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WebM Licensing Problems Resolved 89

Posted by Soulskill
from the that-didn't-take-long dept.
breser writes "The WebM licensing problems have been resolved. The copyright license is straight BSD now, and the patent license is separate and has no impact on the copyright license. Quoting Chris DiBona: 'As it was originally written, if a patent action was brought against Google, the patent license terminated. This provision itself is not unusual in an OSS license, and similar provisions exist in the 2nd Apache License and in version 3 of the GPL. The twist was that ours terminated "any" rights and not just rights to the patents, which made our license GPLv3 and GPLv2 incompatible. Also, in doing this, we effectively created a potentially new open source copyright license, something we are loath to do. Using patent language borrowed from both the Apache and GPLv3 patent clauses, in this new iteration of the patent clause we've decoupled patents from copyright, thus preserving the pure BSD nature of the copyright license. This means we are no longer creating a new open source copyright license, and the patent grant can exist on its own.'"
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WebM Licensing Problems Resolved

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  • Well... (Score:4, Funny)

    by cytoman (792326) on Friday June 04, 2010 @03:55PM (#32463630)
    I'm glad that that issue has now been settled. When do we start seeing extensive adoption of WebM and ditching of the H.264 and others?
    • by dingen (958134)
      YouTube and the like may start to offer WebM next to H264, but I don't see any ditching of H264 any time soon. All sorts of devices (such as phones) are equiped with H264 decoder chips now, making it possible to watch video without draining the battery too much. As I'm not aware of any devices with WebM decoder chips, the web will stick with H264 at least until this situation changes.
      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Informative)

        by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday June 04, 2010 @04:26PM (#32463982)

        This is done with programmable DSPs these days, which means making them do WebM is not going to be a huge hurdle.

        • by SeaFox (739806)

          Technicallly it's not a huge hurdle, it's getting companies to do it that's the hard part. Why give consumers a firmware upgrade that adds features when you can make them buy a newer product to get the ability? (See Android on mobiles, etc...)

          • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by JohnBailey (1092697) on Friday June 04, 2010 @05:36PM (#32464726)

            Technicallly it's not a huge hurdle, it's getting companies to do it that's the hard part. Why give consumers a firmware upgrade that adds features when you can make them buy a newer product to get the ability? (See Android on mobiles, etc...)

            Because then you don't need to give MPEG-LA any of your money in license fees?

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by SeaFox (739806)

              Because then you don't need to give MPEG-LA any of your money in license fees?

              LMAO.

              Do you honestly think companies are going to start removing h264 support from products and replacing it with WebM support because of a piddly licensing fee? The cost of the licensing fee is simply passed on to consumers and is justified with the bullet point on the product features list of "Plays back h264". Given the choice between a product and another one of similar specs that includes native playback of it I'll gladly pay

              • Re:Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

                by Kalriath (849904) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @02:02AM (#32467372)

                H264 (and it's licensing fees) is here to stay.

                And it'll be WebM (and it's licensing fees) once the MPEG LA pulls a test case in court against a major WebM user. Half their patents are so vague that Winzip probably violates them - all they need is a court to agree that one of their hundreds of patents covers WebM, and the whole thing blows up.

                And you can guarantee that the idiocy that is the Courts of the District of Eastern Texas will agree that WebM is covered.

        • This is done with programmable DSPs these days

          I feel that term conveys the wrong meaning to most readers.

          Modern DSPs are just like CPUs. They load up code, and they execute it. It's not like microcontrollers where the chips have firmware and need to be reprogrammed. You can bundle GPU code in the same exe, and you can also bundle DSP code. The OS just has to know what to do with it - where to send it.

        • by afidel (530433)
          Nope, many do it with an ASIC, DSP as more flexible but require more power so for mobile applications it's often a fixed function unit.
    • by MrEricSir (398214)

      Not for a long time. Aside from all the video that have to be converted, browsers that support it need to see a widespread adoption before websites have a reason to use it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by icebraining (1313345)

        It shouldn't take long, Firefox, Chrome and Opera have nightly builds with support for it and IE can support it through Chrome Frame.

        • by dingen (958134)
          Apple however doesn't seem to get on board. Not supporting both Flash and WebM leaves pretty much only H264 as a way to get video on an iPod/iPhone/iPad. I wonder how this will work out. Websites are basically forced to support more than one way of delivering video at this point if they want their content to work on all major platforms, which is all the more reason to just put your videos on YouTube and let them sort it out. I'm not sure that is the right direction for video on the web.
          • Video on the web is a destination unto itself. It's removal would not affect your experience 90% of the time. Therefore lack of Apple support would seem to be a rather ridiculous consideration after the way they have handled Flash and the world continues to spin...
        • IE 9 will also support it if you have the CODEC installed. I imagine that Google will put something on YouTube for IE9 users saying 'for best experience, download this shiny new thing now! See how shiny it is!'
    • by mzs (595629)

      You should see VLC and the like binaries that support WebM distributed today or tomorrow.

