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204 comments

It's not "Free" to begin with. (1)

Adolf Hitroll (562418) | more than 3 years ago | (#33423758)

Stop the press. This is not news.

Re:It's not "Free" to begin with. (4, Insightful)

blackest_k (761565) | more than 3 years ago | (#33423784)

The third link has a good explanation of why h264 isn't really free.
First thing to be noted is that any deal they offer today can be withdrawn in five years anyway.
The free bit is only that they will not bill the end user.
the encoding is not free
the streaming is not free
and the decoding is absolutely not free.
The last one means any browser wishing to offer this functionality has to pay for it and unfortunatly it can't pass on the patent protection granted by paying for this so there is no way for firefox to offer this.

So really we should say no to h264 and hope google doesn't get creamed in its patent battles.
     

Re:It's not "Free" to begin with. (1, Insightful)

DurendalMac (736637) | more than 3 years ago | (#33423812)

the encoding is not free

Unless you use x.264.

the streaming is not free

Only for commercial purposes. If it's not paid content, it's 100% free of charge by the MPEG-LA as far as streaming is concerned.

and the decoding is absolutely not free.

So all those open source projects like VLC, MPlayer, etc are paying through the nose to the MPEG-LA? That's news to me. And I may be wrong, but the reason Firefox would have to pay through the nose is because they like building everything into the browser (video decoding included) instead of just passing it to the OS, which means it would cost nothing if they were to do it like every other browser out there. I'm not entirely sure about that, but it's the impression I'm getting.

Re:It's not "Free" to begin with. (3, Interesting)

amolapacificapaloma (1000830) | more than 3 years ago | (#33423848)

When he says "free", he means "free of patents threats". Of course you can do it "for free", but they will eventually come after you.

Ah, and when you "pass it to the OS", you need to have paid for and OS from a vendor that has paid the licensing...

Misconceptions (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33423912)

You can pirate everything and never be able to do proper commercial stuff with your computer. Or you can do it the right legal way and be able to make some money off of it. The problem is of a legal nature. It's not about what you can do at your home when nobody looks. It's more about what you can do in a firm or organization which is subject to some oversight. MPEG LA have said that they do not see a possibility that there is such a thing as a codec that does not violate their patents. And there are problems with getting for instance Full-HD recording equipment which is not subject to h264 patents.

Re:It's not "Free" to begin with. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33423932)

So all those open source projects like VLC, MPlayer, etc...

Are in in breach of patent law in the US at the very least.....

Re:It's not "Free" to begin with. (4, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424476)

the encoding is not free

Unless you use x.264.

In which case, you still need a patent license from the MPEG-LA if you live in a country where any of their patents are valid.

So all those open source projects like VLC, MPlayer, etc are paying through the nose to the MPEG-LA?

Nope, they all use FFMPEG, which is based in France. France does not recognise software patents, so they are not required to pay anything. Using them in the USA without a patent license, however, is illegal.

Re:It's not "Free" to begin with. (1)

wzzzzrd (886091) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424504)

If it's not paid content, it's 100% free of charge by the MPEG-LA as far as streaming is concerned.

Unless you have more than 100,000 users. Don't know if it's simultaneous users or just per month, but this clause is definitely there.

Re:It's not "Free" to begin with. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33425000)

Only free for streaming playback. When you transcode a DVD rip to .mp4 for your iCrap, if you're using something like handbrake you should be paying a fee and have a license from MPEG-LA. That's the problem!

Wrong (2, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#33423854)

First thing to be noted is that any deal they offer today can be withdrawn in five years anyway.

Nope. What part of "royalty free forever" did you not understand? If you read that third link again you'll find it USED TO BE five year periods but now lasts until the patents expire, which essentially means forever since it's all moot after the expiration.

That argument is dead now.

so there is no way for firefox to offer this.

They have more than enough money to pay for this and also could distribute a standalone player module for Linux - because after all, on other platforms they could simply use the native h.264 playback facilities that both Apple and Microsoft offer.

I understand philosophically where Firefox is coming from but it's not a practical fight and not one Firefox can do anything but be hurt by as more and more users switch to other browsers like Chrome that can play back h.264.

Re:Wrong (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33423962)

What part of "royalty free forever" did you not understand?

A lot more than you apparently. Its royalty free for only ONE SPECIFIC type of streaming. AND you still need a licensed (not free) encoder/decoders. AND they can change their mind. The court fees for any defense you feel entitled too are yours to bear.

so there is no way for Firefox to offer this.

They have more than enough money to pay for this..

The 5million a year does not get you the right for 3rd party distribution. Firefox would not be permitted to be part of any Linux distribution for example with them also paying the 5 million. You would not longer be allowed to give a copy of a distribution to a friend. 3rd party distribution like this will *never* be permitted by MPEG-LA. Not permitting unrestricted 3rd party distribution is a violation of the Mozilla/GPL etc type license. It is simply not legal in the US and other countries that support software patents.

Re:It's not "Free" to begin with. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33423928)

First thing to be noted is that any deal they offer today can be withdrawn in five years anyway.

Yes, I can remember that only last year people saying that everybody using H.264 would pay when the MPEG LA jacks up their fees in 2011. That didn't happen of course, which isn't a surprise since the MPEG LA historically always offered the same or better terms when a new licensing period began. Turns out they have something to lose by alienating their customers, especially since they also want to sell future products to them which isn't that easy if people mistrust you.

the encoding is not free

Encoding is free, encoders aren't if you distribute more than 100.000 a year.

the streaming is not free

It isn't free if the streams are pay per view or part of a payed subscription provided that there are more than 100.000 sales or subscribers per year. If you have to pay it's either 2 cent or 2% of the price per sale (whichever is lower) and at worst 10 cent per year per subscriber.

and the decoding is absolutely not free.

Again, decoding is free, distributing more than a certain number of decoders isn't.

The last one means any browser wishing to offer this functionality has to pay for it and unfortunatly it can't pass on the patent protection granted by paying for this so there is no way for firefox to offer this.

Any browser can offer H.264 decoding for free by using the system provided codec framework. While Mozilla has been decrying that approach for their desktop browser it's exactly what they do in their mobile version (Fennec). Every modern operating system comes with a H.264 decoder anyway. For older Windows and MacOS systems there are free licensed downloads (Divx, Quicktime) and for Linux systems there is at least a cheap gstreamer plugin (ignoring the fact that almost anyone who uses Linux as a desktop operating system probably has some version of FFMpeg installed anyway).
Of course this is a problem, but it's a far cry from there being no way to offer such functionality.

