H.264 goes royalty-free ... forever

MPEG LA, the firm that controls licensing for a number of video standards, announced yesterday that it will never charge a royalty fee for videos encoded using H.264, as long as those videos are free to the end user.

MPEG LA, the firm that controls licensing for a number of video standards, announced yesterday that it will never charge a royalty fee for videos encoded using H.264, as long as those videos are free to the end user.

MPEG LA announced today that its AVC Patent Portfolio License will continue not to charge royalties for Internet Video that is free to end users (known as “Internet Broadcast AVC Video”) during the entire life of this License. MPEG LA previously announced it would not charge royalties for such video through December 31, 2015 (see http://www.mpegla.com/Lists/MPEG%20LA%20News%20List/Attachments/226/n-10-02-02.pdf), and today’s announcement makes clear that royalties will continue not to be charged for such video beyond that time. Products and services other than Internet Broadcast AVC Video continue to be royalty-bearing.

What does this mean? Well, put simply, it means that the web now has a free to use, high quality video standard, and makes standardized cross-browser support possible. Previously the MPEG LA had announced that it would not charge a royalty for free to user video until at least 2016, but this had made Mozilla and Opera uncomfortable about supporting the platform. Mozilla had previously put its weight behind the Ogg Theora codec which it believed was free of any patent issues (although Apple wasn't convinced of this, and Microsoft chose not to support this standard in the upcoming IE9). Google also must have had doubts as it acquired On2 earlier this year (the company that initially developed Ogg Theora), giving it access to the VP8 codec. VP8 has some support amongst other browser, but again it's patchy.

Now this latest statement on H.264 should remove such nagging doubts that browser makers should have about supporting the standard, and this should lead to a true HTML5 web video standard that will be supported on desktop and mobile platforms.

Everyone's a winner ... well, except Adobe. While H.264 does indeed work well with Flash, built-in browser support will eliminate the need to have Flash acting as a middleman, loosening Adobe's grip on the rich web. Not a bad thing if you ask me.

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