    • by caseih (160668)

      Youtube is already serving some videos with WebM and HTML5, as well as h.264.

    • When do we start seeing extensive adoption of WebM and ditching of the H.264 and others?

      When devices with Android 2.3 and ChromeOS hit the shelves, I'd imagine.

  • by FlorianMueller (801981) on Friday June 04, 2010 @03:59PM (#32463678) Homepage

    There's no doubt that Google has made an effort to make its licensing terms more consistent and compatible with existing FOSS licenses. Maybe some of this could have been resolved beforehand if Google had talked to such organizations as the OSI and FSF.

    But one important problem remains even with the new licensing terms: there's no indemnification or holding harmless in the event of patent-related problems. I asked at the end of this blog post [blogspot.com] whether it would be fair for Google to reap most of the rewards if WebM becomes a success while the commercial adopters of WebM would bear the risk in case things go wrong on the patent front. By not even providing some basic indemnification, Google calls into question that it's really sure there aren't going to be any problems.

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by Abcd1234 (188840)

      Man, you just live to pimp that blog of yours whenever this topic comes up, don't you?

      • The key point is made in the comment here, but those are complex issues and references to more detailed external material is useful to those who want to read more. I've also clicked on a number of links here over the years to find out more, though in most cases I don't. As far as I can see, I was the first to bring up the indemnification issue again and I think it's reasonable to do so in this context because it's another thing that was criticized and could have been fixed with the revised license terms.
        • by arose (644256) on Friday June 04, 2010 @04:20PM (#32463934)
          What is your response to the assertion that multimedia isn't the patent minefield that everyone wants to (make us) believe [xiph.org]?
          • by FlorianMueller (801981) on Friday June 04, 2010 @04:35PM (#32464094) Homepage

            What is your response to the assertion that multimedia isn't the patent minefield that everyone wants to (make us) believe [xiph.org]?

            There are now different positions on WebM. In my blog post I actually mention all of them, including (in an update) Carlo Daffara's analysis, which is rather optimistic about WebM not infringing MPEG LA's patents. I never said that it does, but I admit that MPEG LA's statement that it may put together a WebM patent pool is nothing that I would advise anyone to discount as a possible scenario.

            What I do say is that Google will have the biggest benefit if this works out, hence I believe it would be reasonable for Google to provide not just vague assurances but a detailed analysis of the patent situation and some form of indemnification. One key difference between H.264 and WebM is that H.264 is already used in countless commercial products, so if anyone could assert any rights against it, it normally should have happened, while VP8 has so far had much less market penetration but if it became (like some propose) part of HTML 5, then this could change overnight and result in patent enforcement.

            • by arose (644256) on Friday June 04, 2010 @05:10PM (#32464476)

              There are now different positions on WebM. In my blog post I actually mention all of them, including (in an update) Carlo Daffara's analysis, which is rather optimistic about WebM not infringing MPEG LA's patents.

              It's not so much different, as in line with what has been voiced in regards to avoidance of software patents by Tridge and the Xiph developers. It's in line with Adobe distributing VP6 in Flash without any apparent problems. Who besides MPEG LA (bias obvious), Apple (heavily invested in H.264 infrastructure, favorable licensing terms as a pool member) and x264 devs (heavily invested in H.264, not concerned about patent details) has actually voiced the former positions?

              I never said that it does, but I admit that MPEG LA's statement that it may put together a WebM patent pool is nothing that I would advise anyone to discount as a possible scenario.

              Don't forget that Vorbis is part of the spec, Fraunhofer is about to strike any day now.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by arose (644256)
      What rewards? How is Google not a commercial adopter of WebM? How often do companies provide indemnification for complex software? How often do they charge nothing for it? How is this any different then paying MPEG LA for essentially the same guarantees, but with more hooks and complexities?
      • by FlorianMueller (801981) on Friday June 04, 2010 @04:23PM (#32463952) Homepage

        What rewards?

        If it takes off, they'll control it effectively. Theoretically, others could fork it, but they'll have the expertise and the brand and the strategic partnerships in place to be the driving force. They've explained recently that they also expect huge benefits in the future from Android (similar situation as with WebM).

        How is Google not a commercial adopter of WebM?

        A producer, like I explained above. A producer eating its own dog food, which is normal ;-)

        How often do companies provide indemnification for complex software?

        In commercial licensing agreements that's the standard thing. In this case we talk about an open-source-style license that is, however, meant to be the basis for commercial adoption.

