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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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  • Paging lawyers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oldhack (1037484) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:04PM (#33386010)
    Is this one of those soft "pledges" that's not worth the paper it's written on, or is this something legally binding?
    • 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.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Moryath (553296)

        What does "free" mean?

        Does a guy with a blog who occasionally posts a video of his cat acting stupid, and has a google ad just to try to defray a bit of the hosting costs, count as "for profit"?

        Welcome to the land of weasel words. MPEG-LA has previously proven that their promises are worth less than the paper they were written on right before MPEG-LA wiped their asses with the aforementioned promises.

        • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:41PM (#33386520) Homepage

          You lost me at "cat".

          Where can I find this blog. Sounds like a riot.

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

          by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @06:06PM (#33386832)

          MPEG-LA has been very clear publicly in an official capacity on numerous occasions that only charging *for the viewing of the video* constitutes a commercial broadcast.

          As long as the customer doesn't "pay per view" you are in the clear. Ad supported... whatever. All fine.

        • by Americano (920576)

          According to TFA, it covers videos that are "free-to-view over the internet."

          Sounds to me like, if I charge people to access my site - where they can then view videos of my cat acting stupid - that is not free to view. If I put it up on youtube, or vimeo, or my own site and don't erect a paywall in front of it, then it would be free-to-view, and thus not require royalties.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Cley Faye (1123605)
            I wonder how this "sounds to me like..." stuff works when lawyers get in the way...

            Since IANAL either, I'm not sure about anything about this, so for some time h264 will remain off limits, at least until it's really made clear.
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by Americano (920576)

              Well, I suppose they could try to convince a court that "will not charge royalties for AVC/H.264 encoded video that is made available to view via the Internet for free" *doesn't* mean they will not charge royalties for AVC/H.264 encoded video that is made available to view via the internet, for free, but I think that only works on opposite day.

        • Does a guy with a blog who occasionally posts a video of his cat acting stupid, and has a google ad just to try to defray a bit of the hosting costs, count as "for profit"?

          The definitions I've read say that if end users have free access to the video, then it remains royalty free. Including if he has other products or ads on the site. If the guy wants to sell the video itself for, say $0.49 over PayPal, he may have to give a fraction of a cent to MPEG LA.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "Any attempt by the MPEG-LA to renege on this grant (a massive public announcement within this industry) would be blocked by Estoppel"

        This only means something if a potential defendant has the legal resources (read "money") to defend against a threatened lawsuit, rather than immediately caving.

        "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 ris

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

        by Crispy Critters (226798) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @06:08PM (#33386854)
        Estoppel can be a little more complicated than that. If they change their minds and take you to court, estoppel would be your defense. But to use it, you would have to argue that their reversal has harmed you; saying "my company spent a million dollars creating and distributing free videos describing our product" would be a way to win, but "I have 10 GB of videos of my cat on my home page" would not. Also, defense of estoppel might be blocked if the program which initially encoded the video wasn't properly licensed or if you engaged in some other behavior that would be considered bad faith. If it's really important, get a lawyer. Or use a completely unencumbered codec.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Kjella (173770)

          But to use it, you would have to argue that their reversal has harmed you; saying "my company spent a million dollars creating and distributing free videos describing our product" would be a way to win, but "I have 10 GB of videos of my cat on my home page" would not.

          That should be fairly easy to show. You have material already in H.264, you have software tools to edit and encode H.264 - if you quote full retail rates of having a professional convert your video or even a reasonable billing of your own time and/or the cost to replace said tools. Also you can claim future costs in converting all future video taking with any H.264 licensed camera you own to incur further costs. I'm not exactly sure how the court would see it but I figure buying a H.264 video camera under t

        • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @09:47PM (#33388550)

          saying "my company spent a million dollars creating and distributing free videos describing our product" would be a way to win, but "I have 10 GB of videos of my cat on my home page" would not

          I don't see how you can say that without even knowing how cute my cat is. Mr. Mittens playing with a string would melt the heart of any judge and or jury.

