Behind the open codec FUD attack

Behind the open codec FUD attack

Summary: If Ogg Theora were subject to patent, why would those patent holders allow nearly 160 million downloads of the VLC Player. And we are still waiting on a Supreme Court decision in Bilski vs. Kappos to settle whether software patents are valid at all.

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TOPICS: Security
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The FUD attack launched against Ogg Theora and VP8, the very idea that they violate patents, is not aimed at the courts, but at the W3C, which held a conference on the coming HTML5 standards last week in Raleigh.

While audio and video files are currently handled through object tags, HTML5 will support standard audio and video tags, support for which will be defined in the browser.

Microsoft and Apple are carrying the water of the content industries, which fear that losing control of the technology under which content is displayed results in losing control of the content itself. That control is expressed through the MPEG LA licensing body.

The $5 million license fee for the H.264 codec required by MPEG LA acts as a barrier to entry, both a financial and moral one. A licensee that doesn't follow Hollywood's rules could have its license pulled, and thus its product.

The money is chump change for Microsoft, and the barrier a good thing.  It's a matter of principle for open source.

HTML5 is where that principle is being contested. The W3C policy is not to accept a royalty-bearing, proprietary technology into the Web standard. That's why video has, until now, been a function separate from the browser.

The attack came now because Mozilla, makers of Firefox, only wants to support truly open codecs under HTML5. Google's move to open source of VP8 is also said to be preparatory to making it the default codec in Chrome.

If open source becomes the default for HTML5 in Chrome and Firefox (and Opera too) Hollywood loses its technical control. Thus the dark claim by Jobs that a " patent pool is being assembled to go after Theora and other 'open source' codecs now."

The case is a nonsense.

If Ogg Theora were subject to patent, why would those patent holders allow nearly 160 million downloads (at last count) of the VLC Player, which contains it. Then there's the question of whether any software patent is valid -- we're still waiting on a Supreme Court decision in Bilski vs. Kappos to settle that question.

Apple and Microsoft have made their money on video by doing what the video owners want. They want to control the Web's video technology. So Microsoft will only support H.264, Apple darkly mutters about patent suits, and the W3C is supposed to knuckle under, making a proprietary technology part of the Web standard.

If pressed, I have no doubt that a suit would be filed. But even the filing of a suit does not always represent a desire to go to court, only a willingness to do so as part of a larger negotiation.

The suit would magically disappear if H.264 became the Web standard for video, and everyone who wanted to watch a video online were forced to have their software license that codec from MPEG LA.

That's the issue squarely facing the W3C now.

Topic: Security

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39 comments
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  • The MPEG-LA Rabbit Hole: Bat $hit Crazy?

    fyi,

    Why Our Civilization's Video Art and Culture is Threatened by the MPEG-LA:

    http://www.osnews.com/story/23236/Why_Our_Civilization_s_Video_Art_and_Culture_is_Threatened_by_the_MPEG-LA

    [b]"In my opinion, while the current MPEG-LA execs still seem to have some small common sense, there's nothing protecting us from changing their current somewhat-common-sense execs in 5 or 10 years time, with some bat $h1t crazy ones. Their license agreement is so broad, that ALLOWS for crazy lawsuits against 99.999% of the population (most people have watched a Youtube video, you see, even if themselves might not even own a PC).

    Think about it."
    [Note to self: Bat $h1t crazy indeed!][/b]



    Dietrich T. Schmitz
    Linux Advocate
    Dietrich T. Schmitz, Your Linux Advocate
    • Agreed....

      Yes, sometimes I can agree with crazed Linux Zelots... h.264 should not be included as a web standard since it's royalty encombered... however I DO know that Hollywood will never tolerate open free codecs and they will do everything in their power(even probably make the USTR declare that the W3C are pirates) to get what they want: Exclusive right to publish content on the web.
      Ceridan
      • What's this have to do with Linux?

        And why would one need to be crazy and/or a zealot to see the error of MPEG LA's ways?
        AzuMao
        • Linux?