Re:It's not "Free" to begin with. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33423984)

Encoding is free,...

WRONG. If it was free they couldn't even suggest that i need a another license to put it on the internet or pay per view. I wouldn't an extra license for the *content* encoded when i use for commercial reasons. The *only* exemption is when its on a *free* website. Why do i need an exemption if its fee?

h.264 is not free in *any* sense of the word.

Re:It's not "Free" to begin with. (2, Insightful)

daveime (1253762) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424018)

Yes, I can remember that only last year people saying that everybody using H.264 would pay when the MPEG LA jacks up their fees in 2011. That didn't happen of course, which isn't a surprise since it's not 2011 yet you muppet.

Re:It's not "Free" to begin with. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33424042)

The licensing fees for the period from 2011 to 2015 where announced last January. They will be the same as the fees in the current licensing period. There was even an article here on slashdot about it.

"Sword of Damocles" you muppet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33424502)

"Sword of Damocles" you muppet. "Oh, there's no problem with my house on the edge of this cliff! You said it could collapse in 2011 five years ago, and look! you were wrong! So it's absolutely saaaaaaaaaahhhhh....." NO CARRIER

Re:It's not "Free" to begin with. (2, Insightful)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424066)

it can't pass on the patent protection granted by paying for this so there is no way for firefox to offer this.

Here I have the feeling I'm still missing something. Why can FF not offer H.264 video? I understand it can not be built in (though they could make two versions of it, with native H.264 for jurisdictions outside software patent land). It's something that comes up all the time.

Not so long ago I have been playing YouTube videos in H.264 right in FF using mplayer-plugin. There is some greasemonkey script for that, youtube without flash. Maybe not as technically charming as native but for the end user what counts is: it works.

And before anyone starts riling about plugins: why are plugins bad while add-ons are good? From a user pov they're the same. Just a different name. Both add functionality to a browser that it doesn't do natively.

Also what I do not understand, is why FF is singled out for this. Chrome is also given away for free, just like Opera and IE. There is also an OS version of Chrome. I never hear about problems of paying for license fees for those browsers. Or any other browsers - which may be because the rest is too small to count.

Re:It's not "Free" to begin with. (2, Informative)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424132)

Also what I do not understand, is why FF is singled out for this. Chrome is also given away for free, just like Opera and IE. There is also an OS version of Chrome. I never hear about problems of paying for license fees for those browsers.

"Chrome" is a closed source browser distributed by Google that contains a binary H.264 codec with a license valid for that binary only. "Chromium" is open source but comes with no H.264 codeo, though it's been patched to use the system codecs if available.

Firefox can not use the same solution as Chrome. It could use the same solution as Chromium, but it means it would only work for some people so they won't do it. That is why FF is singling themselves out, they are the only ones where it simply will not work.

Re:It's not "Free" to begin with. (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424152)

Windows doesn't come with H.264 codecs installed out of the box? I know in Linux you always have to go through some clicks to get it installed (non-free codecs or so it's called) but besides that minor inconvenience it just works.

Re:It's not "Free" to begin with. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33424160)

Also what I do not understand, is why FF is singled out for this. Chrome is also given away for free, just like Opera and IE. There is also an OS version of Chrome. I never hear about problems of paying for license fees for those browsers

How is Firefox "singled out"? Google pays for the Chrome h.264 license, and Microsoft pays for IE -- neither Google nor Microsoft want their browser to be open source so the limitations (like the browsers being non-redistributable) are fine for them. Chromium and Opera do not support h.264 so it's no surprise you've not heard of license fee problems for them...

Re:It's not "Free" to begin with. (2, Interesting)

node 3 (115640) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424714)

Why can FF not offer H.264 video?

They can. It's only their philosophy that prevents them from doing so. Neither the MPEG-LA, nor their own license, prevents them from supporting H.264. They could even distribute an H.264 plugin for Firefox on all supported platforms completely legally.

Re:It's not "Free" to begin with. (1)

Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424556)

say no to h264? Do you have a better codec? H264 is a damn good codec.

I think H264 will be around a long time, just like jpg and mpeg. Because they're good. The people behind these projects have changed the world for the better.

Patented Standards (5, Insightful)

GuerillaRadio (818889) | more than 3 years ago | (#33423764)

It seems an obvious requirement now to me that any 'international standards', as H.264 is described in TFA, should not be written by a consortium that have a collection of patents on the only possible implementation of the standard!

I'm not sure how this would be ensured - maybe the same consortium that pool the defensive patent pool for Linux could start a standards body based around this simple idea.

Re:Patented Standards (4, Interesting)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 3 years ago | (#33423820)

ARM and W-CDMA work in similar ways. ARM happens to own the patents and licenses them to whomever for a reasonable fee. W-CDMA works in much the same way as H.264. You have a bunch of companies that decide to share patents into one resource. It makes it easy for other companies to pay 1 fee and then use the technology. And H.264's licensing terms are reasonable. There is a cost of doing business. I know that is not popular around here, but it's the truth.

Unfortunately it's going to be harder for Free software going forward. Try writing an opensource point-of-sale or e-commerce program that can directly process credit cards. You can't without spending around $20,000 for PA-DSS auditing. And I see more of these types of industry barriers to entry popping up.

Re:Patented Standards (5, Insightful)

GuerillaRadio (818889) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424054)

Unfortunately it's going to be harder for Free software going forward. Try writing an opensource point-of-sale or e-commerce program that can directly process credit cards. You can't without spending around $20,000 for PA-DSS auditing. And I see more of these types of industry barriers to entry popping up.

It won't be harder, it will be impossible - it destroys the mechanism of Free / Open Source software. The way you put it is as if the rise of FOSS is just some kind of unfortunate minority part of the computing world that will be affected, rather than one of the most important, game changing event in the recent history of computing.

Re:Patented Standards (1)

WWWWolf (2428) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424176)

ARM and W-CDMA work in similar ways. ARM happens to own the patents and licenses them to whomever for a reasonable fee. W-CDMA works in much the same way as H.264.

Don't know how W-CDMA works, but are ARM's fans flocking together and trying to push ARM as the One True Instruction Set for Every Microprocessor-Powered Thing Ever? Nay, demanding that all other instruction sets are technically inferior, and we should stick to a reasonable, up-to-date standard like ARM? Are they demanding that the ARM architecture should be deemed part of the open, interoperable, free-to-use sphere of commonly used computer technology (without really mentioning the patent costs at any part)?