    • You seem to be assuming that their is a distinction between those two concepts. The only important factor here is how many lawyers each side can afford and how much money will be at stake.

    • by poetmatt (793785)

      yes. since essentially, it's not royalty free forever, only the free part is. so it's not only a: redundant but b: does not fix the licensing issues that exist.

      I think it'll make the VP8 vs h264 issue easier, though.

  • Oh snap. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:04PM (#33386022) Journal
    Ok. Looks like Google wins this one. Basically, for ~100 million, was it, for On2, they get some tech that might possibly be interesting, and they get a bargaining chip that just made youtube immune to MPEG LA royalties.
    • Re:Oh snap. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Dan667 (564390) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:06PM (#33386054)
      unless google develops a better codec, which is probably why mpeg la decided to have a royalty moratorium.
      • The way things have been going, it seems like it'd be more like: until Google buys a better codec.

        They've made some cool stuff but I'm fearful that they're turning into a Yahoo! that can largely comes up with cool products by buying them.

        • 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]

          • Re:Oh snap. (Score:4, Insightful)

            by PitaBred (632671) <slashdot.pitabred@dyndns@org> on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:35PM (#33386446) Homepage

            Google's smart enough to buy good matches for it's aims. Why reinvent the wheel? I'm not saying Google is a saint or anything, but they're hiring/buying the best and the brightest and recognizing new markets... better than Yahoo! when it passed on opportunities to improve search by buying Google and so on.

            • There's nothing wrong with buying things that make sense, but I think we would question the long-term future of a tech company that could ONLY buy things.

              Assuming the wikipedia link upthread is accurate, most of the cool things I thought Google actually invented, they bought.

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

                by tomhudson (43916) <barbara DOT huds ... a-hudson DOT 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by vlueboy (1799360)

            Ouch!

            I never thought to look at how much the US business news mentioning them this year. A look at your Google list of acquisitions shows that have ballooned back to 2007 levels this year (between 14 and 16 mergers) and that they're not afraid to spend a billion or three for big fish like Youtube, Doubleclick and even 5% of AOL (ugh.)

            So, I present Apple, [wikipedia.org] which is the other golden boy in the eyes of tech investors in this down market. Though it has decades more behind it, there's only about 37 transactions,

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Grishnakh (216268)

              and that they're not afraid to spend a billion or three for big fish like Youtube, Doubleclick and even 5% of AOL (ugh.)

              Yep, I really have to wonder WTF they were thinking with that one. The Doubleclick acquisition was bad enough, but why buy 5% of AOL, which is steadily swirling the drain and only waiting for its users to die off? There's absolutely no growth potential there at all.

              mean for Google's faltering "don't be evil" motto.

              I guess they forgot to add "don't be dumb" to their motto.

            • innovation inversion (Score:5, Interesting)

              by epine (68316) on Friday August 27, 2010 @04:20AM (#33389982)

              I made a post to this effect not long ago. For the most part, large corporations do not innovate. Large corporations like to talk about innovation until they're blue in the face, because the pretext of innovation is their best defense against sharp questions from the FTC. Microsoft in particular has been selling this Kool-Aid for decades. Why does Microsoft deserve monopolistic powers? "Because we innovate." Innovation is good for the consumer, hence our monopoly power is good for the consumer. QED.

              Innovation in large corporations is a simple matter of risk allocation. The investors who signed up for monumental risk when the corporation was small have long since headed for the exits. Few stakeholders in a mature enterprise want the ongoing volatility of a never-ending stream of "bet the company" innovation initiatives. Even when large companies are willing to innovate, they prefer to derisk the process by buying up a smaller company to prime the pump.

              This is entirely normal, and a big part of the reason why we have a small number of huge, mature corporations, and a wide base of small companies with larger dreams than revenues.

              Even when large companies do innovate, it's more often in the area of business process than underlying technology. At that scale, innovation which changes your company is far more valuable than innovation that changes your products. The innovation at Fed-Ex was distribution logistics. It wasn't a better envelope, unless you count slapping a bar code on an envelope as innovation.

