H.264 goes royalty-free ... forever

H.264 goes royalty-free ... forever

Summary: 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.

SHARE:

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.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Mobility

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

24 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • H.264 stays royalty-free

    Wrong title.
    Internet video was already free since the inception of the IP licensing and is confirmed to be staying free until the end of the licensing
    IE11
  • steve jobs was right then?

    flash is dead?
    banned from zdnet
    • Far from dead

      @banned from zdnet
      Flash is far from dead, at least for now. Particularly as long as so much of the Web is supported by advertising, Flash will be in your face. This does mean that one of the uses of Flash becomes less critical, though.
      use_what_works_4_U
      • 100 million

        @macadam <br>... users of iOS devices can't see ads in flash + millions of people who use flash blogger in their browsers. advertisers have to adapt to that change in user demography and behavior. otherwise no one can see their ads anymore. they will go with html5 sooner or later.
        banned from zdnet
      • RE: H.264 goes royalty-free

        @banned from zdnet

        I agree about them having to adapt to the change. But not only with the new breed of mobile users who just don't care for add banners, which becomes more annoying on these smaller devices than ever before (Slowing down scrolling etc.). But also change in the design/technology behind these Flash ads. They're designed for mouse clicks, not touch.
        dave95.
      • RE: H.264 goes royalty-free

        @banned
        You are absolutely right, which is why I said "for now". Flash is on the way out, but it has a long way to go yet.
        use_what_works_4_U
      • RE: H.264 goes royalty-free

        @macadam Actually it doesn't. Since Flash licenses H.264 and provides a way to deliver H.264 video even in browsers like Firefox and Opera that won't support H.264 due to licensing issues. This "royalty-free" nonsense doesn't cover browsers or applications.
        rlawler
    • RE: H.264 goes royalty-free

      @banned from zdnet
      Only those who dont know Adobe technology, say Flash is dead, just wait until HTML5 hit Adobe Motion Graphics and FX patents.
      johndifo
  • how about the CE devices

    nothing about them.
    How about subscription services broadcasting movies?
    Is it free for them?
    Linux Geek
    • RE: H.264 goes royalty-free

      @Linux Geek NO. It is not free for subscription services.
      rlawler
  • Free ... Until We Change Our Mind?

    What does this truly mean legally? Do they have leverage to change their mind, should they want to? I imagine that with the various groups involved, they are unlikely to do that because of the backlash it would cause. However, is it just a promise of is it legally binding?
    dunraven
    • RE: H.264 goes royalty-free

      @dunraven

      Public promises like this are usually legally binding. People seem to forget that little fact quite often, that a promise made in public in front of other people is JUST AS LEGALLY BINDING as a signed contract.
      Lerianis10
      • Tell that to Obama

        @Lerianis10 - I can't remember one of his public promises that he actually kept.
        Speednet
  • How does this change anything for Firefox?

    They can't include patent-encumbered video decoding code and remain open-source. This still requires them to support an external plugin in order to maintain their "pure" code.
    cgarrett
    • RE: H.264 goes royalty-free

      @cgarrett Also this does not make the use of the H.264 video codec free. A license for codec use in a browser still costs the browser maker millions of dollars.
      rlawler
  • where's the catch..??

    im still waiting for the "catch" to come thru..!! another thing is that no one should drop the continued development of the other codecs.. VP8..etc..... the continued developement should continue putting pressure on the H.264 consortium...
    petem1
    • RE: H.264 goes royalty-free

      @petem@... <br>The "catch" is that this only covers delivery of "free-to-end-user" H.264-encoded video over the internet. <br><br>Encoding that video is not royalty free. Delivering that video by any other means besides the internet (such as on a disc) is not royalty free. Any video that is not "free-to-end-users" such as video included as part of a paid-for product, subscription services, even potentially video that is revenue-generating such as any video with embedded or integrated advertising is not royalty-free. Applications with H.264 video playback ability such as a browser like Firefox would not be royalty free. (That's one of the reasons Firefox is not going to support H.264.) Video editors that encode and decode H.264 are not royalty free. Operating systems that provide H.264 encoding and decoding are not royalty free. Hardware devices such as smartphones and camcorders that provide H.264 encoding and decoding are not royalty free.
      rlawler
  • This is good news

    I hope Mozilla and Opera make some quick announcements regarding support for H.264, now that it is a free-forever standard. That would take a major content wrinkle out of HTML5 - no more double-encoding media files as both MP4 and OGG.
    Speednet
    • RE: H.264 goes royalty-free

      @Speednet Mozilla/Firefox has made their position clear, and they've re-iterated that with respect to this recent change in the H.264 royalty-free free internet content timeline. This PR stunt by MPEG-LA changes nothing.
      rlawler
      • I haven't heard any such thing

        @rlawler - And apparently neither has Adrian, because he said:

        "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."

        Calling this a "PR stunt" is strange in the extreme. Do you think the only solution to a unified codec is to adopt OGG? That's what your statement would seem to imply.
        Speednet