The point is this: No one cares how H.264 licensing works, unless they're interested in creating H.264 videos. Everyone's concerned because if H.264 becomes the part of HTML5, then everyone has to care how H.264 licensing works, whether they actually want to give a damn about H.264 or not. It becomes a part of the baggage you bring with implementing HTML5 support.

Try writing an opensource point-of-sale or e-commerce program that can directly process credit cards. You can't without spending around $20,000 for PA-DSS auditing.

But that's a legal requirement, not a licensing requirement. No one's forcing you to use H.264 from legal perspective.

Re:Patented Standards (1)

sonamchauhan (587356) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424898)

Try writing an opensource point-of-sale or e-commerce program that can directly process credit cards. You can't without spending around $20,000 for PA-DSS auditing.
     

But that's a legal requirement, not a licensing requirement. No one's forcing you to use H.264 from legal perspective.

How did the credit card industry get the government to pass a law for this? Its almost certainly a licensing or trademark requirement.

Re:Patented Standards (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33424192)

ARM and W-CDMA work in similar ways. ARM happens to own the patents and licenses them to whomever for a reasonable fee. W-CDMA works in much the same way as H.264. You have a bunch of companies that decide to share patents into one resource. It makes it easy for other companies to pay 1 fee and then use the technology.

Yes, that's how it works.

And H.264's licensing terms are reasonable

But here I disagree. The difference between H264 and the above is its application space: both ARM and CDMA have a license covering production of equipment, whereas H264 is offered as a user license. The situation would be comparable if an end-user were charged for every communication over W-CDMA, or every programmer was billed for generating ARM machine-code (using a licensed compiler etc).

As it stands, end users are still liable for royalties concerning the codec in addition to the patent fees they may have already paid for by purchasing a digital camera / BR player. That's why the MPEG licensing terms are considered non-free.

Re:Patented Standards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33424384)

Hmm, let me see: there is a breed of software that would enable anyone to save a lot of money, and whose very existence is used as an argument ("anyone can afford it") for ever growing "e-"-isation of all human activities, but a cartel of big companies are pushing their own way, that prevents this savings from happening, into the laws ("standards"). Seems mighty similar to imposed and unfair taxation by non-governmental entities. What could possibly go wrong?

Re:Patented Standards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33424706)

Saving money = taxation? You're dreamin'

Those are slightly different examples... (2, Informative)

Qubit (100461) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424874)

ARM and W-CDMA work in similar ways. ARM happens to own the patents and licenses them to whomever for a reasonable fee. W-CDMA works in much the same way as H.264. You have a bunch of companies that decide to share patents into one resource. It makes it easy for other companies to pay 1 fee and then use the technology. And H.264's licensing terms are reasonable. There is a cost of doing business. I know that is not popular around here, but it's the truth.

But for comparison here, if I own an ARM computer and make a video or some kind of word processing document on it, there's absolutely nothing stopping you from opening that video or that document on your computer with an x86 chip (at least nothing related to the origin of the file being an ARM-powered device).

If you create a video or audio file and encode it with codec XYZ, you can bet your sweet pile of software patents that when you send that file to me I'm going to have to use information about that codec to turn that file back into something my eyes and ears can understand. I have no choice.

Similarly, my phone doesn't have to support W-CDMA for me to be able to call you. I can just use a POTS line. Or use a GSM phone. Sure, I am more limited than I would be were there no software or hardware patents, but at least I have choices.

Unfortunately it's going to be harder for Free software going forward. Try writing an opensource point-of-sale or e-commerce program that can directly process credit cards. You can't without spending around $20,000 for PA-DSS auditing.

For those curious folk, here's the wikipaedia link for PA-DSS [wikipedia.org] . It appears that people have discussed [wordpress.com] the PA-DSS + FOSS question before and it really sounds like it's just and issue of someone stepping up and taking control of the process.

Sure, you'll have to pay some money to have the software audited. Sure, you'll have to provide information about how the team audits and creates new releases of the software. Sure, you'll have to jump through certain hoops. But that's what it took when OpenSSL got FIPS 140-2 validation [slashdot.org] .

Re:Patented Standards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33425016)

Unfortunately it's going to be harder for Free software going forward. Try writing an opensource point-of-sale or e-commerce program that can directly process credit cards. You can't without spending around $20,000 for PA-DSS auditing. And I see more of these types of industry barriers to entry popping up.

You can certainly write it, but it will take a commercial enterprise to support it and pay the fees.

Red Hat develops lots of FOSS, and they charge for their product. They also paid to get RHEL certified via Common Criteria to a particular EAL for use in government circles. Similarly OpenSSL's FIPS certification was paid for by 'corporate sponsors'.

That makes no sense (1, Interesting)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#33423824)

It seems an obvious requirement now to me that any 'international standards', as H.264 is described in TFA, should not be written by a consortium that have a collection of patents on the only possible implementation of the standard!

How does that make any sense?

In todays heavily legal world, the ONLY kinds of standards you can rely on are ones where members of the standards group hold patents and pledges the protected use of same to people following that standard.

Any other approach pretty much ensures that (1) no-one will take on the legal risk of using your standard, and (2) that you will be hit by patent trolls or even just random holders.

Frankly, I of the opinion that standards groups SHOULD be able to hold a patent hammer over implementations of said standard outside the group, because a standard means nothing without enforcement as Microsoft has taught us all too well. I want standards to be adhered to, not fragmented - and many standards bodies provide free licensing for open source implementations so it's not like it's really blocking that much work.

Re:That makes no sense (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33423860)

Why don't you shut the fuck up, greaseball.

Re:That makes no sense (4, Insightful)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#33423894)

In todays heavily legal world, the ONLY kinds of standards you can rely on are ones where members of the standards group hold patents and pledges the protected use of same to people following that standard.

Erm, no. You can't rely on companies and individuals implementing a standard. They'll implement anything they like regardless, and then you'll have interoperability issues, pretty much as we have now anyway.

If you want a standard to be reliably implemented in a wide range of systems, you have to take out the "implementation" part of the equation. That means, distribute a public domain or BSD library which does all the hard work, and let everyone piggyback on that for nothing.

Still not making sense (0, Troll)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#33423988)

If you want a standard to be reliably implemented in a wide range of systems, you have to take out the "implementation" part of the equation.

