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MPEG LA Announces Permanent Royalty Moratorium For H264 262

Posted by timothy
from the free-samples dept.
vistapwns writes "MPEG LA has announced that free h264 content (vs. paid h264 content which will still have royalties) will be royalty free forever. With ubiquitous h264 support on mobile devices, personal computers and all other types of media devices, this assures that h264 will remain the de facto standard for video playback for the foreseeable future."
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MPEG LA Announces Permanent Royalty Moratorium For H264

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  • by vistapwns (1103935) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:12PM (#33386136)
    saying that MPEG LA will change it's mind, but my understanding from someone knowledgeable about this subject on arstechnica is that it would be illegal for them to do so, so this is the real deal it seems. I think this will be a very good thing for everyone and the web in general.
  • Re:Oh snap. (Score:5, Informative)

    by imsabbel (611519) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:13PM (#33386144)

    They havent been doing anything _but_ buing for the last years.
    Nearly all things "Google XXXXX" besides search are external aqusitions.
    Here for some quick reminders where google maps or picasa came from:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_acquisitions_by_Google [wikipedia.org]

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:13PM (#33386150) Journal
    H.264 is a pretty standard standard, with all kinds of documentation and mutually interoperable implementations and stuff. It's just that it is patented to hell and back and even "RaND" licensing can strangle OSS implementations in patent-enforcing jurisdictions.

    It is basically the complete opposite of a lot of the de-facto standards, where there are no patents of any real note because the "standard" is just some horrible set of hacks thrown together by a single company using standard CS techniques; but there is only one actually conformant implementation, and serious complexity obstacles in the way of 3rd parties.
  • Re:Finally? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:15PM (#33386166)

    That isn't a specifically H.264-related policy: Firefox doesn't use system codecs for anything, because they want the exact same experience on all platforms. For example, they use internal image decoders, rather than relying on OS services like OSX's CoreImage. The downside is that therefore OSX on Firefox doesn't support everything that CoreImage does, unlike with WebKit, which just passes off to the system decoder. The upside is that the list of image formats Firefox supports doesn't vary by platform.

  • Re:Finally? (Score:4, Informative)

    by bersl2 (689221) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:17PM (#33386200) Journal

    No, I think it's only for those who are distributing media in the format. Opera and Mozilla are still SOL if they don't want to pay to license the decoder. If that is the case, shame on the submitter for either not reading more closely or for being a tool.

  • by pavon (30274) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:19PM (#33386228)

    This announcement changes little. First, it is still uncertain whether videos served on pages will be required to pay royalties, so YouTube may very well still be required to pay royalties. More importantly, developers of H.264 encoders/decoders are still are required to pay patent licenses, regardless of whether they make money or not. This makes it impossible to have legal open source implementations of H.264 in the US anywhere that respects our patents. That is the complaint that Mozilla and Opera had against H.264 and so this minor licensing change will have no affect on the appropriateness of H.264 as an web standard.

  • by Yvan256 (722131) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:21PM (#33386252) Homepage Journal

    H.264 is the name of the standard.

    x264 is a free software library for encoding video streams into the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC format.

  • Re:Paging lawyers (Score:5, Informative)

    by John Whitley (6067) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:21PM (#33386266) Homepage

    Is this one of those soft "pledges" that's not worth the paper it's written on, or is this something legally binding?

    Any attempt by the MPEG-LA to renege on this grant (a massive public announcement within this industry) would be blocked by Estoppel [wikipedia.org] (at least in legal systems which have that concept). Plus MPEG-LA has the additional deterrent that the backlash would be exactly what they're trying to avoid, only worse: it would promote market fear of H.264 for web use, forcing one of the format's competitors to rise to the forefront.

  • It's a little broader: it appears to allow any "free-to-view" internet video to use the codecs royalty-free, even if that video is being used to make money through e.g. ads. It does exclude video where users are paying to watch it, like Hulu.

    From the license summary [pdf] [mpegla.com], which hasn't yet been updated to indicate the indefinite moratorium:

    In the case of Internet broadcast (AVC video that is delivered via the Worldwide Internet to an end user for which the End User does not pay remuneration for the right to receive or view, i.e., neither title-by-title nor subscription), there will be no royalty during the first term of the License (ending December 31, 2010) and the following term (ending December 31, 2015), after which the royalty shall be no more than the economic equivalent of the royalties payable during the same time for free television.

    Commercial usage, even without charging end users, off the internet, e.g. with free television broadcasts, still requires royalties.

  • by BobMcD (601576) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:24PM (#33386308)

    If you're making money you should be paying for the tools you use. This isn't some nefarious trick, it's honest business. I don't see how this is a problem at all, unless the royalties were absurd (which they aren't).

    Except when those tools are 'open'. Then you can use them and not pay for them, provided you keep them 'open'. It's a mutual benefit scenario...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:27PM (#33386346)

    The MPEG LA hasn't announced a "permanent royalty moratorium for H.264" at all. They've announced that they will not collect royalties for one particular use case. You still need to pay royalties for the encoder. You still need to pay royalties for the decoder. You still need to pay royalties for streaming commercial video. Since the MPEG LA wasn't yet collecting royalties on video streamed for free nothing has changed here. Recognise this for what it is: the usage of open, royalty-free video is rising on the web and the MPEG LA is worried about that. I don't have Flash installed anymore because increasingly I don't need it. I only ever used it for web video and these days I watch all web video in Ogg Theora or WebM natively in my browser.

