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MPEG-2 Patents Have Expired ( 144

New submitter jabuzz writes: Unless you live in the Philippines or Malaysia, then MPEG-2 has now joined the likes of MP3 and AC3 and gone patent free with the expiration of US patent 7,334,248.
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MPEG-2 Patents Have Expired

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  • So? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anon-Admin ( 443764 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @12:46PM (#56122465) Journal

    So I no longer need to buy the license for my Raspberry Pi XBMC unit?

    Where do I get my free key to open that up?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )

      Not necessarily. The license key unlocks the hardware decode unit. Broadcom no longer needs to pay patent licenses for MPEG-2 (though they may have a contract that requires them to pay for devices even after the patents expire), but they are under no obligation to pass that saving on to you.

    • The patents on the design expired. This just means that anyone can write their own MPEG2 system.

      Specific implementations are still covered by copyright and possible licensing, just like any new implentation tomorrow.

      The idea is free. The code is not necessarily free.

      • There are already free (as in freedom) implementations that were only encumbered by patent.

        • by adolf ( 21054 )

          Neat, and obvious (oh hi VLC and mencoder!) but.

          If you really think that the set-in-silicone hardware decoder on a Raspberry Pi MPEG2 encoder is free (as in libre), I've got a bridge to sell you.

          • Certainly wasn't free, as it was already designed and produced under license. Wanna be the next generation of hardware encoders are free? (as in beer, to the manufacturer)

            • by adolf ( 21054 )

              Maybe. But will we still care enough by that point to bother with hardware MPEG2?

              The baby-daddy of all of the Pi-like creations is the Broadcom catalog, not custom silicone.

              What motivation would Broadcom have to use an open hardware design in their chips, instead of the existing design that works fine?

              • They won't do it for the Pi specifically, but they'll do it for Blu-Ray/DVD Players and TVs.

                I have no idea whether Broadcom licenses their design or created it in-house. If they licence it, they'd have incentive to redesign it to save on fees. At the very least, they can kill the DRM circuitry that makes sure you have a license to use the on-board MPEG-2 decoding.

                • by adolf ( 21054 )

                  They may have a contractual agreement to pay per-seat licensing for a very long time. We don't know their arrangement and have no way to know. (Why would they do this? For a better deal on licensing and royalties early on. The licensor would also adore this concept; companies love lasting residual income for zero additional effort.)

                  Either way, in all likelihood, all existing product was produced under an agreement that is still binding for that particular instance of product. Contracts are assholes tha

    • Off patent doesn't mean public domain.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Yes, it does. If you are talking about a specific implementation, you are confusing patents with copyrights.
    • Unnecessary. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The mpeg2 key was just used to 'unlock' a software implementation in the VC4 firmware. It was trash anyways.

      Basically all you need now is the open source VC4 drivers, or the open source vc4 gcc port and you can compile up mpeg2 for it at the same power usage as the real thing, completely bypassing the firmware requirement.

      Not sure if they finished display output yet, but there is an open source VC4 bootstrap firmware now, as well as broadcom documentation on the VC4 opcodes so you could write/optimize your

  • by fred6666 ( 4718031 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @12:56PM (#56122571)

    The news is that some countries are actually worse than the US regarding patents.

    • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

      The list seems to me quite long. How the hell there are still five Malaysian and two Philippines ones left god only knows. Most of the US ones expired a considerable period of time ago. There where just two left this year, one expired at the end of January and the last one yesterday.

      The patents in question are apparerntly (according the MPEG-LA) below. How one finds out when they expire is an open question. I could find nothing about them on the web.

      MY 118172-A
      MY 1289941
      MY 141626-A
      MY 118444
      MY 118734-A

      PH 1-1

      • by jrumney ( 197329 )
        • MY 118172-A expires 30 Sept 2019
        • MY 128994-A expires 30 Mar 2022
        • MY 141626-A expires 31 May 2025
        • MY 118444 expires 30 Nov 2019
        • MY 118734-A expires 31 Jan 2020
        • PH 1-1993-47458 exipes 17 Jul 2019
        • PH 1-1995-50216 expires 13 Feb 2020

        GE technology appears to have two other possibly relevant Malaysian patent applications first filed in the US in 1993, one was granted last year and another is still under examination, so they may be able to drag this out until at least 2032 if MPEG-LA are still accepting new patents

        • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

          Interesting the FAQ from the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines says terms is 20 years from international filing so unless they had a different system in the past they are telling lies and those patents long expired.