That's why every single DVD player or network router or TV is exactly the same.

Oh wait.

Actually real standards are all about defining the STANDARD that implementations have to follow, sometimes providing a reference implementation to ensure a base level of quality but in no way forcing people to use that. Does the fact that SMTP is a standard mean that everyone uses the same mail server? Of course not!

A library is not a standard. A standard is what you can use to build a library.

Re:Still not making sense (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424070)

That's why every single DVD player or network router or TV is exactly the same.

Huh? DVD player and TV manufacturers normally buy hardware decoder chips, they don't implement the standards themselves. A DVD player is just a branded plastic box with outsourced components in it. So of course they all work pretty much the same, since they are pretty much the same when you look under the covers.

A library is not a standard. A standard is what you can use to build a library.

True, but the world is full of standards nobody uses, and a standard you have to pay for is infinitely less desirable than a free library that does the work for you. You simply won't get stability in the internet ecosystem solely from a standard (and that's what you're arguing after all), you ALSO need to ensure that people don't try to implement it themselves.

Re:Still not making sense (1)

NoMaster (142776) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424322)

Huh? DVD player and TV manufacturers normally buy hardware decoder chips, they don't implement the standards themselves.

True for the MPEG decoder, not so much for the virtual machine that controls all aspects of DVD playback. VM implementations vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, and sometimes even from model to model from the same manufacturer. Without naming names, sometimes it's a crapshoot of things like 'where is this particular player going to get the AR info from - the IFO file? The VOB header? The MPEG-2 stream headers? Will it have a branching bug, or a generic register overflow bug? '

I recall one memorably bad model which seemed to clear GP registers when executing a Compare-Link instruction, effectively making certain complex menus useless...

Lest this seem esoteric, I'll point out that both Matroska (the basis of the WebM file format) and bits of MPEG-4 (e.g. part 16, part 21) allow for similar DVD menu and control-like functionality (although last I looked it remain incomplete and largely unimplemented in Matroska).

Why then do MPEGLA not indemnify? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33424398)

Why then do MPEGLA not indemnify? Because there is NO WAY your license agreement with them can stop someone else with a patent being infringed from suing for use of their patent in H.264.

And so your "the ONLY kinds of standards" schtick goes "poof!".

Yeah... (5, Insightful)

webheaded (997188) | more than 3 years ago | (#33423768)

I'm still rooting for Google's format. I don't care about free as in money so much as free as in open source. I don't see how it could possibly be sustainable for every single company that makes a browser from here on out to have to pay a fee to use this codec. If they put H.264 into the HTML 5 spec, that is only going to make it a pain in the ass for browser developers and open source users. It's stupid. This isn't helpful...it's just slight of hand. "Look it's free!" Um no...it actually isn't free at all. I wish people writing all the other articles would acknowledge that a little better. This changes nothing.

Re:Yeah... (1, Interesting)

beelsebob (529313) | more than 3 years ago | (#33423940)

I don't care about free as in money so much as free as in open source.

Then you should be quite happy with h264 – the biggest encoder (x264) is open source, and there are plenty of open source decoder libraries for it.

Not legal in the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33424420)

Not legal in the US and when ACTA comes in, exporting the US patenting, then it won't be legal anywhere else.

(note, the patents may apply in other regions now as well, this is not a US-specific problem, but it IS a problem with x-264: IT IS NOT FREE). Unless they don't catch you and jail you for breaking patent law.

Re:Not legal in the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33424518)

x264 isn't illegal in the US. Google, Facebook and other US based companies use x264 for video encoding. The project itself won't be illegal when ACTA comes along either. The MPEG LA has the source code of their H.264 reference encoder and decoder freely available and anyone can download and compile it. With x264 it isn't different. Licensing only comes into play when you distribute more than 100.000 binaries or hardware implementations. Downloading source code and using it is in itself not restricted, just distribution of finished products is. x264 currently offers a commercial license similar to the LGPL, but that only covers the use of the source code. The licensing from the MPEG LA must be sorted out by the companies using it; that is if their use even requires a license.

Yes, it IS illegal in the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33424726)

Yes, it IS illegal in the US. This is because it is using a method that is patented in the US and has no license for it.

If you can show that the US patent is not being used in x-264 then I will concede your point.

Re:Yes, it IS illegal in the US (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424956)

I thought it worked the other way around, where they had to prove that x264 is using patented info, not the other way around.

Nope, you only have to file a complaint (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33425116)

Nope, you only have to file a complaint. Just like copyright complaints.

And if it's possible for x264 to avoid using MPEGLA patents, then the patents you're licensing are a gyp. Especially since x264 is getting to be a faster and more compliant program than licensed competitors.

So, go ahead, explain why people are paying for a license they don't have to because x264 does encoding/decoding and doesn't require a license.

My explanation is that x264 uses the patents but ignores them because

1) personal use only is not an infringement of patent (else how could you improve on the technology if you couldn't use it without a license?)

2) software patents are not universal (EPO specifically exclude software from patentability).

Re:Yeah... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33423960)

I don't see how it could possibly be sustainable for every single company that makes a browser from here on out to have to pay a fee to use this codec.

They don't have to, nor should it have anything to do with the BROWSER. Mozilla has successfully distracted most everyone from the issue: the browser shouldn't care one bit about what media files it's presenting, because it should rely on the system frameworks for that content. If you're on Windows or OS X, it's a non-issue. If you're on Linux, there are plenty of legal ways to install an h.264 codec.

If you have a philosophical objection to its usage, you can simply choose not to view that content.

If they put H.264 into the HTML 5 spec, that is only going to make it a pain in the ass for browser developers and open source users.

What makes it a pain in the ass is that the browsers are involved in the implementation at all. Why does Firefox support non-free image and audio formats? Why are they drawing an artificial line in the sand around a video format? They allow Flash, which is proprietary and uses h.264; they allow Windows Media and Quicktime plugins.

The only thing making it a pain in the ass is Mozilla.

Re:Yeah... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33424182)

If you're on Windows or OS X, it's a non-issue.

Yeah, sort of. Keeping the "minimum price" of an operating system artificially high by means like patent licenses is exactly what Microsoft and Apple want... at that point their margin doesn't seem as large. This is what the battle is about in the end: how to prevent basic computing from becoming (even more of) a commodity item.

Re:Yeah... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33424256)

Why does Firefox support non-free image and audio formats?

which ones does it support?

