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Patents Technology

The MPEG-LA's Lock On Culture 457

jrepin writes in to recommend a piece by Eugenia from OSNews, which explores the depths of the MPEG-LA's lock on video. One part of the problem is that almost all video cameras, including ones that cost more than $12,000, declare in their manuals that they are for "personal use and non-commercial" purposes only. "We've all heard how the h.264 is rolled over on patents and royalties. Even with these facts, I kept supporting the best-performing 'delivery' codec in the market, which is h.264. 'Let the best win,' I kept thinking. But it wasn't until very recently when I was made aware that the problem is way deeper. No, my friends. It's not just a matter of just 'picking Theora' to export a video to Youtube and be clear of any litigation. MPEG-LA's trick runs way deeper!""
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The MPEG-LA's Lock On Culture

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  • Kill the lawyers. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by h00manist ( 800926 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @08:17AM (#32062988) Journal
    Or just change the law. No more copyrights-patents.
    • by Devout_IPUite ( 1284636 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @08:22AM (#32062994)
      5-10 year patents on physical gizmos might be okay. But the patent application process needs to not be willy nilly approval.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 02, 2010 @10:51AM (#32063872)

        Ditto with copyright. When the United states was first formed as a free country copyright terms were essentially 28 years in length. In the 20th century these terms were increased substantially. Current terms are complicated but can easily be over 100 years in length. If copyright terms were rolled back to something reasonable such as 30 years then a lot of this so called illegal copying (downloading a Beatles song for example) would simply go away. Of course the recording industry wants to sell all this old music to me and my children. Think of a world where a large conglomerate owned the works of Shakespeare and/or Mozart. You'd have to pay their asking price to read or listen to those works. I find that scary and unfortunately that's the world our children will live in as they grow up in a culture of essentially perpetual copyright.

        BTW: I don't agree with the subject line. Lawyers aren't the problem. Most of them just work for someone whose paying the money, just like the rest of us.

        • Lawyers. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by gd2shoe ( 747932 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @04:23PM (#32066228) Journal

          Lawyers might not be the problem, but the problems are lawyers. Think about it.

          Who comes up with the bizarre contracts, cowardly EULAs, and wacky tort ideas? Lawyers. Who decides that this nonsense is valid law? Usually judges, almost all of whom are lawyers. Who writes the law in the first place? Politicians, a great many of whom are lawyers. Who decides who is eligible to run? Sometimes lawyers (with the implicit threat of court battles).

          There are many great lawyers out there, fighting for freedom and justice on the small (but very meaningful) scale. We need more of such people. Regardless, there is a particular variety that is causing mayhem in our political system. We really need to find a way to --err... dissuade them.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by spmkk ( 528421 )

        5-10 year patents on physical gizmos might be okay.

        It often takes 2-4 years to bring an idea for a physical gizmo to market, depending on the gizmo's complexity. It then takes a further 2-3 years to gain market acceptance, if you're lucky.

        So what you're saying is, if I invent a physical gizmo, patent it, and invest my time and money to develop and market it, my IP protection should expire just about the time the effort begins to come to fruition -- opening the door for anyone to compete with me on price, which they're able to do because they don't need

    • by Bob_Who ( 926234 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @09:09AM (#32063250) Homepage Journal

      Or just change the law. No more copyrights-patents.

      ...and no more war! and no more hunger! and no more cable and cell phone bills, and TOTO too!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      This is why the BBC came up with Dirac. Even for them to pay developers to come up with a new codec, they still save tens of millions of pounds each year by not having to pay MPEG-LA to use their codecs. The BBC then made it open source, they made their savings internally so they have more to gain from the FOSS communities.

      Dirac hasn't taken off on the web yet, main reason IMHO is because it hasn't been check out against patents in the USA, and it can get a little more CPU hungry than h264. I know this is o

    • Re:Kill the lawyers. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by harlows_monkeys ( 106428 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @03:33PM (#32065926) Homepage
      No copyrights would mean no Free Software.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Chowderbags ( 847952 )
        No copyrights means nothing *but* Free Software. Copyleft only arose as a kind of copyright judo because it was the only workable way to do what was wanted within the system that was there. Don't learn to love the best solution in a bad situation more than the best actual solution.
    • by BKX ( 5066 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @04:24PM (#32066232) Journal

      You know, as an up-and-coming lawyer (not one yet, but will be), I find this "kill-the-lawyers" sentiment annoying, to say the least. The problem lies with the legislature, the people who write the laws, not the lawyers who use them or the judges who interpret them. Legislators are largely NOT lawyers, and of the few who are lawyers, most have never practiced. Usually the laws aren't even written by the legislators but by other people, often lobbyists (who are usually former legislators). You'll notice that almost none of the people involved in making these laws are experienced lawyers. They have no idea how to read them (and usually haven't). They don't understand how the laws they pass will interact with others. They don't know how to think through the laws to understand the consequences of their actions. It's horrible, but it's not the lawyers' faults. The lawyers are just doing their jobs - advocating for their clients. It's their clients that are assholes and legislators that are idiots.