  • Re:Finally? (Score:2, Informative)

    by FunPika (1551249) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:32PM (#33386414) Journal
    Not unless they also stop charging fees for merely implementing the codec into a browser...because even if Mozilla pays the fairly large fee it won't cover anyone distributing it downstream (Linux Distros). That would mean that MPEG LA would be able to sue the creators of any Linux distribution that includes Firefox without paying MPEG LA.
  • Re:Finally? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Confusador (1783468) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:34PM (#33386434)

    Just licensing the decoder wouldn't be enough. For code under an open source license you have to be able to sub-license to everyone who gets your code.

  • Re:Finally? (Score:4, Informative)

    by bhtooefr (649901) <<gro.rfeoothb> <ta> <rfeoothb>> on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:36PM (#33386454) Homepage Journal

    They want to allow forks and redistributors to use their code without patent issues.

  • Re:Paging lawyers (Score:4, Informative)

    by Aladrin (926209) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:47PM (#33386608)

    Maybe this one?

    http://sisinmaru.blog17.fc2.com/ [fc2.com]

  • by BarryJacobsen (526926) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:49PM (#33386636) Homepage

    Honestly, in this case, fear mongering is better than just taking it - I mean, it's nearly impossible to make a home video without creating something that MPEG LA thinks you should pay them for.

    This story demonstrates the exact opposite of your assertion.

    The license to create is different from the license to allow the viewing of what was created.

  • by IICV (652597) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:51PM (#33386656)

    No, they're saying they won't charge you for it. They haven't relented on their basic position.

    This is like Microsoft saying "If you save a document in the Word format, we own a bit of it and you owe us money if you distribute it widely enough".

    Then people say "Um that's stupid, I'm not paying you money for something I made incidentally using your technology"

    Then (and this is where we are now) Microsoft comes back and says "Well okay, you won't have to pay us for it as only as you're not making money off of the document, but we still own a bit of the document."

    The important part here isn't the royalty charge, it's the initial claim that they can charge a royalty to the end user in the first place. They haven't relinquished that position at all, they've just said "we can do it, but we're nice so we won't".

  • by gig (78408) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @06:12PM (#33386888)

    I know many Slashdotters have backgrounds in the PC industry, which does not have a history of respecting standards but rather prefers ad hoc monopolies, but audio video has been ISO-standardized for 20 years in consumer electronics and H.264 is part of the latest generation of that and it is already 8 years old itself. It is your responsibility if you publish video to publish in the ISO/IEC standard. The PC industry is being absorbed by CE, but H.264 is not some interloping monopolist, it's a real honest-to-goodness vendor-neutral open standard.

  • Re:Oh snap. (Score:5, Informative)

    by tomhudson (43916) <.barbara.hudson. ... bara-hudson.com.> on Thursday August 26, 2010 @06:21PM (#33386952) Journal

    but I think we would question the long-term future of a tech company that could ONLY buy things.

    Like Microsoft MS-DOS, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office Powerpoint, Frontpage ImgEdit, Microsoft Access, Microsoft Doublespace (oops - they got caught stealing that one), Virtual PC, ...

    Hey, at least Microsoft can take credit for the Zune!

  • Re:Oh snap. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Ithaca_nz (661774) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @06:58PM (#33387402)
    Nice diagram of all Google's acquisitions for various reasons (revenue generation, revenue protection, technology, size, etc) http://www.scores.org/graphics/google/ [scores.org]
  • Re:Finally? (Score:4, Informative)

    by maxwell demon (590494) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @06:58PM (#33387408) Journal

    Actually GTK came first, and GNOME came later and used it. There's a reason why GTK is short for "Gimp TookKit" ...

  • by CritterNYC (190163) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @07:15PM (#33387564) Homepage

    This is just the streaming part, which is currently free due to the temporary moratorium. You still have to pay the licensing fee for the software to encode it and the software to play it, even if said software is free and open source. So, this would still cost Mozilla $5,000,000 if they licensed it this year and rising next year.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 26, 2010 @08:42PM (#33388182)

    Since the MPEG LA wasn't yet collecting royalties on video streamed for free nothing has changed here.

    What's changed is that we now know that the current situation is permanent and not subject to a expiration date of the terms. Sure, there's been no indication that they wouldn't just extend that date indefinitely, but it's better to not have to rely on that.

  • by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:27AM (#33390200)

    Having seen some of the crap that gets proposed as an ISO standard (and it's European counterpart, CEN), having tried to STOP some of the crap that gets proposed as "standard" ... I can honestly say that ISO is irrelevant for software standards, or worse, actually destructive.

    The standards that make the internet work were put out there on mailing lists, exposed to the world, such that every knowledgeable hacker around could (and would) cast in their opinion, and they are all the better for them. The openness is right there, built into the name - Request For Comments. Once they are "done", everyone can just download them.

    ISO standards for software artefacts are in my experience, compiled by small, self-interested clubs of people, not subjected to great scrutiny, and not vetted for quality. ISO doesn't care - it's business model is the publishing of paper standards books, so they like as many new standards and versions of standards as possible. Because of their business model, your new standard is then not disseminated as widely as possible (as software standards should be for maximum interoperability), but stuck behind a paywall, which means that you don't get open implementations. They cater specifically to that mindset which dictates that nothing you get for free has value, and are doing very well out of it. The only reason they have relevance is that having "ISO Standard" on your checklist is impressive, despite not actually contributing to the function of something at all

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