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MPEG LA Announces Permanent Royalty Moratorium For H264 262

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?
  • 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.
  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:13PM (#33386152)

    I don't think so. These are the same terms they offered before, they just removed the time limit. And their pattern with the expiration of previous time limits has been to extend the time limit.

  • Re:Oh snap. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:14PM (#33386164) Homepage

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

  • by node 3 ( 115640 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:15PM (#33386174)

    Let the fear-mongering commence!

  • 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.

  • Re:Oh snap. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vlueboy ( 1799360 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:43PM (#33386546)


    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, in comparison with the 77 on the Google list. Google's long list is probably par for the course for giants like IBM, Intel and Microsoft's yearly acquisitions, but this being slashdot, please think of what "giants" and "par for the course" mean for Google's faltering "don't be evil" motto.

    Once you have that many companies in your corporate bloodstream, your original identity starts to fade and your decisions are no longer yours --they're made in consultation with previously alien VP's who all had different directions prior to the merger. Scary times ahead.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:44PM (#33386554)

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

    That makes sense until you get into the case where you write/create your own tools. Then patents make it so that you have to pay someone else for your own work.

  • Re:Oh snap. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TooMuchToDo ( 882796 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:50PM (#33386642)

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

  • by raynet ( 51803 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @06:00PM (#33386750) Homepage

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

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

    by mr_mischief ( 456295 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @06:09PM (#33386864) Journal

    I imagine pulling this promise would result in a class action. Lawyers love juicy class actions against big industries and tend to take them on contingency.

  • Re:Paging lawyers (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Cley Faye ( 1123605 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @06:13PM (#33386896) Homepage
    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:Finally? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RedK ( 112790 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @06:47PM (#33387284)
    Or Mozilla is not reinventing the wheel and using things like libgif, libjpeg, libpng and probably ffmpeg. You're just making stuff up as you go.
  • Re:Oh snap. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @07:09PM (#33387504)

    Yes, but MS added a number of "innovations" such as "squirting" and the whole idea of sharing music (in a limited fashion of course) with other Zune users, which completely bombed.

    The idea of a portable digital music player was nothing new for either Apple or MS. Apple took the idea and made a player with a handy "click-wheel", put it in a fancy-looking case that a lot of people apparently thought was attractive, then stuck on easy access to an online music store where people could buy individual tracks instead of whole albums, and it was wildly successful.

    MS came along a little later, made a player with access to their own (incompatible) music store, threw in a WiFi radio that was only useful for sharing songs with nearby Zune users (but you could only listen to the shared song 3 times), but not for syncing with your computer which is the more obvious application for such a device, and packaged it in a shit-brown case, and everyone laughed.

  • Re:Paging lawyers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by S.O.B. ( 136083 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @07:18PM (#33387584)

    Corporate entities are not immune from making completely irrational decisions.

    Corporate entities are guaranteed to make completely irrational decisions.

    There, fixed that for you.

  • Re:Paging lawyers (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @07:23PM (#33387628)

    What about Ad Supported, possibly chock full of annoying ads, with an option of paying a fee to remove ads?

  • by ProppaT ( 557551 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @07:32PM (#33387698) Homepage

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

  • Re:Finally? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by davepermen ( 998198 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @07:57PM (#33387880)
    they should give the user the option. i would like to use sysinternal codecs for anything. i don't care if it works the same on linux and windows. i DO care if it works the same on any app on my one platform i use.
  • 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 Draek ( 916851 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @10:21PM (#33388718)

    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.

  • Re:Paging lawyers (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 26, 2010 @11:24PM (#33389002)

    Stop being so fucking dense.

  • by TD-Linux ( 1295697 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @12:41AM (#33389294)

    Don't let these MPEG LA devils fool you.

    Oh my, we're really in for it now.

    By continuing to use h264, you support the developers who support intellectual property and DRM protected hardware. Do you really want to do that? I don't want to support developers who stand behind "intellectual property" and "Digital Rights Management" software and hardware.

    Excuse me, but what does H.264 have to do with DRM?

    It stifles innovation and widens the disparity between the rich and the poor because the poor will have less opportunity to learn how all of this hardware works in order to create and innovate similar products.

    Hmm? Patents are freely viewable online, as is the H.264 spec. "create and innovate similar products"... similar products? I thought innovation generally resulted in original products? I digress.

    Don't let all those intellectual assholes "smoke and mirrors" confuse you and and distract you by saying there are other codecs "technically superior" to Theora.