  • by Peter Simpson ( 112887 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @08:23AM (#32063004)
    "declare in their manuals that they are for "personal use and non-commercial" purposes only."
    You don't always do everything that the manual tells you to, do you? I'm pretty sure that thousands of people a day use these cameras for commercial purposes without any problem (I know we use them at work). And I'm also pretty sure the MPEG-LA doesn't want to see the issue end up in court, because they'd probably lose.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by h00manist ( 800926 )

      "declare in their manuals that they are for "personal use and non-commercial" purposes only." You don't always do everything that the manual tells you to, do you? I'm pretty sure that thousands of people a day use these cameras for commercial purposes without any problem (I know we use them at work). And I'm also pretty sure the MPEG-LA doesn't want to see the issue end up in court, because they'd probably lose.

      Fine solution. Ignore the patents-copyrights. Go Pirate Party!

      • by ribuck ( 943217 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @08:47AM (#32063124) Homepage

        Fine solution. Ignore the patents-copyrights. Go Pirate Party!

        Even the Pirate Party advocates changing the law [quezi.com], not breaking it (it's already broken).

    • by Pharmboy ( 216950 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @08:27AM (#32063024) Journal

      That is all fine until you produce a video that actually makes you money, and they sue you for royalties because you used their codecs to do so. This would be above and beyond the price you paid for the products. And there isn't anything you can do about it, because it is "clearly stated in the license agreement".

      Or worse yet, if they disagreed with your video for political reasons, they could go after you for that, claiming it is because you failed to license it.

      • by mikael_j ( 106439 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @08:29AM (#32063032)

        And you seriously think this would hold up in court?

        • by Xiaran ( 836924 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @08:34AM (#32063056)
          This does hold up in court. I have been involved with online video companies and have dealt with the MPEG-LA... the standard MPEG-LA attitude is once you start making enough money to make it worth their while(say > 100k... that was the figure I was quoted) the MPEG-LA will negotiate payments from you. And they do it to everyone. What you find outlandish is in fact their business model.
          • by bersl2 ( 689221 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @08:45AM (#32063118) Journal

            And in a very screwy way, that's actually how the whole patent game is "supposed" to work, i.e., find some reasonable amount to charge for a license, then do it.

            As with proprietary software and copyright, perfect enforcement of the law would be just as disastrous as not enforcing at all, so they only care if you're a big-enough fish, and if you're small and are going to get away with infringing, they'd rather you use their product (codecs covered by their patents) and increase the network effect than use somebody else's product (codecs not covered by their patents).

            • by mfnickster ( 182520 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @09:32AM (#32063376)

              And in a very screwy way, that's actually how the whole patent game is "supposed" to work, i.e., find some reasonable amount to charge for a license, then do it.

              Yeah, but the difference is how it used to be that the manufacturer paid for a license, sold you the product (cost of license built-in), and you used it for whatever you wanted.

              Nowadays, they want to control not just how the product is made and sold, but how it is USED. That's just plain too much power.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                That's kind of vague. If you read the CNET article you can see that the MPEG-LA licensing guy says "the only person who needs to pay is the seller of the video". Nothing is said about the "user" of the video, whoever that is, presumably the viewer. The reason the cameras say non-commercial use only is because if you were using it commercially, you'd probably be selling the video and at that point you need a license.

                Now the real question is, how should h264 be licensed? I don't know. Off-hand, charging a fai

                • by mfnickster ( 182520 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @10:19AM (#32063638)

                  We can debate whether software should be patentable all day, but video codecs are a pretty clear example of a piece of software that are very expensive to develop and probably do need some kind of patent protection.

                  There's nothing wrong with reasonable patents on inventions, but the point is to allow the maker to profit from producing the invention itself - and they can license other manufacturers to make similar inventions based on the patented design.