        How often do they charge nothing for it?

        You're basically saying "don't look a gift horse in the mouth" but as I explained, there are business interests involved, so this is anything but an act of charity.

        How is this any different then paying MPEG LA for essentially the same guarantees, but with more hooks and complexities?

        I'm not sure I understand this question well enough to answer it. H.264 is in extremely widespread commercial use, so there are strong indications that a license from MPEG LA is, in all likelihood, sufficient protection. With WebM there's some uncertainty, including that MPEG LA said it's considering putting together a patent pool for WebM...

        • by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday June 04, 2010 @04:28PM (#32464006)

          None of the MPEG-LA licensing stuff offers indemnification.

          MPEG-LA is just using that WebM patent pool for FUD.

          • Correct (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday June 04, 2010 @09:48PM (#32466498)

            If you read their page they specifically deny any indemnification. They note you won't be sued by and of the MPEG-LA members, of course, but if there are other patents, well you are on your own. So supposing Google held a patent over something H.264 uses and decided to sue you, well you'd be SOL and have to defend it yourself.

            You only tend to find indemnification clauses in the case of very large companies, and then when the more or less developed the technology themselves are fare fairly confident that they hold all the cards.

            So no, there's no indemnification of WebM. However what you do have is Google's statement that they carefully checked VP8 before and after buying On2 and they think it is clear. Google is the one company that has the resources to conduct a search like that efficiently, and they have good reason not to release this unless they are confident, as they will for sure be someone that would get sued as they have lots of money.

            Also, their patent revocation license means that people might have trouble suing over WebM. So say Sony decides to sue. However it turns out their laptops have an ATi graphics chip in them that accelerates WebM (ATi has said they are going to do that). Well Sony has now lost the right to those patents and is open to countersuit. Nothing they can easily do about it, either, as nVidia is also in with WebM.

            Google seems pretty confident they are in the clear, I think it is reasonable for everyone else to feel confident.

        • by Goaway (82658)

          How does Google "control" it? The spec is done. The spec is entirely open and free. What's Google going to actually do to exercise this supposed "control"?

          • Open-sourcing something is irrevocable only with respect to the particular version that is open-sourced, but there isn't an obligation to do the same for future versions if you're the copyright owner. Apart from that licensing aspect, the one who does most or all of the development work on a project is in strategic control. And don't forget that the WebM trademark belongs to them.
            • by Goaway (82658)

              None of that sounds like a problem in any practical way at all. You're going to have to be more specific.

        • A producer, like I explained above. A producer eating its own dog food, which is normal ;-)

          I produce shit but I certainly don't eat it. (I have a toilet slave for that).

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by Draek (916851)

      Must you post that FUD in every single Theora- and WebM-related topic *ever*? what you're asking for is something that, quite honestly, would be so fucking dangerous to Google that no company, I repeat, NO company in the industry would even dare *suggest* something of the sort.

      And that's without comparing them to MPEG-LA, whose licensing terms are so fucking shallow that they don't even protect you from *them* if you happen to use a patent of theirs not included in the tiny list your MPEG4 license pays for,

      • If it's as dangerous to Google as you say, why would it then be OK for WebM adopters to be exposed to that risk?
        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          Because they already are with h.264?

          No one gives indemnification for this sort of thing. This is a risk anyone who ever hosts video takes.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Draek (916851)

          Because they're already exposed to risks of the sort by every other piece of software they've ever used. If you don't want that then you should be campaigning to abolish software patents, not be spreading FUD against Google.

    • Why don't you celebrate victory [youtube.com], it seems like you won before the battle started! Google fully cooperates to save the net. Now WebM needs to become the dominant video format. They still have to convince the movie pirates to use the format.

    • by Bill Dimm (463823)

      Google calls into question that it's really sure there aren't going to be any problems.

      Can anybody ever be sure there aren't going to be any patent problems with anything? IANAL, but it's my understanding that there is no way to know that someone may have applied for a patent on something until after the patent is granted (which can take years). So, you invent something independently, purely through your own hard work, and proceed with using it, not knowing that someone else may have already applied for a patent on it because that fact is invisible to everyone outside of the USPTO. Then, o

      • There's no such thing as 100% certainty, simply because there are too many patents out there and patent offices grant lots of patents that can be invalidated later based on prior art (if someone makes the effort) but they're granted in the first place. However, a large company like Google is in a hugely better position than smaller players to analyze the situation and to deal with it if and when it arises.
        • by Bill Dimm (463823)

          simply because there are too many patents out there and patent offices grant lots of patents that can be invalidated later based on prior art

          No, it's much worse than that. Read my post again.

          a large company like Google is in a hugely better position than smaller players to analyze the situation

          Google is in a better position to analyze patents that haven't been granted/published yet? Does Google have spies inside the USPTO?