          The Linux comment was at least peripherally on topic and part of the overall picture. But your failure to see the forest due to all those trees is simply OT and uncalled for. There are other, better places you can talk about 'nix; please use them.
          twaynesdomain-22354355019875063839220739305988
          • ??? I didn't bring it up, Ceridan did.

            [b] [/b]
            AzuMao
      • Deja Vu

        this whole thing gives me deja vu. I feel like
        I'm back in the GIF vs. PNG debates of the late
        90s.

        We know who won that battle. We know that the
        winner deserved it. OGG isn't as clear, either.

        By the way, teh Xiph developer who created OGG
        has a lot to say about the suit.
        http://bit.ly/94h3Xk
        daengbo
      • RE: Behind the open codec FUD attack

        @Ceridan

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        zolof_1
      • RE: Behind the open codec FUD attack

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        gorians
    • GIF vs PNG

      The ONLY reason GIF won that round is that the patent only applied in the USA _and_ it was nearly expired anyway.

      More recently I see far more PNGs than GIFs - and at least 2 orders of magnitude more (patent encumbered) jepgs than either.
      Uncle Stoat
      • RE: Behind the open codec FUD attack

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        zakkiromi
    • RE: Behind the open codec FUD attack

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, Your Linux Advocate Anyone who has been following Wave knows one of the MAIN attractions is that its an open protocol. An open source reference server will be released by Google as well.<br><br>I think MS zealots get so tired of having the MS lock-in scam pointed out to them that they try to claim lock-in on anything they can <a href="http://www.kraloyun.gen.tr/ben-10-oyunlari/">ben 10 oyunlari</a>
      Arabalar
      • RE: Behind the open codec FUD attack

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  • RE: Behind the open codec FUD attack

    Speaking of FUD, the $5 million fee is the maximum payable.

    It is free for up to 100,000 users, then 20c per user up to 5
    million users, then 10c per user capped at $5,000,000.

    Source (pdf):-
    http://bit.ly/dyLn0e

    There is no point suing over possible patent infringements of Ogg
    Theora until there is money in it.
    hill60
    • Laches

      [i]There is no point suing over possible patent infringements of Ogg Theora until there is money in it. [/i]

      First, there is the matter of laches: if you don't enforce a legal right in a timely fashion, you can lose the power to enforce it later. IIRC this has been applied in patent cases where the patentholder knew that someone was building a business on technology they claimed but waited to make patent claims until so that the infringer had too much invested to change plans.

      Even if laches didn't apply, there's also the question of what the MPEG-LA's objective is. Is it to raise money or is it to prevent independent codecs from getting traction?
      Yagotta B. Kidding
      • Re: "if you don't enforce a legal right in a timely fashion, you can lose

        the power to enforce it later."

        If that's the case, how do you explain submarine patent trolls? Like Microsoft constantly claiming Linux violates patents without even saying what those patents are?
        AzuMao
        • Pays your money, takes your chances.

          [i]If that's the case, how do you explain submarine patent trolls? Like Microsoft constantly claiming Linux violates patents without even saying what those patents are? [/i]

          1) Note I wrote, "may."
          2) Finding out can be very, very expensive.
          3) How many of those threats have been upheld in court?
          Yagotta B. Kidding
      • Trademarks aren't patents.

        nt
        hill60
    • This is deceptive

      " is free for up to 100,000 users, then 20c per
      user up to 5
      million users, then 10c per user capped at
      $5,000,000."

      Ok but what about Firefox? How much would this
      non-profit organization have to pay? Why even
      go with a standard that will cost small non-
      profit companies millions when Google is open
      sourcing VP8 which will be totally free? H.264
      is only free until 2015 after which who knows
      what they will ACTUALLY decide to charge...
      infectiouslogic@...
      • I thought...

        ...Firefox use the codecs that come with the OS.
        hill60
        • Thats an interesting question.

          I had not thought about that and would like to
          know the answer. Its always been made out as if
          the code will have to be within the browser
          itself.
          storm14k