                  The reason this is different is because they're treating it like selling a video recorded with their invention is the same as duplicating the invention itself. They're putting limitations on the product of the codec as though you were taking away part of their business by selling an equivalent codec. I'm sorry, but I can't see that as a legitimate use of patents.

                  • by nicolas.kassis ( 875270 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @10:37AM (#32063762)
                    I really wish I hat mod points for you. This is exactly the issue I think. Why should distributing a video be the same a implementing the MPEG-LA codecs and be bound by patents? In the end only codec writters should be liable. This is as if using a patented wheel on your car required a license. Damn, car analogies suck.
                    • by 517714 ( 762276 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @01:13PM (#32064866)

                      If Eli Whitney's cotton gin were still covered by patents, the business model would probably be to license based on the bales of cotton ginned in addition to the fee for each machine - in this way a self contained commune would still have to pay royalties based on how much they used the machine. The value of the cotton ginned would be a poor metric since the user could sell the cotton at a loss, or the cotton could end up in hundred dollar bills. If I chose to put my gin on display in a museum or a gin repair school, would Whitney be able to impose a new previously undisclosed licensing fee based on the revenues of my museum or school?

                      Photography and movie making are artistic endeavors; the contribution of the codec toward that end is not significant and license fees should not be based on the value of the product, but on the number of frames or length of the film or similar measure. Would anyone think it appropriate for the manufacturer of film or paints to make money from the photographs or paintings created by others? How would the manufacturer deal with collecting on second sale?

                      Since the consumer is obligated to meet the terms imposed in a license agreement, isn't the manufacturer obligated to disclose the full terms? Failure to disclose fees outside of the original terms strike me as unconscionable, and basing those fees on the commercial value of the end product doubly so.

                      One question for the lawyers out there. If the license agreement is between Canon and me, and I violate that agreement, how does MPEG-LA have any standing to negotiate with me for fees?

                    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                      by gaelfx ( 1111115 )

                      OK, I'll throw in my lame attempt at a car analogy.

                      It's the equivalent of a tire manufacturer with a patent or two on how their tires are made (presumably some chemical process/formula that makes it differ in some minor way from others), charged royalties to the car company for using the tires with their cars, the gas company for every mile driven using their gas to turn the tires AND the consumer for every rotation of said tires. And if some poor kid decides to tie one of those tires up to a tree and swing

                    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                      by arose ( 644256 )
                      Read the article, this is about tire manufacturers saying that you can only use the tires you bought (even the ones that say "professional racing") for carting around your family. If you want to put your tires on your semi or F1 you have to negotiate with the patent holders.
                  • by StuartHankins ( 1020819 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @11:15AM (#32064028)
                    Mod parent up. This is like a chainsaw manufacturer wanting a fee when you used a chainsaw to create art. The more I hear about their licensingpracticesthe less I like them. When I buy a camera I expect to be able the pictures to be used anywhere, anytime,for any reason without some bum coming out of the corner wanting a handout.Force the camera manufacturers to admit ON THE BOX that you're just purchasing the videocamera not the rights to use the results and see how quickly this gets straightened out.
                  • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                    by BenBoy ( 615230 )
                    Great. You made a hammer. It's a great hammer. I bought it. Doesn't mean you own my house, though. The problem here, as implied by the parent post, is that the payment structure here doesn't isn't just allowing the maker to profit from his/her invention, but to profit from others' inventions. It discourages innovation, rather than promoting it as patents are meant to.
                • by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @11:09AM (#32063986) Homepage Journal

                  ``Suffice it to say that h264 is a very sophisticated technology that is the product of many contributions by many people and companies over a long period of time. We can debate whether software should be patentable all day, but video codecs are a pretty clear example of a piece of software that are very expensive to develop and probably do need some kind of patent protection.''

                  I'm not so sure. I agree with you that a video codec like H.264 is a complex beast and that a lot of effort has gone into developing it, but does that make it a good idea to allow it to be patented? The same thing can be said about a lot of other software, and it seems to get developed just fine without patents - actually, many would argue it gets better the fewer patents there are. I can't think of any reason why the same wouldn't go for video codecs, and, indeed, several video codecs have been developed without the developers seeking to patent their inventions.

                  My personal point of view is that patents are problematic, both philosophically and practically. If we agree that we want to stimulate innovation, we should carefully evaluate what ways we have to accomplish that (current and also newly implementable). If patents turn out to really be the best possible way to stimulate innovation, I say let's stick with them. But the idea that something I think of may be covered by a patent, and that people are willing to assert those patents and sue me if I implement my idea, does not strike me as particularly conductive to innovation. Nor does the idea of having to grep the massive body of existing patents to check that my idea is not covered by any of them - especially if that means my costs go up if someone ends up bringing a successful claim against me after all.