          Think about what you are asking for when you demand indemnification. You are asking them to be on the hook for a risk that they cannot accurately assess no matter how much due diligence they perform, because applications for patents not yet granted are not visible to them.

          • > Google is in a better position to analyze patents that haven't been
            > granted/published yet? Does Google have spies inside the USPTO?

            Patent applications are published 18 months after filing. There are no more submarine patents.

    • by flymolo (28723)

      Your blog discounts the likely possibility that this is lies for the purpose of FUD, or that even if true the FUD is more valuable than actually asserting the patents.

      I think the patent allegations are made to slow adoption. But I think indemnification may be still be necessary, because even proving non-infringement is expensive.

      I hope if the patent pools manifest, Google sues for a declaration of non-infringement.

      • I don't discount the possibility that it could be strategically motivated FUD. However, my concern is the risk that this could represent to the FOSS community (especially the commercial vendors adopting FOSS). The risk is there until there's proof that it is just "FUD". Nevertheless, glad to see we agree on indemnification and if Google obtained a declaration of non-infringement, that would certainly be great (if it happened).
        • by arose (644256)

          The risk is there until there's proof that it is just "FUD".

          If it could be disproved it wouldn't make for good FUD, now would it? In fact, what exactly is there to disproof? That they are "considering forming a pool"? They probably are, but that doesn't mean that they can, which they haven't claimed to be able to. They don't say they have patents to form a pool with, which at least would be something that could remotely need proof of the opposite.

          But even then they have to actually provide some evidence bef

    • by macara (1813628)
      Considering your only other choice is with MPEGLA which despite their shady terms has support already, I think this is the least of our problems at the time being.
    • by tepples (727027)

      I asked at the end of this blog post whether it would be fair for Google to reap most of the rewards if WebM becomes a success while the commercial adopters of WebM would bear the risk in case things go wrong on the patent front.

      YouTube, a short film hosting service operated by Google, is already transcoding its works to WebM alongside H.264. This means Google itself is a commercial adopter of WebM.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mzs (595629)

      I know you know this, cause I know who Florian Mueller is, but I want to make it clear to the slashdot crowd that Google is granting a royalty free grant to use the patents that they own or will own related to VP8. You only lose this grant if you sue Google in patent court essentially. This is GPL3/Apache style patent clauses.

      http://www.webmproject.org/license/additional/ [webmproject.org]

      Now real patent indemnification is very rare, especially the kind where Google would protect you from 3rd party patents. I just wanted to

    • MPEG-LA do *not* offer indemnification of any sort. Its even in the dam licence you have to sign after paying a lot of cash for fees and laywers. MPEG-LA codecs have not been without patent claims from third parties.

      At least with webM the initial outlay is zero. And when folks troll about covered by patents, no patent numbers are ever mentioned. Why, because about the only patents that probably do "cover" it will last all of 5min in court by failing even the most lax patentability requirements.
    • by maxume (22995)

      Yes, it is perfectly fair, they bought the damn company and are giving away the code and patent licenses.

      If you are nervous about it, don't use it. Agitate for other people not to use it. But don't be surprised when they ignore you.

      If they did offer indemnity, I expect you would just switch to complaining that it was insufficient, what with the huge risk involved.

  • > if a patent action was brought against Google, the patent license terminated

    This will happen like the next day after WebM becomes semi-relevant.

    And the patent issue is the only one of importance, otherwise x264 is the same Open Source too. With much better quality.

  • I'm really annoyed at Google for this bullshit, and the new license is only going to increase adoption of a technology that should have been stillborn.

  • So in the next year and a half will we expect to see WebM 1.0, 1.5, 1.6, 2.0, 2.0.1, 2.1 and 2.2?

    I can see it now, not being able to watch video on all sites because they use "2.1" and the hardware decoder in your Android phone only supports 1.6 even though it was just released yesterday.

    Seriously, is Google the company that we want attempting to control a video standard? Sure they have a lot of smart developers over there, and so far I'm not convinced they can hold back and not change things too often. I

  • The twist was that ours terminated "any" rights and not just rights to the patents, which made our license GPLv3 and GPLv2 incompatible.

    Oops, I at first thought it was GPLv3 compatible because I didn't notice that distinction when I first read it.

    • by yuhong (1378501)
      Still, this would have been trivial to fix and I'd have just done that and screw the GPLv2. I mean, this stuff is unlikely to go into something like the Linux kernel.
  • Using patent language borrowed from both the Apache and GPLv3 patent clauses...

    I'm not sure about the Apache license, but the FSF holds the copyright to the GPL itself. Is Google infringing?

That does not compute.

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