back to article H.264 answers Google's open codec with forever free license*

Update: This story has been updated to show that the MPEG-LA's license change applies to free video broadcasts, not applications that encode and decode video. MPEG-LA — the organization that oversees the H.264 video codec on behalf of patent holders such as Apple and Microsoft — has made its latest move in what's shaping up to …


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  1. Pirate Dave Silver badge

    The chess game has only begun

    but the boring patent trolling continues unabated.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I can predict the winner right now.

    Whatever format YouTube adopts...

    Considering WebM was released by Google, it does not take a Rocket Scientist to work out who the winner will be....

    A year from now, everything on YouTube will be WebM, Google will be offering low-res Flash alternative to Safari and IE users and encouraging them to install Chrome...

    1. ThomH

      Every single youtube video is already encoded in H.264

      And, regardless of what their other arms say, Google has already embraced H.264 by pushing an operating system onto millions of phone handsets that can utilise a hardware decoder for H.264 video. Indeed, all the manufacturers are pumping out millions upon millions of devices with H.264 hardware support every year, what with it not just being the only thing supported by all current mobile phones but also being the standard codec for most HDTV, including BluRay.

      Current number of hardware solutions for WebM? Zero.

      So — does youtube want to play on mobile phones, video game consoles, set top boxes and, potentially, smart DVD and BluRay players or not?

      The free licence for H.264 means that Google's WebM play already worked. Google won. We all benefit.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Let's not forget the other huge elephants in the room...

        Hollywood is going to have a big say, as are the manufacturers of recording equipment. I'm quite surprised that this doesn't seem to have been pick up yet...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          Ask rather "What is the porn industry going with?" Or [A-GI-Z]ollywood. Hollywood ain't as great an elephant as it used to be...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Thumb Up

            By Hollywood...

            I meant the film making industry as a whole. I'll be more explicit next time.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        At least one HW solution for webm

        Because I sit near the guy working on it......

        Most 'HW' encode decode stuff is actually firmware, so most accelerator chips can just have WebM added to them as a firmware upgrade. Expect it on a chip near you soon.

  3. Will Godfrey Silver badge


    They are really, really scared of Google then.

    That's good!

    1. Wize

      If the big guns are scared of Google...

      ...shouldn't we all run screaming?

  4. Mectron

    how about

    No licence fee for any kind of codec. Mpeg LA as stolen enough money already.

  5. Rolf Howarth


    Software patents still suck, but overall the MPEG-LA is a good thing. Without them there would still be patents, just that rather than negotiating with one body for a license you'd have to negotiate with 30 or so separate companies individually. There'd be even more fragmentation and incompatible codecs, and things like YouTube would never have taken off to the extent they have. They'd have been stuck with older, much less efficient codecs, both because they were afraid of being torpedoed by a submarine patent and because the browser compatibility issue would have been much worse than it is today.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Did you mean...

      "Software patents still suck, but overall the MPEG-LA is a good thing. Without them there would still be patents, just that rather than negotiating with one body for a license you'd have to negotiate with 30 or so separate companies individually."

      "Crime still sucks, but at least this is organised crime"?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        well you wouldn't

        You wouldn't want that slip-shod un-professional dis-organised crime would you? We like our crime right and proper and controlled by the people at the top in the West. Oh, and the East.

      2. Raoul Capiletto

        you say that... it's a bad thing

  6. Hardcastle

    WebM and H.264

    Well played move, Google... By open-sourcing WebM, you made MPEG-LA rethink their licensing strategy by perpetuating royalty-free status for no-charge apps. While it isn't perfect (patents just plain blow), it's a step in the right direction to technology and its developers and users. It also shows MPEG-LA that there are entities out there with a bigger BRASS Pair than they have, and it would be wise to work with mofos on this issue. This Chess Game will indeed be intriguing to see unfold.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    not really an issue

    for end users at least, based on past experience, as long as the decoders are free, users will have them all installed and not care in the slightest which one was used to encode the video.

    as long as it plays, your general user doesn't care what codecs were used to encode a piece of video, if they even know what a codec is?

  8. ScissorHands

    What about the browsers?

    The decoders aren't free! Browser manufacturers have to pay up to 5 million USD to bundle an H.264 decoder. Apple and Microsoft discount on the royalties they would've received from the MPEG-LA, Google has deep pockets, but Mozilla can't (by it's charter) distribute closed code, and Opera doesn't have USD5mil. lying around under the sofa.

  9. Tristan Young

    WebM all the way!

    Absolutely not interested in H.264.

    If anyone owning patents to any technology found in WebM come a knocking, they'd better be prepared for Google's deep pockets.

    And as a result of any litigation, WebM will become even stronger.