          • by jrumney ( 197329 )
            Philippines had 17 years after grant until 1997. Malaysia had 15 years after grant until 2001.
  • ... correct.

  • Important for HDTV (Score:5, Interesting)

    by crow ( 16139 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @01:06PM (#56122675) Homepage Journal

    HDTV in the United States uses ATSC, which is a transport stream for MPEG-2. Most cable companies still use MPEG-2, though I believe the satellite companies have switched.

    While this only means a $2 reduction in the cost to make a TV, it also means a $2 reduction in the cost of streaming devices capable of playing TV signals. That's significant when you're talking about a Roku stick, which is why they skipped the license fee and don't support it. That means you can't use a Roku as a frontend for MythTV without transcoding your recordings, and you can't use a Roku as a frontend for a HDPrime networked cable card tuner.

    All that can change now. I don't know if existing hardware that Roku uses can support MPEG-2, but if it does, then they could add support with just a software update. The same with all the other similar devices that may not have supported MPEG-2 in the past.

    • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

      Not sure about the latest boxes, but Roku's for a long time where same chipset as a Raspberry Pi and as such have hardware decoding though not available presumably for licensing reasons.

    • I don't know if existing hardware that Roku uses can support MPEG-2, but if it does, then they could add support with just a software update. The same with all the other similar devices that may not have supported MPEG-2 in the past.

      Why fix something they already paid for when they can just make you pay for it again with a software upgrade? That's capitalism.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    That is designed to progressively get better as patents expire. That way we get the best video codec over time.

    • It's annoying to quote you if you start a comment in the subject and finish it in the body.

      In theory, many MPEG video codecs are structured like that. They have a "baseline profile", a "main profile", and a "high profile". But depending on the relationship among the patent encumbrances of the profiles, the higher profiles might not take off. Consider the example of arithmetic coding in JPEG. No popular encoder or decoder supported arithmetic coding because the expiration of its patent was so far after the r

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @01:10PM (#56122705) Journal

    Now I can stop paying all those licensing fees that I've been sending all these years!

    • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

      You can also stop registering your DOS shareware.

    • Yup. You no longer need to pay a license fee when you buy an ATSC TV or DVD (including Blu-ray disc) player.
    • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

      Brought a DVD, DVD player, BluRay player, digital TV, set top box in the last decade? Then you have paid an MPEG2 license fee for the privilege. Indirectly you have been paying for your over the air broadcaster to use MPEG2 to encode the TV you are watching. So yes you can now stop paying those fees.

  • Why is it that the patent on MPEG-2 can expire, but copyrights last until the heat death of the universe. I suppose that's a rhetorical question, I know why, but it's just so damn annoying.
    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      Because Mickey Mouse.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Because Democracy.

      Democracy is a powerful piece of propoganda that causes a population to willingly acquiesce to a much smaller ruling class. Some of the rent-seekers in this ruling class, notably Disney's owners, rely on the effectiveness of democracy to have the masses accept and defend nonsense like copyright law.

      Captcha: disobeys

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Forget the video part of the MPEG-2 standard (part 2). While it's used on DVDs and was used on early HD-DVDs and Blurays it's a dying standard with only a few niche use cases going forward.
    What's really important is Part 1 of the MPEG-2 standard, MPEGTS. MPEGTS is used in all DVDs, Blurays, cable tv and sattelite broadcasts, military drones, pretty much anything where there are multiple streams of synchronized data (video, audio, closed captioning, telemetry, etc). This is probably the most heavily used por

  • by slew ( 2918 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2018 @02:55PM (#56123507)

    FWIW, the "interesting" video codec patents expired many years ago. You can peruse them here... []

    The last patent is entitled "Conditional access filter as for a packet video signal inverse transport system" applied to cable systems and satellite broadcast, but basically doesn't apply to program streams (which is what is used in DVD and created by most MPEG2 A/V multiplexers).

    There were some streaming and DVR-like systems that recorded transport streams directly and used them, but not really any "free" stuff (which might use packet formats like MKVs) . Of course now it is totally moot...

  • Great! Now I can rip my LPs!

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