              It is a risk when buying up small companies that you end up with too many culture fragments who don't sign up for the big picture. Hence the reason why upper management gets paid more than most of us sots. It's true that only a fraction of highly compensated management delivers value. This is also normal wherever you have extremely soft deliverables. It's really no different than the success rate of first round draft picks in any major league. You draft three players. One becomes the face of the franchise, the other two blow goats. It's very difficult to tell initially when they all show up wearing the same suits, speaking the same language, taught at the same schools.

              In a small company, a genius researcher is your most valuable asset. In a large company, a genius manager is your most lucrative asset. This is a simple calculus of scale.

              We have to stop thinking that innovation is a hallmark of vigour in large companies. There are more useful metrics of vitality, such as how a large company embraces its competitors. Do they raise the bar, or choke off the air supply? Intel is one of the strangest companies out there, because they suck at choking off the air supply (on technical grounds), yet they kick ass when they decide to compete on merit. Yet which do they frequently choose to do?

              I think it comes down to having all those highly paid managers trying to come up with a pretext to prove that they're the straw that stirs the drink and not just goat wankers in expensive threads. Hmmm, we could design the Core2 Duo. That would make the engineers look good and us look irrelevant. Or we could crawl in bed with RAMBUS. That would make us look good (long enough to promote and piss off) and make the engineers irrelevant.

              What I don't understand about all this, is that after Intel paid AMD a billion bucks for illegal tampering, why they didn't apply for a federal bail-out. Few companies that size wear their mistakes any more if they know how to play the game. They've missed out on *the* most important business innovation of the last thirty years. I think some of those suits need to be fired.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by TooMuchToDo (882796)

            Sometimes its cheaper to buy innovation than to do it yourself, depending on what you're innovating.

            • it often ends up cheaper to buy a company that has invested some time developing something and researching the patent protection they hold than trying to invent against them.

              many times in google's history, a company comes along that has been doing exactly what an internal google team has been doing/planning at almost the same time. those companies get integrated with the existing team, and progress get's made.

              google, unlike many companies, is happy to give out information. they go to great lengths to
          • by forand (530402)
            I think it would be very useful to cross correlate the acquisitions with Goolgers who had started firms and left Google only to have their firm (an thus their work) bought back by Google. I can't think of specific examples right now but know there are some. Regardless your assertion needs to take such things into account. It is a GREAT company which is willing to let its employees work 10% time on anything they like then take that work and start a new firm. It is perfectly rational for such a company to th
      • Unless Google has some kind of undocumented power to plant "webm decoder chip" to billions of devices.

        TV&Video&Movie territory is way more different than "web". They should have consulted or at least visited a professional/high end studio to see what kind of workflow they are dealing with.

        "I am giving free, die you evil codec" doesn't really work. It is not mail.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cgenman (325138)

      Does "free" count Ad-supported? Not everyone does, and that little problem (as there are ads everywhere) has caused such headaches.

    • 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 pavon (30274)

        The second sentence should have been "served on pages with ads will be"

        • The second sentence should have been "served on pages with ads will be"

          What is uncertain about "will continue not to charge royalties for Internet Video that is free to end users" - unless you're charging your users and still showing them ads then there are no royalties.

          • by Dwonis (52652) *
            It says nothing about software.
            • by Korin43 (881732)

              If you're distributing non-web software, you can use whatever codec you want and it doesn't matter if x264 is free. The reason this was a problem is because it looked like x264 was going to be the only codec available on the web.

        • by iammani (1392285)

          Then bundle them with adblock!

      • 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.

        Canonical licenses H.264 for distribution to its OEM Ubuntu partners.

        Explain to me how "open source" translates as "free-as-in-beer."

        The fee is scarcely a back-breaker:

        For branded encoder and decoder products sold on an OEM basis for incorpo

    • by westlake (615356)

      Ok. Looks like Google wins this one. Basically, for ~100 million, was it, for On2, they get some tech that might possibly be interesting, and they get a bargaining chip that just made youtube immune to MPEG LA royalties.