    Apple, Microsoft and other holders of patents for H.264 technology are a bit scared, and this latest move is evidence.

    Go WebM Go! Apple and Microsoft have got to go! (hey, that rhymes!)

    1. Greg J Preece

      "Go" rhymes with "go"??

      Truly you are the next poet laureate!

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Deep pockets?

      Apple Inc.

      Cisco Systems Canada IP Holdings Company

      DAEWOO Electronics Corporation

      Dolby Laboratories Licensing Corporation

      Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute

      France Télécom, société anonyme*

      Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Foerderung der angewandten Forschung e.V.

      Fujitsu Limited

      Hitachi, Ltd.

      Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.

      LG Electronics Inc.

      Microsoft Corporation

      Mitsubishi Electric Corporation


      Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation

      Panasonic Corporation

      Polycom, Inc.

      Robert Bosch GmbH*

      Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.

      Sedna Patent Services, LLC

      Sharp Corporation

      Siemens AG

      Sony Corporation

      Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson

      The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York

      Toshiba Corporation

      Victor Company of Japan, Limited

      Now do you still think Googles pockets are the biggest?

      It's called researching your subject. you may want to try it sometime!

  10. famousringo
    Thumb Up

    Cool beans.

    Can we get on with standardizing the web now?

  11. soupdragon101

    Great for the public, rubbish for business

    So it will never charge any royalties for Internet video encoded using the H.264 standard, when the video is free to consumers?

    So does that now mean any business model that wants to use H.264 will have 2nd thoughts, as the MPEG LA group could do a nice pickpocketting trade on them - seems a good enough reason for them to consider the WebM codec

    And will His Jobness still be so happy to continue to ignore WebM the MPEG-LA group start taking a nice cut of his itunes video profits?

    Mines the hand grenade for the inevitable bloodbath that will follow

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Misssed The Point

    When will these guys learn that 'Free' does not equate to 'Free and Open Source'

    Big Brother for fairly obvious reasons

  13. JaitcH
    Jobs Horns

    Google and it's offspring will be the winners

    Given that Android OS is starting to rip, leaving Apple and Jobs choking on it's dust, is unlikely to do anything than use WebM. Then, as an earlier poster pointed out, the audience will also determine the winner and given that YouTube has such world-wide support it will undoubtedly force adoption, too.

    Jobs, and Apple, are not known for their largess and people simply won't believe that Jobs is passing up another opportunity to milk the public. Jobs can let the iPhans play in his walled playpen with all of it's restrictions in which H264 will be a perfect fit - for iPhans only.

  14. SlabMan

    Dirty Harry moment

    Every morning, Google wakes up and says, 'Well, do I feel evil today?'. Most days, the Magic 8 Ball replies in the negative. WebM stays free until Google's goodwill runs out. At which point, Google announce it's still free - so long as they can overlay their ads on your video. Or, you can pay for an ad-free licence.

    What? You thought they were a charity?

    1. Gerhard Mack

      might want to recheck your facts

      The license they released WebM under prevents them from doing that.

  15. SlabMan

    Apple, Microsoft, and H264

    As has to be said every time H264 comes up for discussion, Apple and Microsoft between them hold a tiny minority of the H264 patents. Anyone who thinks they steer the policy on H264, or get special consideration from MPEG-LA, please present your evidence.

    And note, I said evidence, not grainy Super-8 film of a grassy knoll.

    1. Rolf Howarth

      Re: Apple, Microsoft and H264

      Precisely. For every dollar Apple make in H264 licensing fees they probably make a million dollars on iPhone and iPad sales. In fact, it wouldn't surprise if they pay more in fees to the other patent holders than they make themselves. I'm sure Apple would like nothing more than for H264 to be made into a free and open standard - for all I know the only reason they joined the MPEG-LA might have been to push for more open licensing terms!

      It's companies like Fraunhofer and Dolby that probably make money from it, and good luck to them I say. As pure research companies without significant hardware products of their own, licensing fees are probably the only source of revenue they've got.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Chess? No, its simpler than that...

    Company A has product which it wont commit to giving away free. Company B uses company A but cannot commit due to non commitment of A, so creates own Product, therefore no longer needs company A.

    Company A folds.

    the end. I count three moves.

    1. CD001


      The chess analogy doesn't work however - and neither does this one - because there are far more than just 2 players.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is all academic

    The only people who care about "standards" and file formats are devs and other eggheads. 99% of users don't care what is delivering their content. They'll download and install whatever plugin is necessary for their browser. The software evangelists can debate as much as they like about the moral and technical merits between options, but the average punter doesn't give a crap. The same goes for the argument for ODF vs. anything else.

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