                  Now, none of this means that I want to deny the creators of H.264 compensation for their efforts. I think H.264 is a great codec (it certainly seems to be one of the best codecs we have managed to come up with so far), and if they want people to pay for using it, I feel they should have that option. It is the fruit of their labor, after all. I just wonder if we can't come up with something better than the current patent system.

          • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

            Distributing your video in an MPEG-LA format and shooting it in one are two very different things.

            They'd be hard pressed to even prove you did so.

      • by zero.kalvin ( 1231372 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @08:36AM (#32063078)
        I would like to see how they are going to enforce that. There is overlaying stuff here, You bought a camera, that camera is yours, you own it. Using to film your new episode of 2 girls 1 cup and sell it online is your right, and yours alone. That's like buying a car, and the manufacturer tells you, that you are not allowed to use to car to race, because the steering software is not licensed for racing. If anyone is liable it's the manufacturer of the camera, he has not right to enforce how you are going to use your hardware even if it was in the EULA, and if you do break the EULA as it is, it there ass's who is going to be prosecuted. "The Usual IANAL statement".
        • by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @08:52AM (#32063144) Journal

          I agree it remains to be seen as to what degree this will or will not be enforceable. This is a sort of reverse tivoization though if it works. Sure we sold you the hardware and you have the right to do anything you want with it; never mind we control the software and the hardware is worse than useless with out it. I think if we are going to preserve the concepts of first sale, property ownership in general, and a host of other things we commonly understand copyright and patent protection for at the very least certain classes of software are going to have to go..

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by RedWizzard ( 192002 )

            I agree it remains to be seen as to what degree this will or will not be enforceable. This is a sort of reverse tivoization though if it works. Sure we sold you the hardware and you have the right to do anything you want with it; never mind we control the software and the hardware is worse than useless with out it.

            I can see how the camera manufacturer may have a claim against the purchaser as the purchase of a camera can be taken to be acceptance of the license agreement for the software in the camera. ANAL, but I don't see how the MPEG-LA has any claim as they were not party to the sale.

            I don't really like software patents but I can accept that the work that went into developing algorithms as complex as video codecs deserves some protection. The problem here is that the MPEG-LA is not just claiming the right to fee

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ZosX ( 517789 )

        What license agreement? The one in the manual? You don't have to agree to that. You aren't forced to sign anything. A lot of newer cameras don't even come with the manual in the box for fucks sake. How is that even enforceable from a legal perspective? This has less clout than a clickable EULA, and people expect it to hold up in court. Yeah. Good luck with that one. That being said, I read TFA, and I agree that we have certainly entered a legal quagmire, but how much of this stuff will hold up in court is t

        • by jmv ( 93421 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @09:49AM (#32063476) Homepage

          The problem is that regardless of whether you agreed to anything, you never got a "commercial" license in the first place, so you can get sued. The manual just *informs* you of the fact that what you bought is a non-commercial license. That's very different from EULAs that take rights away from you. In this case, they just inform you that you never got the rights in the first place.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by sjames ( 1099 )

            However, since you bought the device, the very idea that you don't have the right to do with it as you will (including making money) is perverse to say the least.

            The obligatory car analogy. I buy a used car free and clear. It is now MY car. I decide to paint it yellow and let people hire me to give them a ride. Wouldn't it be absolutely perverse if Ford (or whoever) then came to me and said I must pay them an extra ten grand even though I already bought the car free and clear (and not even from them)? Furth

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dhasenan ( 758719 )

        You film it in an MPEG format and convert it to Ogg Theora before distributing it. Might work.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by keeboo ( 724305 )
          It does not satisfy the license requirements: it's about usage (you'll still record in MPEG before converting), not merely distribution.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by MurphyZero ( 717692 )
            Yes but they already been granted a license for non-commercial use. If it not distributed in the MPEG format, is it a commercial use? The commercial use is the Ogg Theora format in this case, isn't it?
      • 1) it is a software patent

        2) there is no EULA when you use your camera

        3) I am pretty sure it is non valid, in europe, to impose a contract/EULA in an item which is only viewable AFTER the sale.