They allow Flash, which is proprietary and uses h.264; they allow Windows Media and Quicktime plugins.

They don't ship with Flash. they support it as an external plugin. They don't ship h.264. They support it as an external plugin

Re:Yeah... (1)

AVryhof (142320) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424804)

Mozilla should just use the libavcodec installed on the system and be done with it....that way, you have the free version distributed with Ubuntu (the one with the restricted modules disabled -- that should also come with Mozilla on all platforms) and you can simply enable restricted extras or install anything that includes the restricted libavcodec modules to make the rest work.

It would provide the consistent user experience they are looking for, as well as the ability to play a whole host of audio/video formats that it doesn't yet play.

Re:Yeah... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33424886)

Flash & Windows Media are *plugins* in Firefox. Not native implementations.

Try Again.

Trouble with h.264 is.... if it becomes a part of html5........ browsers will be expected to have *native* implementation of it.

Thats something mozilla can't do, because of patents that LA won't allow sub-licensing of.

H.264 is incompatible with open source. Doesn't mean we can't have a Firefox plugin for it, mush like flash (hopefully having a better quality than flash :) ).

Re:Yeah... (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33425338)

Bullshit, citation necessary, what formats are you referring to? A browser can't do much without support for JPEG and GIF. Flash is a plug in as are Windows Media and Quicktime. You don't have to install the plug ins if you don't want to. Which coincidentally is how Mozilla is handling the problem of H.264 as well, if you get the plug in you can play it. They just can't include anything that's going to obligate them to pay a licensing free.

Let's patent the universe! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33423778)

Though this is still speculative, it wouldn't be surprising, as, like patents, lawsuits bring in the $$$.
Gah, software patents once again stifling innovation.

I'm pragmatic (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#33423786)

I don't care as much about the codecs being open source or closed source - I'm mainly interested in which format offers the higher quality at the same (or lower) bitrate.

As far as why MPEG LA did this now - probably because right now they've got the upper hand, and they want to be sure not to give their competitors ammunition.

Re:I'm pragmatic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33423870)

I'm pragmatic. That's why I always choose formats that offer me much greater liberty of usage. Imagine if the Internet was built of out closed formats and closed protocols. It would be an unworkable farce. No, it's no contest. Open formats trump closed formats every time.

Re:I'm pragmatic (1)

Fumus (1258966) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424158)

You may be only interested in quality, but read the comments above. H.264 is 'free' in that the end user doesn't have to pay. Encoding, decoding, streaming. All you need a licence for. So if you browser or mp3 player wants to support H.264, guess what? They have to pay for licences. Especially freeware like Firefox or Opera would be screwed over by this.

Re:I'm pragmatic (4, Insightful)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424232)

``I don't care as much about the codecs being open source or closed source - I'm mainly interested in which format offers the higher quality at the same (or lower) bitrate.''

I, too, care about which format offers the higher quality at the same (or lower) bitrate. But I'm pragmatic enough to not want to have to jump through hoops if I want to install the software on my computer (on whatever OS I happen to be running), fix any bugs that I encounter while using it, or maybe even audit the software. And I don't want to get in trouble with the law over watching or encoding a video.

If MPEG-LA or any other organization wants to offer a video format that I cannot legally use, or for which a codec that allows me to do all the things I want cannot legally be implemented and distributed, that's fine with me. However, I then won't be using the format. Getting slightly better video quality isn't worth the hassle, annoyance, and security risks of typical "we care more about our anti-piracy measures than about our customers" software. If anyone else does want to use such software, fine by me.

The only point where this becomes a problem is when we are talking about standardizing on a format. Standardizing on a format that is not free to implement and use is a very bad idea. Not because it cannot be made to work, but because of pragmatic reasons: there will be barriers, and those barriers will hinder implementation and adoption. All the major players including MPEG-LA recognize this. That's why MPEG-LA is offering this "free for the most common uses" licensing: without that, H.264 would be a huge hassle. Similarly, Flash only became as widespread as it is because the player is freely available for the most popular platforms, TrueType won out over Type1 because of better licensing conditions, and free software is all over the software development world because you can use it without having to jump through hoops.

Ask yourself this: being pragmatic, how much are you willing to pay and how much work are you prepared to do to get to (legally) use H.265, the new and wonderful (and at this point, hypothetic) video format that is even better than H.264? At what point would you, for pragmatic reasons, decide to go with VP12, the (also hypothetic) video format that is almost as good, and free for all to use for any purpose, with free software codecs that you can install with a single click or command?

Re:I'm pragmatic (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424542)

When did the definition of 'pragmatic' change to mean 'only care about short-term consequences'? I'm seeing this usage a lot recently, but I don't know where it comes from.

Re:I'm pragmatic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33424708)

Yeah, apparently it's 'pragmatic' that it's illegal to use the video camera you bought for your one man company for commercial purposes. It's also 'pragmatic' that you need to figure out the licensing before you can put the video up on your web site.

Not Google but Mozilla (3, Informative)

Per Cederberg (680752) | more than 3 years ago | (#33423802)

The natural party to sue would be Mozilla or Opera here, not Google I think. Google already pay the appropriate license fees for YouTube, so there seems to be very little of a legal case there.

Re:Not Google but Mozilla (3, Informative)

feranick (858651) | more than 3 years ago | (#33423934)

The lawsuit against Google would concern the alleged violation of MPEG-LA's patents in Google's WebM, not in the unlicensed use of h264...

Re:Not Google but Mozilla (1)

Per Cederberg (680752) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424080)

It's the same patents as far as MPEG LA is concerned. Google already licenses these (via YouTube at least), so can't be sued over that it seems. I find it hard to believe that they'd sue over statements Google has made regarding WebM.

Opera and Mozilla on the other hand, have no license. And now distribute WebM codecs. Hence a better target.

Re:Not Google but Mozilla (2, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424558)

Nope. Patent licenses can be fairly specific and the ones from MPEG-LA are very specific. It's not a matter of licensing the patent, you license the patent for a specific purpose. It is still infringement if you distribute something else which is unlicensed. They will be licensing the patents to use an H.264 encoder on YouTube and to distribute an H.264 decoder in Chrome. Nothing else will be covered.

(Patent) war! What is it good for! (3, Funny)

syousef (465911) | more than 3 years ago | (#33423806)

(Patent) war! What is it good for!? Absolutely nothing.
H.264. What is it good for!? Absolutely nothing.

