back to article Waddawewant? Free video codecs! When do we... oh, look, the last MPEG-2 patent expired!

It's almost of historical interest only, but everywhere except the Philippines and Malaysia, the last MPEG-2 video encoder/decoder patents have expired. As *nixcraft noted, what it means is that there will never again be the risk of an MPEG-2 decoder being bombed in the libre operating system world. The company that had the …

  1. MacroRodent Silver badge

    Still widely used

    Standard DVD video disks are encoded with MPEG-2, so anyone wanting to create them on Linux is happier there are no patent restrictions now. Not that it stopped us before. Even if mainstream Linux distributions omitted patent-encumbered codecs, they were easy install from alternate repositories.

    Btw. Ffmpeg is not the only free MPEG-2 encoder implementation, there is also mencoder, and possibly others.

    1. joed

      Re: Still widely used

      Not just DVDs. ATSC uses mpeg2 and with good results. Also, mpeg2 patent fees were additional reason why MS killed WMC in Windows 8+ (and rendered playback of any local media virtually impossible without 3rd party software). Which sucks as deinterlacing algorithm in the free codecs looks inferior to what Windows 7 offered out of the box.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not just DVDs

        Don't forget about DAB too! (Actually, I think most people already have...)

        1. Mark #255

          Re: Not just DVDs

          DAB uses mpeg1 layer 2, DAB+ uses AAC (which ties in with MP4).

          Did you mean DVB? That uses mpeg2.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Still widely used

      " anyone wanting to create them on Linux is happier there are no patent restrictions now. "

      I just use the open source encoders/decoders anyway. On occasion I've de-CSS'd a DVD so that I could write it to a different DVD [let's say it has region 2 encoding it and I only have region 1 players]. The fact that guilt doesn't motivate people into "following the regulation" suggests that some of these regulations are just plain ridiculous.

      not saying that they're wrong for getting royalties for DVD players with hardware decoders. It's just that applying that SAME patent standard to SOFTWARE that's runnable on non-dedicated hardware is pretty stupid. The main reason: it's unenforcable! [and I doubt it hurt their bottom line, either]

  2. Dwarf Silver badge

    I wonder

    Will the RPI foundation now allow free issue of codecs onto all their devices ?

    Or better still, just drop it into the next kernel update with it already enabled en-mass ?

    1. Empty1

      Re: I wonder

      I thought that was to release the hardware decoding ?

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: I wonder

      No, because the most important stuff is still encumbered: related to MPEG-4 and AVC hardware support. MPEG-LA still keeps a patent pool for both of them IIRC.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I wonder

        The Raspberry Pi is odd in that it does MPEG-4 (Of which AVC is a part) out of the box, licence prepaid, and you need a per SOC licence key to get MPEG-2 and VC-1. (Oddly, MPEG-2 currently costs £2.40 and VC-1 costs only £1.20. I'm sure when I got mine they cost the same)

        This, I'm guessing, will generally be because there's a case for school kids using it to play back H.264/MPEG-4 and less so for MPEG-2 or VC-1. The Source Of All Knowledge suggests you could get decoder and decoder and that the BCM2837 can do 1080p60 and the others do 1080p30.

        1. James Hughes 1

          Re: I wonder

          Not making any changes to licencing until the last two countries lapse since Pi's are sold there.

  3. Charlie Clark Silver badge


    MPEG LA's fees were trivial for electronics makers

    I think you'll find the manufacturers would beg to differ. In modern consumer electronics patent licences make up a significant portion of the cost basis which is possibly one of the reasons for Google pushing its own video technology.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Fees

      "I think you'll find the manufacturers would beg to differ."

      I beg to differ on your beg to differ because if what you said was true, then electronics companies would abandon H.265 for Google's unencumbered VP9. Sure, companies complain about costs. It's business prudence to reduce costs, but it's ALSO business prudence to know when to shell out when it comes to bang for the buck.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Fees

        VP9 is one of the reasons why H.265 decoders are free. It's also led to a more-or-less encumbered future video standard, AV 1 which even Apple has now signed up to.

        It's possibly apocryphal but I seem to remember one of the reasons why Firewire failed versus USB was the $ 1 licence fee. Of course, in the end Firewire has won the technological battle emerging as the basis for USB 3.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Fees

          But that victory was probably Pyrrhic as in the time between 1394 being adopted and USB3 being adopted, most of the pertinent patents have already expired, meaning it was adopted as low-hanging fruit more than anything.

          HEVC probably won a Pyrrhic victory as well, as I see plenty of HEVC but little about VP9.

          As for AV1, I'll believe it when the mainstream media adopts it AND it survives challenges from potential submarine patents.

        2. JCDenton

          Re: Fees

          "Firewire has won the technological battle emerging as the basis for USB 3"

          I don't understand. How is Firewire the basis for USB3?

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Fees

            USB3 adds two dedicated high-speed data lines to the spec. I think he's saying the protocol to use those data lines is based on the Firewire spec.

  4. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    including one for the CRISPR gene-editing tool

    Why would a video patent pool company have that?

    "All Disney™ films are pre-engineered into your offspring's DNA, you just have to pay $20.00/month to let them have their choice of Disney Entertainment whenever they think of it."

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