Journal

    When people look to the Japanese, they only highlight the successes but forget the failures:

    - Enhanced Definition Betamax (popular in Japan but not anywhere else, and now obsoleted junk)
    - laserdisc (ditto)
    - MUSE analog HDTV - Japanese consumers spent thousands of dollars buying new sets to receive this new standard, and now they have to junk their investment

    I suppose if the U.S. FCC wanted to follow Japan's example, they could have picked MUSE in 1990, let consumers waste their hard-earned money on upgrades, and then declared it obsolete in 2000 to be replaced with digital TV. But fortunately for us the FCC also considers the financial impact of their decisions, and chose to skip MUSE as a dead-end rather than repeat Japan's mistakes.

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