Sing it with me everybody!

Shakespear had it right you know (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33423822)

First, kill all the lawyers. Yeah, sure, we'll have some confusion, initially, but... Come on, really. You know it's definitely, at least, worth a try.

Re:Shakespear had it right you know (1)

Torvac (691504) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424424)

im all for that. lawyers making money out of thin air should be shot. its like parasites feeding on human innovation potential, nothing is gained here, it just slows everything down.

Re:Shakespear had it right you know (2, Funny)

halfaperson (1885704) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424560)

Let me guess, you've been to that Klingon [slashdot.org] Shakespeare play?

Re:Shakespear had it right you know (1)

dpilot (134227) | more than 3 years ago | (#33425156)

This is a sad commentary. It has been posted many times, many places, and I once saw a fascinating response by a lawyer.

Essentially:

Absent the Law, we are all at the mercy of the powerful. The Law is what gives the little guy some rights, and makes it so he doesn't have to simply and always say "How high?" when someone rich and powerful says, "Jump!" Lawyers are supposed to be the people who give the masses access to those rights under the Law. Sure, there are bad apples among lawyers, but when the masses start to lose faith in the entire practice, they start to lose the effective underpinnings of their freedom.

My comment:

This makes a sort of sense, as it used to be the Kings Word was the Law, until the days of the Magna Charta. (Really, that document only shared power from the King to the nobles, but after that some kept flowing downhill.) In general, one might say that the Law exists to protect the little guys from the rich and powerful, and that the rich and powerful can generally take care of themselves. I guess it's reasonable that the Law also protects the rich and powerful from masses of little guys, though I think if they need that protection, circumstances require very careful examination. Sometimes I think that that's where we are moving in the US, today.

How about just banning them? (1)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 3 years ago | (#33425172)

Forbid lawyers in the courtroom. The rationale being that if an average Joe is unable to understand the law, it is a problem with the law, not with Joe. Any law Joe can't understand should be immediately repealed. After all, you do want citizens to know if they are criminals or not, don't you?

Eminent Domain exists for this (4, Interesting)

snookums (48954) | more than 3 years ago | (#33423842)

Cases like this are ones where the US government (assuming these are US patents) should step up and use their powers of eminent domain to acquire these patents, declare H.264 a government standard (like AES and DES before it) and release the patents (or a perpetual license thereto) into the public domain.

The developers of H.264 and other codecs have certainly put in a lot of research and hard thinking. I believe their algorithms should be patentable (as opposed to "software" patents that are really on UI patterns and business methods), and I believe the inventors should be justly compensated. However, for maximal furtherance of the creative arts, information interchange formats need to be standardized and unencumbered. The visual entertainment industry contributes far, far more to the US economy than the codec-designing industry, and always will. An indirect subsidy like this would be an excellent stimulus.

If they had any sense, the MPAA would by lobbying the government to make this happen, rather than trying to shore up their old distribution models with copyright crackdowns. Getting free (gratis), standard, H.264 decoders into the hands of billions of people worldwide would give them a huge boost to their audience. Unfortunately, since they represent motion picture distributors, they're probably in favour of steep licensing fees to keep the barrier to entry high for content producers wishing to distribute independently.

Re:Eminent Domain exists for this (4, Insightful)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#33423918)

I believe their algorithms should be patentable

Algorithms are just mathematics. I for one believe mathematics should not be patentable, even though it's one of the hardest subjects on earth.

Re:Eminent Domain exists for this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33423968)

I could imagine where the human race would be, if SIN, PI and multiplication, for example, had been patented in earlier times.

Re:Eminent Domain exists for this (1)

FrootLoops (1817694) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424116)

Why? I'm inclined to agree, but why?

It's certainly helpful to society for fundamental knowledge to be completely free: addition, multiplication, 0, binary, etc. Some advanced topics might fall into that category too (say... Riemannian geometry which backs General Relativity, or the linear algebra backing Quantum). But how is it helpful to society for, say, the Green-Tao Theorem [wikipedia.org] to be unpatentable? I think most mathematicians would publish their results, effectively freeing them, regardless of patent laws. But I don't see why Terrence Tao and Ben Green shouldn't be allowed to patent their idea if they found a real-world use for it and were so inclined.

I'd bet almost no pure math is done for the money. People that smart should be able to play the stock market if they wanted to, for instance. Is it this convenient accident--that most mathematicians simply don't care much about money or royalties or what have you--that's really behind the idea that math *shouldn't* be patentable? What would we say if mathematicians fought tooth and nail for patent protection instead of quietly pretty much ignoring any such thing? I'd guess our idealism would vanish in the face of real humans really wanting money for their work.

Re:Eminent Domain exists for this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33424246)

I think most mathematicians would publish their results, effectively freeing them, regardless of patent laws

The problem isn't with the most; It's the few who do not who can wreck untold havoc on everybody elses expense if we were to give them patent rights and the protection that comes along with it.

Re:Eminent Domain exists for this (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33424266)

1) because there's no reason to limit it.

2) because mathematicians are discovering facts that are already there, not inventing new stuff.
        It's like you go to the ocean and watch and see a new fish and say "I invented that fish". That's mad.

>But how is it helpful to society for, say, the Green-Tao Theorem [wikipedia.org] to be unpatentable?

Are you arguing for facts about prime numbers, that is, the basis of all symbolic computation, to be patentable? If it were, we couldn't do anything anymore - who knows which programs inadvertently contain such an arithmetic progression of "prime numbers" (i.e. symbols).

>But I don't see why Terrence Tao and Ben Green shouldn't be allowed to patent their idea if they found a real-world use for it and were so inclined.

They can try to patent that real-world use if it is an invention that is not obvious to someone skilled in the field and has not been done before and is technical in nature.
Patent a law of nature, no.

>that most mathematicians simply don't care much about money or royalties or what have you--that's really behind the idea that math *shouldn't* be patentable?

No, it's that it's unethical to say you own "your creation" when in fact you just discovered what is already there.

>I'd guess our idealism would vanish in the face of real humans really wanting money for their work.

No.

The patent system, unjust as it is, at least had a little bit of justification in the beginning: a contract between society and an inventor: The inventor gets to profit from his invention as the only party for a few years (which means society coerces its other members not to), but for that, society gets the _detailed_ description how to build his invention.

Before that, it was argued that people would just keep the "secret sauce" to themselves and profit of it until they die and then nobody knows how to do it anymore.