    So you can magically make facts not important by enclosing them with double quotes?

    I've been witness to all this video intellectual property crapola since the mid 1990's. All these different audio/video formats to obfuscate, divide and conquer the open-source world: mpeg, mp4, aac, nmr-nb, nmr-wb, 3gp, 3gp2. dirac, matroska, wav, mp3, flac.

    Great job listing off open formats like dirac, matroska, wav, and flac, I see you really did your homework there. Also, mp4, 3gp, and 3gp2 are containers for the MPEG-4 format, of which aac is a component. I don't see a lot of division there - just different containers for certain specific applications with specific needs.

    Not to mention the price to purchase the hardware had been quite exclusive for the longest time for the cameras and the encoder cards.

    Man, if that $200 MPEG-4 encoding video camera was only $0.20 cheaper...

    The phone makers and the MID makers should be supporting the open-source route because it makes their hardware less expensive to buy in the long-run.

    Uhh, that's the whole point of selling or licensing things. To delegate production or R&D to other parties, so you don't have to reinvent the wheel.

    Why is it they are still selling stuff with mp4/mpeg chipsets? Why are they supporting these intellectual property guys?

    Consumers have buying power. They will vote for open-source with their money if well-informed.

    Let's see... a well-informed customer would know that the Theora product would offer two advantages over the H.264 product... $0.20 cheaper and significantly worse video quality. This is assuming, of course, that Theora encoders and decoders are manufactured in great enough volumes to make the cost equal to H.264.

    I know the real point of your post is promoting ideals, and I'm a bit of a practical type... but seriously, isn't there something better for you to campaign about?

  • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @08:32AM (#33391028) Homepage

    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, licensing of software patents are an abomination. If you build a substantial new invention, yes, you should be able to patent it for the purposes of stopping competitors building something identical after they've seen it for a few years in order to allow you to profit from your idea.

    With software, most of those ideas are completely virtual. They usually are no more than a single mathematical manipulation. Rarely are they new and insightful, and most of them don't correspond to an invention so much as a process. That is, according to most sensible countries, not enough to be patentable. It doesn't result in a "device", it's still just an idea - if you want to patent a device that digitises video - marvellous, no problem at all. Or a new type of cable to connect it (DVI/HDMI/USB3 hardware patents - fine, nobody is moaning about that). If you want to patent the idea of a particular way of digitising the video, you're on more dubious ground unless it's truly revolutionary and isn't just something that exists by manipulating bits in a slightly different fashion.

    The patent system was designed so that inventors had time to get their ideas off the ground into a working device without having to worry about copycats stealing the idea and getting to a working product first by using greater resources. They exist *because* physical devices and engineering take time. However, software patents allow you to literally patent any absurd, abstract, mathematical idea. I hereby patent the concept of a complex number, or a graph, or a quadratic equation, or dividing two numbers by calculating their reciprocal and multiplying them, or a method for solving the Towers of Hanoi, or the method of solving the Rubik's Cube. That's just how absurd they are, if not in theory then in practice.

    Asking *USERS* of a piece of software, and even people who've never heard of or seen that software in their life, to pay for every single use of that software is a bit stupid. Every time I encode a bit of music, you expect me to pay the inventor of WAV, PCM, IFF, etc. a few dollars? That's just as stupid as MP3 licensing. And if a lot of people listen to that file, you expect me to pay on higher scales? I will pay you for the software to do the encode or decode, yes, probably, no problem at all. Once. I don't have to pay a royalty to Adobe every time I save a file in Photoshop format. I may have to pay them to find out the exact details of the format, but that's it, and that's optional - if I decide to reverse-engineer it (as is my right in lots of countries), I can then reimplement it - so long as I don't breach *COPYRIGHT*, there's no problem there.

    Video-licensing is absurd. Every single owner of a DVD player or laptop in the world has paid the MPEG LA money. They don't even realise it. And, technically, a lot of "home video creation" packages, camcorder software, etc. aren't licensed to do what people are doing with them. If I was part of MPEG LA, OF COURSE I would want everyone in the world to pay every time they look at a video, encode it, transcode it. Doesn't mean it's a sensible, rational or reasonable thing to do though.

    And the vast majority of video-related patents are nothing more than an algorithm. You cannot patent, or copyright, an algorithm. You have NEVER been able to in the majority of the world. It's like me charging you because you just used my method of long-division, or you worked out how to stack boxes using an thought process that I submitted to the patent office before y

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