        That said, there might be problem for the US.
    • by Bert64 ( 520050 ) <bert@slashdot.fi ... NBSDom minus bsd> on Sunday May 02, 2010 @08:30AM (#32063042) Homepage

      It's a bait and switch, they won't do anything right now because they want to get h.264 as widespread as possible.
      Once people are well and truly locked in, thats when they will screw everyone... Expect them to come after all these thousands of people demanding huge royalty payments. They'd also probably win because their actions although morally questionable are still within the law.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Draek ( 916851 )

      And I'm also pretty sure the MPEG-LA doesn't want to see the issue end up in court, because they'd probably lose.

      Unless you're a lawyer, I don't think you're qualified to make that kind of comment. Actually, I believe even if you *are* a lawyer you aren't qualified to make that kind of comment, the laws that could potentially come into effect are many and fairly complex so I don't think it's as clear-cut as you make it out to be, at least not for the infringing side.

    • by Thinboy00 ( 1190815 ) <thinboy00@gmail. ... m minus math_god> on Sunday May 02, 2010 @09:30AM (#32063362) Journal

      And I'm also pretty sure the MPEG-LA doesn't want to see the issue end up in court, because they'd probably lose.

      IANAL. Good point [wikipedia.org].

      • by Raffaello ( 230287 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @10:48AM (#32063840)

        Please mod parent up. The link points to the wikipedia article on Contracts of Adhesion.

        In particular this quote is relevant to the discussion here:
        If the term was outside of the reasonable expectations of the person who did not write the contract, and if the parties were contracting on an unequal basis, then it will not be enforceable.

        So for example, if a video camera is sold as a "professional" model, then it is completely outside the reasonable expectations of the purchaser that it could not be used for commercial purposes, since "for commercial purposes" is the very definition of "professional."

        So this restriction would be unenforceable against any end-user/purchaser who purchased the camera as a "professional" model.

    • by grumling ( 94709 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @09:44AM (#32063444) Homepage

      Before I started using my camera, I crossed that section out and initialed indicating that I don't agree to that term. I sent the document back to their legal department, and I'm still waiting for them to agree to the changes.

      In the mean time, since I haven't heard from them, I'm going to proceed with using the camera.

  • Somehow I find it very unlikely that them suing someone for not paying this extra "license" for professional equipment usage would work out in their favor. I suppose it might work in certain US jurisdiction known for siding with the patent trolls but in the rest of the developed world any such lawsuit is bound to be thrown out.

  • Use the codecs, adopt the standards, and don't pay a red cent to anyone.

    • What, threaten with a full-blown war if any of your soldiers is ever subjected to international justice? That is hardly feasible for a video camera owner.
  • GIF shenanigans (Score:5, Informative)

    by wigaloo ( 897600 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @08:30AM (#32063036)

    It was exactly these kinds of shenanigans that led to the development of PNG as a replacement for GIF [cloanto.com] in Web browsers. Hopefully the same thing happens here (broad acceptance of a new standard), whether the replacement is Theora or something better.

  • How does that work? If a camera says it's for non-commercial use only, do I need to sign a contract that says I won't use it for commercial films? What if I sell my camera to someone else? Does the contract require me to sign over that contract to the buyer? If I fail to do so, what can they do about the buyer using the camera for commercial purposes?

    • Well, unless you sign a contract promising to use the camera only for non-professional work I doubt it would even hold up in court. It's sort of like selling you a car that has a note in the glovebox that reads "you are not allowed to use this car to transport women between the ages 20 and 28", it would never hold up in court, no matter what the fear mongers claim. They just try to squeeze as much as possible in there, while they'd probably love to be able to use it to their advantage it's most likely a CYA

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 02, 2010 @08:48AM (#32063128)

        That note in the manual won't hold up in court, but the licensing demands will. What this means is that the MPEG-LA will get your money and then you can try and get your money back from the manufacturer of the camera for not mentioning this unexpected limitation prior to the purchase (i.e. selling you a device which is not fit for the naturally intended purpose.) You'll probably get the price of the camera back, but not your "damages".

    • by Draek ( 916851 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @08:42AM (#32063104)

      IANAL, but I believe you can use the actual, physical device to record any kind of movie but then if you distribute it commercially you become liable for patent infringement, as the camera maker only paid for a non-commercial h.264 license rather than the 'full' one.

      If that's the case, then in theory it'd be possible to record the movie, transcode it to a Free format such as Theora or a closed one you *do* own a commercial license for, redistribute *that* file instead, and be legally in the clear. But as I said, IANAL, this is not legal advice and all that crap.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 91degrees ( 207121 )
      You legally need explicit permission from the patent holders to use the CODEC for any purpose. The manufacturer made an agreement that unilaterally grants you non commercial rights but the rights are limited.