If there was any secret sauce of mathematics that I couldn't use, that would devalue the entire field for me. I'd be ashamed for us as a species.

And note that the "money" argument is not what patents are really about (well, in the end, almost everything is about money, but I mean directly). I wish people would see that.
It's power. Power over everyone. Power not to let you do something, _no matter how much you would be willing to pay_. Just being able to say "no" and being backed by an entire country.

Re:Eminent Domain exists for this (1)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424656)

No, it's that it's unethical to say you own "your creation" when in fact you just discovered what is already there.

Just to be anal, nobody really ever discovers anything... they just manipulate and put together particles that were already there in a particular configuration. ;-)

Re:Eminent Domain exists for this (1)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424662)

And of course I had to make a mistake. s/discovers/invents/.

Re:Eminent Domain exists for this (3, Insightful)

dargaud (518470) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424274)

People that smart should be able to play the stock market if they wanted to, for instance

Stock market shouldn't be a game. It should be what it was originally designed to be: a way for company to raise money for their own development. Not a game, not a pile of cards of companies purchasing each others, not a lottery, etc...

Re:Eminent Domain exists for this (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424494)

You can't separate pure and applied mathematics. You simply never know when a pure result will have an applied interpretation, or when an applied problem leads to a deep or pure generalization.

Also, historically, just about all the great mathematicians have worked on both pure and applied problems without making a clear distinction.

But I don't see why Terrence Tao and Ben Green shouldn't be allowed to patent their idea if they found a real-world use for it and were so inclined.

Well, the integers and prime numbers are fundamental building block of mathematics, in some sense universal to many other categories. So if that kind of idea was patented, then people working in a different field of mathematics might be affected because some property they rely on is really a universal property derived from the integers.

Re:Eminent Domain exists for this (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424644)

At what point do you draw the line, as everything can be resolved back to mathematics...

Invention is not maths, though it uses maths (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33424870)

Invention is not maths, though it uses maths. When you make a mousetrap (patent pending) you use maths to work out the size of the wire trap, the strength of the materials used and then patent the result.

So, not everything is maths.

Software, however, IS MATHS.

Now, a CPU or a design of a logic gate may be built using a software model, but that CPU or gate is patented, not the software for designing a CPU or a gate.

This demarcation only seems to be a problem for those who want to have maths patentable and therefore make money from it.

Re:Eminent Domain exists for this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33424840)

Why do you believe mathematics should not be patentable? I'm sincerely asking that on the presumption that you're not being disingenuous - that you think there are other things that should be patentable, and i'd guess those are material gadgets.

So I'd like to know why you make the distinction. Why should a new and clever physical solution to trapping mice be granted a period of market protection, while a new and clever algorithm for a software problem shouldn't?

I know I don't have a good argument for that one, so I'd like to hear yours. It's non-obvious.

Not even eminent domain. (4, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424096)

The government can take patents away for more or less any reason it likes, that congress has passed a law allowing it to. Reason is because patents are a power specifically granted to the government. Physical property ownership is considered more of a natural right. The government doesn't grant you ownership because they can't deny it either. Eminent Domain exists because they can take private property for public use, in certain circumstances, however there has to be compensation.

With patents that's not the case. The government doesn't have to grant patents at all. They have the power to do so, but it isn't required. What that means is the government owns all patents ultimately and can do as they want.

As such there are some peculiarities with patent law many don't know about. The NSA can fine secret patents. If a civilian files the same patent, the NSA patent is then revealed and granted at the time it is revealed. The government is allowed to make a law like that, since patents are one of their explicit powers.

Likewise they can take them for various reasons. Congress hasn't granted unlimited power in that regard, but there are a list of reasons for which they can say "That's ours now," and you get nothing. That was actually threatened in the NTP-RIM case and is probably part of the reason NTP took a settlement that didn't include future fees. NTP was requesting an injunction to shut down Blackberry service. The federal government wrote a brief to the court saying they believed that would have an impact on national security (the US government loves them some Blackberries, they are the biggest customer) and they'd prefer the court didn't grant it. They also noted that if it was, they might simply have to void the patent, which can be done on national security grounds. The judge then strongly suggested the two sides work their shit out now.

Re:Not even eminent domain. (2, Funny)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424648)

Likewise they can take them for various reasons. Congress hasn't granted unlimited power in that regard, but there are a list of reasons for which they can say "That's ours now," and you get nothing. That was actually threatened in the NTP-RIM case and is probably part of the reason NTP took a settlement that didn't include future fees. NTP was requesting an injunction to shut down Blackberry service. The federal government wrote a brief to the court saying they believed that would have an impact on national security (the US government loves them some Blackberries, they are the biggest customer) and they'd prefer the court didn't grant it. They also noted that if it was, they might simply have to void the patent, which can be done on national security grounds. The judge then strongly suggested the two sides work their shit out now.

This is kind of cool - the Federal Government intervened and saved Blackberry, deus ex machina style. A bit like Eru Iluvatar doing a rm -rf /arda/Numenor/* && umount /arda/maiar/sauron or remount /arda/maiar/gandalf && bleach -white /arda/maiar/gandalf && rmnod /dev/maiar/balrogs/durins_bane

Re:Not even eminent domain. (1)

dpilot (134227) | more than 3 years ago | (#33425114)

> A bit like Eru Iluvatar doing a rm -rf /arda/Numenor/* && umount /arda/maiar/sauron or remount /arda/maiar/gandalf &&
> bleach -white /arda/maiar/gandalf && rmnod /dev/maiar/balrogs/durins_bane

This deserves some sort of comment or comeback, but I can't for the life of me determine what that should be or what would be appropriate.

Re:Eminent Domain exists for this (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424604)

You could probably do something similar with a standards body without any government involvement. You create a standard, publish the draft, and then solicit patents and money. After a fixed period, you divide the money up among the patent holders. If the amount is considered adequate for a perpetual license for the patents, you release the standard as final. If not, you solicit more money until it is. You make sure that the terms are well known, and then you use the doctrine of latches to prevent any other patents from being asserted against the standard.

If you want to get money from the standard, you declare your patent early, or you risk not getting anything. If you want to use the standard, you put up some money to be released to the inventors once the standard is finalised. If you declare your patent but refuse to license it, the standard can work around it. If you don't declare your patent then you are prevented from enforcing it later.

I'm not a fan of software patents in general, but I would be in favour of compensating people who do something original and creative, although only once, not in perpetuity.