      The enterprise cap on H.264 royalties is $5 million a year. Bandwidth for YouTube - 75 billion video streams a year - costs $1 million a day. YouTube May Lose $470 Million In 2009 [multichannel.com]

  • Now can Microsoft, Firefox and Opera finally add H.264 support to their browsers?

    • 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 LUH 3418 (1429407)
      Distributing free content is free, but, unless I'm mistaken, that doesn't mean it's free to ship products that implement the codec.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by FunPika (1551249)
      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.
  • I'm sure what they mean to say is "it'll be royalty free forever or until we change our minds, whichever comes first".

    • IANAL, but when you make a well documented public claim, I think that claim can be presented to a judge in court, and may have the weight of a contract or license. In any case, there must be an actual written license which will go along with this claim, and whatever that license says, would have weight in court.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by node 3 (115640)

      Let the fear-mongering commence!

      • by IICV (652597)

        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.

        • by node 3 (115640)

          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.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by BarryJacobsen (526926)

            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 LordFolken (731855) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:07PM (#33386056)
    Comerical usage will still be subject to royalities. This is basically to get the people hooked on h264 so that streaming sites in the future need to pay roaylities. This is a common problem with "defacto" standards.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      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
      • by Ilgaz (86384)

        h264 and mpeg SP are in virtually every satellite box/smart phone and even dumb phone (e.g. Nokia S40, SE non smart stuff). It must be well over billion installed territory.

        What kind of plan exist to have these devices support WebM? Will Google do it? For example, they simply ignored a 32bit/64bit processor architecture from their -once- partner while releasing Chrome. Yes, I talk about PowerPC. It isn't really 80286 running MS-DOS you know.

        Lets also talk about TV World where, you _must have_ something, a h

    • by node 3 (115640)

      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).

      • by EdZ (755139)

        paying for the tools you use

        How about if you encode using, say, x264? The tool is free, but you'd still have to pay the MPEG-LA for... well, owning some specific variants of some algorithms.

        • I know one company who are in professional video business does use x264 (donated too) and ffmpeg (again, donated) but they keep licensing h264 commercially to stay on "lawyer happy" legal grounds. Are they big fan of open source? No but ffmpeg and x264 scales amazingly well in their server farm and can be scripted.

          BTW; I really think different about WebM and H264 (patents) and it is completely unrealistic to "give up h264" but I got my lesson here a while back. So, not going into it. I just say, I keep wond

        • by node 3 (115640)

          paying for the tools you use

          How about if you encode using, say, x264? The tool is free, but you'd still have to pay the MPEG-LA for... well, owning some specific variants of some algorithms.

          Most people already have an h.264 license. However, if you use x264 and don't have an h.264 license (pretty much impossible these days unless you run Linux), then yes, you probably owe them like a dollar or something. But they aren't going to go after you for this.

          And this still falls under the category of paying for the tools you use. I don't see why there's anything wrong with that. This is especially true if you make money using those tools.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Most people already have an h.264 license. However, if you use x264 and don't have an h.264 license (pretty much impossible these days unless you run Linux), then yes, you probably owe them like a dollar or something. But they aren't going to go after you for this.

            A licence only entitles you to use the licenced implementation. Having a licence to use one implementation doesn't magically entitle you to use any implementation.

            And this still falls under the category of paying for the tools you use. I don't see why there's anything wrong with that. This is especially true if you make money using those tools.

            The only category that matters here is whether or not a particular video format is compatible with the web. To be considered part of the web the video format must be open and royalty-free for all use cases. That's something that H.264 isn't and won't be until it really is open and royalty-free for all use cases.

            Ultimately the discussion isn't very

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Draek (916851)

            Most people already have an h.264 license. However, if you use x264 and don't have an h.264 license (pretty much impossible these days unless you run Linux), then yes, you probably owe them like a dollar or something. But they aren't going to go after you for this.

