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Media Patents Your Rights Online

MPEG LA Extends H.264 Royalty-Free Period 260

Posted by timothy
from the now-how-much-would-you-pay? dept.
Sir Homer writes "The MPEG LA has extended their royalty-free license (PDF) for 'Internet Video that is free to end users' until the end of 2016. This means webmasters who are registered MPEG LA licensees will not have to pay a royalty to stream H.264 video for the next six years. However the last patent in the H.264 portfolio expires in 2028, and the MPEG LA has not released what fees, if any, it will charge webmasters after this 'free trial' period is over."
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MPEG LA Extends H.264 Royalty-Free Period

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  • Re:From TFS (Score:5, Informative)

    by olsmeister (1488789) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @11:00AM (#31010678)
    By 2016 would be better.
  • Re:From TFS (Score:1, Informative)

    by biryokumaru (822262) * <biryokumaru@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @11:05AM (#31010752)
    You know, Theora video doesn't suck [xiph.org].
  • Re:From TFS (Score:5, Informative)

    by jeanph01 (700760) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @11:12AM (#31010850)

    I copy pasted this info from here: http://lwn.net/Articles/372416/ [lwn.net]

    These three Nokia patents look like they could be enforced against Theora:

    http://www.google.com/patents/about?id=Ic0CAAAAEBAJ [google.com]
    http://www.google.com/patents/about?id=ieIVAAAAEBAJ [google.com]
    http://www.google.com/patents/about?id=zGWBAAAAEBAJ [google.com]

  • by H4x0r Jim Duggan (757476) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @11:15AM (#31010920) Homepage Journal

        The MPEG patent thicket is a prime example of the real problem of software patents. If I want to write a video player, it has to play the formats that people encode videos in. The veto power of patents equates to the right to prohibit me, and everyone, from writing a functional video player. I think I already have pretty good info, but there's loads more of this story to tell. Help really appreciated in documenting this:

        swpat.org is a publicly editable wiki.

  • by Fahrvergnuugen (700293) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @11:18AM (#31010980) Homepage
    Except that in this case X.264 is technically superior to the open alternatives, unlike PNG vs GIF.
  • Re:Nice (Score:4, Informative)

    by NNKK (218503) <nknight@runawaynet.com> on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @11:24AM (#31011076) Homepage

    You're a bit confused. HTML 5 is a markup language, not a codec. YouTube's HTML 5 site is still in H.264, it's just not using Flash to play it.

  • Re:Data transfer? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Looce (1062620) * on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @11:30AM (#31011180) Journal

    How does a patent license allow you to charge for transmitting data over the Internet?

    Simple: it doesn't. However, it's a good measure of how much revenue MPEG LA expects you to be bringing in from your use of their standards, and as such is a nice way to scale up licensing fees according to your revenue.

    Think of it as a way of implementing this rule: You give us X % of the revenue you bring in from your use of our standard, and in exchange, you can use our standard. If the main use of your company is to deliver solutions based on our standard, this will be X % of your revenue. If you only make incidental use of our standard, your license is going to cost you lower.

    (And, of course, if you find something else that's good enough for your purposes and is free or costs less than our standard, you're free to use it.)

  • Noname brand player (Score:5, Informative)

    by DrYak (748999) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @11:37AM (#31011278) Homepage

    Yes, yes, I know there's $obscure_bad_interface_linux_based_device that supports Theora and Ogg.

    Go to the nearest electric/computer parts shop.
    Go to the shelf where all the multimedia player/harddisk enclosure are. You know : black box, you buy one, optionally slap a harddrive into it, optionally plug an ethernet cable and put it under the TV set (Kiss, Tvix, etc.).

    Chance are :
    - almost all of them will run some (hidden and un-advertised) Linux kernel under the hood.
    - almost all of them will support Ogg Vorbis and FLAC (not always advertised)
    - a huge proportion can do software Theora decoding (Theora is an older and much simplier codec. It requires less resources than H264 and can be done in software or DSP/SIMD assisted software). It's not always advertised, it might only come in a firmware upgrade. But lot's have it.
    - not all of them will have painfully ugly interfaces

    So the situation is a bit more easy than "there's one single model which plays it". Lots of asian noname devices manufacturer are implementing it, because it comes for free and because they can thus add an additional bullet point to the feature list.

    Want hardware support ?
    - There exist open theora core [xiph.org].

    Don't want to make a custom chip ?
    - There also exist a GPGPU implementation.
    Given that ARM and both PowerVR (maker of the GPU core on the hyper-popular OMAP chipsets) and nVidia (maker of the GPU core on the upcoming Tegra) are members of the OpenCL committee, you can expect that hardware accelerated OpenCL-written video codecs will be the solution for lots of future devices.

    The situations is similar as with Ogg Vorbis a few years before :
    - it's doable.
    - big brand doesn't do it, yet. because their lasy.
    - noname brand are starting to pick it up. after a couple of years it will have a huge market share among the brandless device, to the point that anything except Apple's device can play it.

  • Re:Nice (Score:4, Informative)

    by slim (1652) <john AT hartnup DOT net> on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @11:51AM (#31011522) Homepage

    Why would they?