The other poster, who claimed that mathematics is just documenting things that are already there, and is more akin to a discovery than an invention, is an idiot. Mathematics is the only truly artificial, man-made, thing that exists. It can describe parts of nature, but you won't find it anywhere in nature.

H264 pretty much is a US government standard. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33424810)

They use it everywhere.

Re:Eminent Domain exists for this (1)

bieber (998013) | more than 3 years ago | (#33425350)

Cases like this are ones where the US government (assuming these are US patents) should step up and use their powers of eminent domain to acquire these patents, declare H.264 a government standard (like AES and DES before it) and release the patents (or a perpetual license thereto) into the public domain.

Or, they could sidestep all that nonsense and just pass some common-sense laws that prevent individuals from obtaining a monopoly on friggin' mathematics. You talk about incentives for industry...what kind of incentive for the software industry do you think it is for the US to be one of the select few nations in the world where you can write some piece of software entirely out of your own effort, only to find that someone else "owns" the techniques that you've implemented and watch them destroy your livelihood without a single thing you can do about it? Who in their right mind would start a software company in that kind of legal atmosphere?

And even if we ignore the inanity of software patents for now...are you seriously suggesting that the government should just step in and use eminent domain to take "property" from smaller industries and just give it away to industries that "contribute far, far more to the US economy?" That would just be a great incentive not to start up any kind of business in the US, as the government could just step in and take it away from you to give to someone they deem more important at any time...

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a piece of the pie (1)

WarJolt (990309) | more than 3 years ago | (#33423994)

mpeg-la just wants to make money before google tries to make software patents invalid. Google has a lot to gain from patents going away. Take a google logo and paste it on tons of new apps they can't touch because someone owns a patent to an abstract idea that applies too broadly. Google can outpace any dev team. They only use patents for protection

War (1)

tsotha (720379) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424084)

This article unpacks the history of MPEG LA and then suggests the obvious — it's all because of WebM — and the worrying — maybe it's preparing the ground for opening a third front in the patent war against Google."

Well, I suppose if anyone has the money to fight a three-front patent war it's Google.

Re:War (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424598)

Yes, "worrying" is for people who don't have $50 billion in the bank. MPEG LA are more than welcome to start a patent ass kicking contest with that 800lb gorilla. Did I mention that it has sixteen legs and no ass?

I'm not all that worried (5, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424118)

Google isn't stupid. They got to investigate the format and patents before they bought On2, and of course after once they owned everything. Also, this is precisely the kind of thing Google would be good at: Looking through large amounts of information and figuring out what is relevant. So My guess is that one of both of the following are true:

1) VP8 (WebM) does not infringe on any MPEG-LA patents, or at least not any real ones. They probably have some overly broad BS ones, but Google probably has examples of prior art. Google did an extensive review and found that there was no infringement, VP8 had been engineered to avoid MPEG-LA patents so that it could be sold without additional license.

2) On2, and therefor now Google, holds patents on critical technologies used in H.264. In the event of any infringement suit, they can pull those out and file countersuit. Having WebM stopped would not be a real big deal to Google. They aren't using it for anything important yet. Having H.264 stopped would be devastating for MPEG-LA. Google could thus force them to license all relevant patents, at not charge, in return for the licenses to the Google patents.

Those are my bets. One or both of those is the case and so Google is confident they can win a game of chicken. This also might explain the move by MPEG-LA to put a permanent licensing moratorium on free H.264 stuff, as well as the fact that there is no suit. They may have looked at things and said "Shit, we can't touch VP8. We could try but we'd almost certainly fail and just wind up with a bunch of legal bills, plug give Google an ironclad thing to point to showing WebM is ok." They may have decided it is better to make H.264 look more attractive and perhaps keep up some nebulous threats to make people think twice about implementing WebM.

Always remember that patent warfare is a dangerous game. The trolls can play it because they don't own anything or make anything losing patents means nothing. In MPEG-LA's case, there could be a lot to lose if things went wrong.

Re:I'm not all that worried (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424634)

On2, and therefor now Google, holds patents on critical technologies used in H.264. In the event of any infringement suit, they can pull those out and file countersuit

I would be amazed if this were possible. Any semi-competent lawyer would ensure that the deal that the patent holders signed with the MPEG-LA was irrevocable, or the MPEG-LA patent licenses are worthless. Given the fact that the MPEG-LA is a group of lawyers, it's almost certain that they insisted on something like this. You get the royalties from them, but you have to allow them an irrevocable right to grant licenses to the patents that you put in the pool.

Re:I'm not all that worried (1)

koiransuklaa (1502579) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424728)

I'm sure he meant licenses that are not in the MPEGLA pool, but still cover H.264.

Re:I'm not all that worried (2, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424756)

I very much doubt that On2 has any of them. When H.264 was being created, they will have gone through their patents to try to find anything that is covered with the standard and added it to the pool. The more patents they have in the pool, the more money they get from H.264 licensees, and that adds up to a lot of money. They'd have no reason to hold on to patents doing nothing with them if they could put them in the pool and make money from them immediately.

Re:I'm not all that worried (1)

boxwood (1742976) | more than 3 years ago | (#33425310)

I don't think On2 was a member of the MPEG-LA.

The MPEG-LA can't simply add anyone's patents to their pool. They have to have permission of the patent holder. Since On2 wrote their codec specifically to get around the patents in H.264, it wouldn't make any sense for them to allow MPEG-LA to add their patents to their pool.

Who does their "free" licence benefit? (3, Insightful)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424564)

The main problem caused by MPEG-LA is that people can't distribute video software. GNU/Linux distros have to worry about distributing software that supports H.264, and developers have to worry about adding support to their apps. Documenting this situation is my hobby horse but this "free" licence" is so limited, I can't find much to write about it. It won't make H.264 safe for standards like HTML5 either.

They promise not to sue non-commercial distributors of video (no ads allowed on the webpage). That means I'm safe to publish videos of me singing karaoke, but no one was going to sue me for that anyway. The only real case I can think of is public service television, which could put their shows online now without worry, but they'd have to be very careful about not having anything that could be called an ad on their webpage. Is that really the extent of this "free" licence that such a fuss is being made about?

War war WAR! (0)

GF678 (1453005) | more than 3 years ago | (#33424820)

Why must everything be a "war"?

The browser wars
The operating system wars
The friggin' video codec wars

Everyone wants to get into fights for some reason, when all that's really happening is competition.

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