            So? it's still illegal, with all the problems that entails.

            And this still falls under the category of paying for the tools you use. I don't see why there's anything wrong with that. This is especially true if you make money using those tools.

            Well, I'd say that if I'm paying for the tools I use, I should be paying the one that made them, not some corporate dipshit that managed to patent some math through obfuscation by lawyerese. But that's just me.

        • by dave420 (699308)
          You'd still have to pay MPEG-LA for the work done by the companies they represent, which the writers of x264 ripped off. If the x264 guys came up with their codec completely independently from h.264, with no knowledge of the codec, then you'd have a point. But they didn't. The creators of h.264 spent millions of $CURRENCY developing those "some algorithms" you speak of. It's not exactly strange to imagine they'd like some compensation for their work.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by raynet (51803)

            This all assuming ofcourse that a) those patents are valid and b) you live in a country which allows software patents.

      • 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...

      • If you're making money you should be paying for the tools you use.

        I don't think anyone is seriously debating that. (well, some are but mostly not the people actually making money) But you're missing the important question which is "how much are those tools worth"? I can think of lots of tools where the asking price is more than I'm willing to pay. I can also think of tools where I'd be willing to pay more than is being asked. It is also honest business to negotiate the amount you are willing to pay for a technology. Just because someone asks a price doesn't mean I am

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ledow (319597)

        I hereby demand $0.01 for every time you use your hammer to hit a nail. Does that seem stupid? What if I invented the hammer? What if I patented the hammer design? What if I took a standard hammer, changed the detail of the shaft a tiny bit, and then you bought MY hammer instead of the other, similar ones? They might be free, but I still want my $0.01 because you're using MY hammer. It's a pitiful amount, and you're using my tool, so why don't you pay for it?

        Software patents, and most specifically, li

    • 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 tsm_sf (545316)

      I'm not really sure how applicable my example will be to this situation, but when the gif patent issue was relevant most of the people working with the format just worked around the problem. It was a pain in the ass, but so were a lot of other things.

      How does that line go? "The great thing about standards is that there are so many of them" or something. If licensing the proprietary standard ends up costing more than the bandwidth/time it saves, I can't see it being a very popular choice.

    • by martinX (672498)

      But wait, there's more: "there is no royalty for a title 12 minutes or less".

      The biggest hassle isn't that it's "free for some" but it's knowing who the "some" is.

    • So you're saying that they're licensing h264 for free now, only to pull the rug out from under implementors and re-instate the license at some future date? Sounds pretty far-fetched.
    • by westlake (615356)

      This is basically to get the people hooked on h264 so that streaming sites in the future need to pay roaylities. This is a common problem with "defacto" standards.

      The geek has a real problem remembering that there is a multiverse of tech that evolves outside the web.

      H.264 is deeply entrenched in medical, industrial and military applications, broadcast, cable and satellite distribution, theatrical production and home video.

      Google Shopping alone returns 42,000 hits for "H.264." 127 pages, all with relevant r

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ProppaT (557551)

      Right, which means HTML 5 is still out of reach until we can figure this one out...

  • by davidwr (791652) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:08PM (#33386066) Homepage Journal

    Having a free-as-in-beer-for-the-data-consumer-user-and-hobbyist-data-creator is a good thing.

    Removing an incentive to support alternative codecs including unencumbered ones, not so much.

    • by node 3 (115640)

      Translation:

      In practical terms, it's good news. In ideological terms, it's bad news.

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • Unless I misunderstand (which sure is possible), us freewheeling schmoes using this shit will not have much chance suddenly makinhg a business out of our hobby of some sort of streaming video shit. Gotta keep the have-nots out of the haveses pockets!?

  • 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.

    • by butlerm (3112) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @08:52PM (#33388246)

      It is your responsibility if you publish video to publish in the ISO/IEC standard.

      Maybe if you live in a police state. Everywhere else, perhaps ISO standards would get a little more adoption if they were royalty and patent free. In this case the ISO is just acting as a shill for the MPEG LA.

  • 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.

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