MPEG-LA video codec to stay free for end users

H.264 video that is free to end users will remain royalty-free with an indefinite extension, according to patent pool MPEG-LA

The MPEG Licensing Authority patent pool has announced that its AVC portfolio licence will remain free indefinitely for video that is free to end users.

The AVC portfolio licence covers the H.264 codec, a digital video coding standard used by technologies including YouTube and Vimeo. The MPEG Licensing Authority (MPEG-LA), which licenses the AVC portfolio, said in a press release on Thursday that video which is free to end users — known as Internet Broadcast AVC Video — would not require royalties.

In February, MPEG-LA set a date for H.264 royalty collection for 1 January, 2016. The technology licensing organisation did not give a reason for the indefinite extension announced on Thursday, and was unavailable for comment at the time of writing.

Products and services other than Internet Broadcast AVC Video will continue to be royalty-bearing, said the statement.

H.264 licence holders include Microsoft, Apple and Toshiba.

In May, Google announced a competing video format, WebM, which was both open source and royalty-free. Despite much speculation at the time that WebM's video coding standard, VP8, would infringe MPEG-LA's patent pool, there have been no formal claims to that effect.

Also in May, MPEG-LA was hit by an antitrust suit from software maker Nero over video codecs including H.264. The AVC patent portfolio covers technologies including set-top boxes, media player and other personal computer software, mobile devices, Blu-ray Disc players and recorders, Blu-ray video optical discs, game machines, personal media player devices and still and video cameras.

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