      If you use it commercially the manufacturer doesn't give a damn, but the patent holders can sue you.
  • by luckytroll ( 68214 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @08:48AM (#32063130) Homepage

    I recently scoffed at the 720p MJPEG codec used by my shiny new Pentax Optio camera.

    Who knew that its ancient and inefficient CODEC is its saving grace when it comes to the topic of TFA.

    But seriously, this is a case of Moores law making old stuff (mjpeg) work even for modern resolutions. I lacks the elegance of modern compression, but as long as the camera has fast/huge storage and fast raw processing power, we can use it and probably be happy with it too. The place where the fancy compression is always going to be key is distribution where the bandwidth is limited, be it spinning off a disk or streaming off the net.

    • Hear, Here!

      With disk space the way it is, (i.e. *cheap*) I don't know why people would even want a camera that records in a format that uses interframe compression.

      I got a camera not long ago that still used DV tapes for this very reason: hdd and dvd all seemed to use codecs that would make editing frustrating, even though they had higher byte-capacity (and therefore vastly higher storage capacity due to the higher compression...)

  • by Bob_Who ( 926234 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @09:02AM (#32063196) Homepage Journal
    http://www.eff.org/ [eff.org] is IMHO a great place to begin dealing with old laws and new media and technology. They are like the ACLU for geeks, and aim to limit corporate or bureaucratic grip on internet and new media technologies. If the FCC or other government agency can't figure it out, then at least these very smart legal minds will watchdog these issues of the fine print: licensing, patents, privacy, fair use, etc.
  • by ciaran_o_riordan ( 662132 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @09:08AM (#32063242) Homepage

    Video is, IMO, the area where software patents are doing the most harm, and the problem won't be solved by the anti-troll projects, and it won't be solved by raising examination standards. H.264 is covered by 900 patents. The only way to make it patent free is to abolish software patents.

    swpat.org is a publicly editable wiki, help welcome.

  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @09:18AM (#32063300) Journal
    MPEG-LA has insinuated in the past that they own so many patents around mpeg2 and h.264, that is simply not possible to build a video codec that it doesn't infringe on their patents.

    This is blatant rubbish. A full MPEG 1 implementation can be implemented since all patents relating to that have expired. A number of the MPEG2 patents have expired so it may be possible to extend this using those. So that gives at the very least some basic space conversion and final compression algorithms that can be used. Even a few of the MPEG 2 patents have expired. We're not looking at a particularly modern CODEC yet, but this should at least give us better quality than an MJPEG stream.
  • by WarwickRyan ( 780794 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @09:32AM (#32063370)

    Thankfully we don't have software patents in Europe, but does that mean we won't suffer from this?

  • Realistically.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DavidR1991 ( 1047748 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @09:35AM (#32063404) Homepage

    ...transcode from one format to another. The article claims you are "already liable" if you do this - but here's the rub, unless you announce the camera you made the film with + what it was originally encoded with, who the hell is going to find out?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dachannien ( 617929 )

      Besides that, I fail to see how you would be on the hook for royalties covering more than one recording - the one you made originally, before you transcoded into an unencumbered format. TFA's author seems to take it as a given that you would still owe for every sold copy of the transcoded recording just because the original recording was in an encumbered format.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Qzukk ( 229616 )

        how you would be on the hook for royalties covering more than one recording

        Because companies think they are entitled to a cut of any revenue they "helped" you make, whether they are ISPs thinking they deserve a cut of Google's cash because they deigned to grant their subscribers access to Google's website, musicians thinking they deserve a cut of a cafe's cash because a radio was playing in the back, or video encoders who think they deserve a cut of a movie's revenue.

        I wonder how many of these people who fe

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cpghost ( 719344 )
      And what if the cameras watermark their serial numbers in the videos (something like the yellow dots by color laser printers), and those watermarks survived the transcoding process?
  • h.264 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by C_Kode ( 102755 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @10:50AM (#32063860) Journal

    If h.264 becomes THE web standard, then it should be striped of it's current royalty license and possibly be moved to the public domain for monopolistic reasons.

    Now, I don't necessarily believe it should be moved to the public domain due to the fact that it has author and ownership, but having that much power of what is a standard is just wrong. Especially when the owner is trying to use it to dictate and harm competition the way they are.

Someday your prints will come. -- Kodak