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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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  • Data transfer? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FlyingBishop (1293238) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @11:03AM (#31010716)

    How does a patent license allow you to charge for transmitting data over the Internet? I get that the encoder requires a patent license, and the decoder requires a patent license, but sending an encoded file over the Internet? That's just absurd.

  • A lot of fallout (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @11:12AM (#31010860)

    I've been personally touched by MPEG LA's patent witch hunt. And not in the good way like Kathleen Fent does.

    My brother in law is the CEO of a small LCD monitor company that uses H.264 decoder chips. He buys these chips from a Taiwanese maker who in turn licenses the patent for H.264 decoding from MPEG LA.

    But MPEG LA has been spamming everyone and anyone vaguely connected to H.264 encoding or playback or even (in this case) sending files across the intarweb. He is expected to succeed if MPEG LA ever takes this to court since the patent is already licensed by the chip vendor and his agreement with them covers him under its indemnity clause.

    However this is a really plain-as-day example of how patent trolls are ruining business for everyone.

  • Re:Nice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @11:16AM (#31010928) Journal

    Six years? Six years is a very long time in CODEC evolution. Six years makes computers sixteen times faster. Network connections will be much faster. By 2016, I doubt there'll be many computers around that can't play back VC-2 (based on Dirac, patent free) in use and VC-2 hardware acceleration, which is just starting to be deployed, will be much more widespread. Remember the CODECs we were using six years ago?

    MPEG-1 didn't last six years as a standard for Internet video. Neither did RealVideo. Neither did Sorenson (in QuickTime or Flash containers). I'd be surprised if H.264 does.

  • Re:From TFS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fahrvergnuugen (700293) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @11:16AM (#31010948) Homepage
    Until the patent submarine surfaces, then it's really going to suck!
  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @11:49AM (#31011498)

    Yep, that's pretty much what patents are for.

    Not really. Back in the day, if somebody patented a cotton gin, that didn't stop me from making another machine that cleans cotton which works on a different principle. The existence of the original machine in the market was irrelevant to new competitive entries.

    Today, a good deal of software is subject to the "network effect". That makes it just about impossible to operate in many software markets without being compatible with the most popular protocols, formats or standards. If those things happen to be patented, you have no alternative but to pay the licenses or give up, regardless of what new innovations you may bring to the game. Products that don't interoperate with the existing installed base are simply not viable in the market.

    Today's patents can be much mor powerful than originally envisioned. They can wall off an entire marketplace, not just a single clever idea.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @12:08PM (#31011778)

    Yeah, but it's not encumbered by patents and other legal bullshit.

    Keep in mind that the HTML5 effort is much unlike the past HTML and XHTML standardization efforts. While the past efforts were driven by the W3C, HTML5 is a product of Google, Apple, Opera, Mozilla and other corporations, masquerading as a "community effort" just because their browsers are open source.

    With HTML5 being implemented to suit the needs of media distribution companies like Apple and Google (ie. YouTube) who have shown a propensity towards using DRM and undocumented formats, it's not surprising at all that a better and much more open video standard would be passed over in favor of proprietary, encumbered "alternatives".

    HTML5 will be one of the worst things to hit the Web in years. Sure, it'll let some folks create dinky demos using the canvas element, but it'll also be the platform through which the Googles and Apples of the Internet force DRM and proprietary media technology on basically everyone, thanks to it HTML5 being a "standard".

  • by Kohlrabi82 (1672654) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @12:23PM (#31012006)

    At the lower bit rate end of the spectrum Theora is not bad

    This is completely wrong, Theora is *escpecially* bad at low bitrates, I recently made a small comparison of Theora/Thusnelda and H264/x264 encoded 1080p videos, both looked very watchable at 4Mbit, but at 2Mbit problems for Theora/Thusnelda started, and at 1Mbit it was just plain awful. 2Mbit Theora/Thusnelda couldn't nearly reach H264/x264 quality at 1Mbit.

  • by PitaBred (632671) <slashdot@@@pitabred...dyndns...org> on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @12:54PM (#31012502) Homepage

    I've got a 61" TV, and playing stuff back from my Canon HF-100, you can't see any pixellation. You can barely even make out individual pixels when it's paused.

  • by tepples (727027) <tepples@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @01:34PM (#31012982) Homepage Journal
    Imagine a nonpracticing entity discovering that it holds a patent that covers part of a widely used video codec, and it sues a major user of the codec for infringement of this patent. If this codec is one of the H.264 codecs, you'd get every MPEG LA member scrutinizing this patent and threatening to sue the rogue NPE for infringement of other patents that cover H.264 if it doesn't join MPEG LA. But if this codec is Theora, there isn't much of a way for patent holder On2 to retaliate against the rogue NPE because its VP3 patents underlying Theora are under a permissive license. (Well at least there wasn't before Google bought On2.)
  • Re:Data transfer? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BZ (40346) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @02:00PM (#31013362)

    > In the EU if i make a hardware player, then yes i need a license for H.264

    See, the thing is.. what makes a hardware player? Is an FPGA programmed to decode H.264 a "hardware player"? What about an FPGA not thus programmed that comes with the software to so program it?

    I'm not quite seeing how one can draw a legal distinction here given that I can't even draw a _technical_ distinction.

  • Re:From TFS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LostMyBeaver (1226054) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @05:26AM (#31020386)
    Implemented the first two. Now that I read this, I implemented the first one in a way which was more efficient and possibly better quality (though I'd have to spend a week in Matlab to prove it) and even better wouldn't infringe. This patent definitely wouldn't be an issue for Theora given its specificity. It's made to get Nokia a cut of the licensing pie.

    Second one... that's the prediction patent. I'd love to own this one since it is practically the foundation of the greatest improvement made in H.264 over previous incarnations. Don't know how Theora does it, but it practically covers all modern forms of prediction that I've seen. It's a hell of a well written patent also since it can be easily interpreted to cover pretty much any modern CODEC (except wavelet ones which are nailed by a thousand other patents).

    Third one, I got lost in the lawyer gibberish, but from what I read, it would probably not survive a court case, I think practically the entire thing is covered in MPEG-2 patents. It's really just a matter of transmitting quantization values as part of the stream to the decoder. The only thing "new" about it is the issue of the "default values", and I'm pretty sure a good lawyer would get that tossed out as being obvious. But I'm almost 100% sure that all the tech of interest in it is covered in H.262 under the quantizer extension.

    I'm really not a lawyer, but of the 3 patents you mentioned, the first is avoidable and the third has to be easy to get tossed out, but could awaken the exercise of the H.262 patent for the quantizer extension (if it's still alive). The second one could pretty much force the world to a wavelet based model, but motion compensation for wavelet compressions is UGLY.

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