    Apple will be raking in the royalties when MPEG LA (of whom they are members) start charging.

  • Re:Nice (Score:5, Informative)

    by nxtw (866177) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @11:56AM (#31011594)

    The options for video websites in 2016? Pay up, or abandon iPhone/iPad users. Plus who knows how many other closed platforms.

    It's much more than just Apple's portable devices; they just happened to include H.264 first. H.264 decoders exist in:

    • all Blu-ray players
    • many new PCs, including just about all with NVIDIA or ATI GPUs and many Intel GPUs
    • nearly all HD satellite receivers, and many countries' terrestrial HD receivers (Europe)
    • IPTV systems
    • portable media players / cell phones with video players, including Android and BlackBerry devices
    • videoconference systems
  • Re:Data transfer? (Score:5, Informative)

    by BZ (40346) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @11:58AM (#31011614)

    The H.264 patents are method patents, not software patents.

  • Re:Nice (Score:4, Informative)

    by slim (1652) <john AT hartnup DOT net> on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @12:11PM (#31011820) Homepage

    I was thinking that maybe the stuff posted to Google Video was encoded in Theora and it gets cross-posted to YouTube, while the stuff posted directly to YouTube gets encoded in H.264, but thats just a guess

    Don't guess [diveintohtml5.org]. In HTML5:

    To support Safari, you have to use H.264 (OK, you can add Theora support to Quicktime, but let's assume very few users do this, and nobody wants to be the arsehole site that forces them to do so)
    To support Mobile Safari, you have to use H.264
    To support Firefox, you have to use Theora. (hence YouTube currently doesn't support HTML5 for Firefox)
    Chrome handles both formats.
    Opera: definitely handles Theora, not sure about H.264

    To be viewable in all HTML5 browsers, you're going to have to encode twice. The Theora encoding/streaming is going to be free. The H.264 encoding/streaming is going to be gratis until 2016. But once you've started, it's going to be awfully difficult to stop.

  • Re:Nice (Score:4, Informative)

    by slim (1652) <john AT hartnup DOT net> on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @12:16PM (#31011886) Homepage

    Though some of those are relevant too, the important point about the Apple devices is not so much that they support H.264, but that they don't support anything else (at least, nothing else relevant to the Web)

    Outside of the Web, I care less. The Web is meant to be somewhere where creating/publishing is free to all (ignoring physical hosting costs).

  • by jbeaupre (752124) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @12:24PM (#31012026)
    Keep in mind that the H264 standard and how it is implemented are two different things. Which is good, and bad, as we'll see. First, patents must be filed within 1 year of public disclose in the US, or before disclosure with PCTs. So any information you find will be unencumbered no more than 21 years after it was disclosed. Since H264 was finalized May 2003, the specification cannot be encumbered after 2024. And many aspects of it (draft specs, for example) will be available to anyone, license free, years before that. Probably some parts of it even now (though possibly such narrow, arbitrary steps that no one would care).

    So the spec is available before 2028, but how about implementing it?

    Well, certain implementations will be covered for many years. In fact, if you come up with a new way to encode or decode H264 today, you can still file a patent. For example: if you discover that by connecting two wires to a squirrel and sending uncompressed video into the squirrel through one wire results in H264 video out the other wire, that's patentable. Freaky, weird, but damn well worth a patent. If you figure out how to do it with a genetically altered squirrel 5000 years from now (hey, you've already go a digital squirrel, let's keep the weirdness going), then you could still get a patent. 5000 years after all the other implementations are free.

    What this means is that over time, people will still file new implementations, but the older ones will also be opening up. Come 2016, there might be a way to do H264 without a patent license if someone clever figures out what pieces are free to use and figures out an alternative to the parts still under patent.
  • Re:Nice (Score:4, Informative)

    by nxtw (866177) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @12:30PM (#31012138)

    Though some of those are relevant too, the important point about the Apple devices is not so much that they support H.264, but that they don't support anything else (at least, nothing else relevant to the Web)

    Most of these devices have the same limitations as Apple devices; they decode a few things in hardware and nothing else:

    • all Blu-ray players: support MPEG-2, VC-1, and H.264
    • many new PCs, including just about all with NVIDIA or ATI GPUs and many Intel GPUs: have at best MPEG-2, VC-1, and H.264 hardware decoding support
    • nearly all HD satellite receivers, and many countries' terrestrial HD receivers (Europe): support MPEG-2 and H.264
    • IPTV systems: support H.264 usually
    • portable media players / cell phones with video players, including Android and BlackBerry devices: support H.263 and H.264
    • videoconference systems: support H.263 and H.264

    Apple devices use the same hardware decoders as other companies do.

  • by node 3 (115640) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @02:46PM (#31013916)

    Yes, maybe some of them support Theora. But *ALL* of them support h.264. And this completely ignores devices that use batteries. Hardware h.264 wins hands down in this regard.

We warn the reader in advance that the proof presented here depends on a clever but highly unmotivated trick. -- Howard Anton, "Elementary Linear Algebra"

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