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Media Patents Technology

Royalty-Free MPEG Video Proposals Announced 108

Posted by timothy
from the good-times-ahead-and-clear-sailing dept.
theweatherelectric writes "Rob Glidden notes on his blog that MPEG has recently 'announced it has received proposals for a royalty-free MPEG standard and has settled on a deliberation process to consider them.' There are two tracks toward royalty-free video currently under consideration by MPEG. The first track is IVC, a new standard 'based on MPEG-1 technology which is believed a safe royalty-free baseline that can be enhanced by additional unencumbered technology described in MPEG-2, JPEG, research publications and innovative technologies which are promised to be subject to royalty-free licenses.' The second proposed track is WebVC, an attempt to get the constrained baseline profile of H.264 licensed under royalty-free terms. Rob Glidden offers an analysis of both proposals. Also of interest is Rob's short history of why royalty-free H.264 failed last time."
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Royalty-Free MPEG Video Proposals Announced

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  • Or you can just... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 10, 2011 @09:22AM (#38325020)

    Or you can just tell the MPEG-LA group to screw themselves and use VP8.

    This "Intellectual Property" business is a bunch of crap.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      And use inferior technology that is a patent minefield? At least with H.264 I can be certain that my business isn't going to be taken to court one day and I lose it all. With H.264 I don't need to worry about such, and I get better technology (and hardware decoders on almost every kind of device on planet that can show video).
      • by Vanders (110092) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @09:51AM (#38325218) Homepage

        And use inferior technology that is a patent minefield?

        "Inferior" is subjective, and I'd love to see any proof you have that VP8/WebM is a "patent minefield".

        At least with H.264 I can be certain that my business isn't going to be taken to court one day and I lose it all. With H.264 I don't need to worry about such

        Where did you get such a silly idea from? An H.264 license simply provides you a license to the patented technologies in H.264 that are owned by the MPEG-LA members. There are no guarantees or indemnities against any non-MPEG-LA member from suing you and everyone else for using H.264.

        The risk from submarine patents for H.264 is exactly the same as VP8.

        • by InsightIn140Bytes (2522112) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @09:59AM (#38325254)

          The risk from submarine patents for H.264 is exactly the same as VP8.

          No it's not. There are huge amount of companies, both big and small, using H.264. If there ever comes a problem with non-MPEG-LA member, I have a much smaller change of being directed alone. And even if I am, there are so much at play with H.264 that I'm sure to get help with it. You can't say the same for VP8. Hell, even Google isn't trusting VP8 enough to put it in HTML5 video draft.

          As far as "subjective" quality issues go, this article [multimedia.cx] sums it up good:

          VP8, as a spec, should be a bit better than H.264 Baseline Profile and VC-1. It's not even close to competitive with H.264 Main or High Profile. If Google is willing to revise the spec, this can probably be improved.

          VP8, as an encoder, is somewhere between Xvid and Microsoft's VC-1 in terms of visual quality. This can definitely be improved a lot.

          VP8, as a decoder, decodes even slower than ffmpeg's H.264. This probably can't be improved that much; VP8 as a whole is similar in complexity to H.264.

          With regard to patents, VP8 copies too much from H.264 for comfort, no matter whose word is behind the claim of being patent-free. This doesn't mean that it's sure to be covered by patents, but until Google can give us evidence as to why it isn't, I would be cautious.

          VP8 is definitely better compression-wise than Theora and Dirac, so if its claim to being patent-free does stand up, it's a big upgrade with regard to patent-free video formats.

          VP8 is not ready for prime-time; the spec is a pile of copy-pasted C code and the encoder's interface is lacking in features and buggy. They aren't even ready to finalize the bitstream format, let alone switch the world over to VP8.

          With the lack of a real spec, the VP8 software basically is the specâ"and with the spec being âoefinalâ, any bugs are now set in stone. Such bugs have already been found and Google has rejected fixes.

          Google made the right decision to pick Matroska and Vorbis for its HTML5 video proposal.

          • by Vanders (110092)
            So your strategy for not getting sued by a patent troll is to hide behind the big guys? Then use WebM and hide behind Google. Either way, lying about the patent situation with VP8 is dishonest, and you should probably stop doing that.

            As far as "subjective" quality issues go, this article sums it up good:

            Yes, we've all seen the highly unbiased article by the x264 developer. It's just as subjective as anyone else's article. It's mostly moaning about the specification, a claim on one hand that VP8 is "too clos

            • by Goaway (82658) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @12:58PM (#38326872) Homepage

              Again the bullshit about x264 developers being "biased".

              He also helped write the fastest VP8 decoder available, you know. Why did he do that if he was so biased against it?

              Enough of these ridiculous ad hominem attacks. The guy is incredibly competent in the field, and nobody who's attacked him for what he said is anywhere close.

              • by makomk (752139) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @01:15PM (#38327050) Journal

                He's not exactly biased, he just doesn't grasp how weird the patent situation around h.264 is. Apparently a lot of the patents are quite narrow and easy to avoid because narrow patents are easier to defend in court, and the various companies just rely on their control of the standardization process to make sure that the standard is written in such a way that it necessarily infringes their patents. On2 claim to have worked around all the patents.

            • by tlhIngan (30335)

              So your strategy for not getting sued by a patent troll is to hide behind the big guys? Then use WebM and hide behind Google. Either way, lying about the patent situation with VP8 is dishonest, and you should probably stop doing that.

              Well, WebM has one advantage - it's small and the people using it aren't really that rich. No patent troll will sue now because there's no money to be made.

              H.264 doesn't have that advantage, so if there really was a submarine patent someone's sitting on, they're losing a lot of

        • by makomk (752139) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @10:02AM (#38325282) Journal

          In fact, there have been submarine patent attacks on h.264 in the past, whereas WebM hasn't encountered any yet.

        • "There are no guarantees or indemnities against any non-MPEG-LA member from suing you and everyone else for using H.264."

          There is one. If such a company does sue you, then the MPEG-LA is going to come to your aid. Not in your support, but to defend their turf - their patent pool is massively devalued if it is incomplete. That means they'll either throw money at the responsible company until they agree to sell the patent, or come to your aid with the best lawyers in the field and a practically endless amoun
        • by stms (1132653)

          "Inferior" is subjective

          Not that the rest of your point isn't valid but if you say that Inferior is subjective (even though it's kind of true). You haven't taken the time to compare the codecs. If you want to distribute media over the internet in higher than 480p H.264 is your only real option.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I think you made a typo:

        At least with H.264 I can be certain that my business IS going to be taken to court one day and I lose it all.

        Have you been under a rock and not keeping up with the behavior of the MPEG-LA? Denial is not just a river in Egypt. And as to "inferior" what are you talking about? Inferior in what way? I suppose VP8 is inferior in the sense that it won't make the MPPEG-LA executives rich.

        • by Goaway (82658)

          VP8 absolutely and objectively technically inferior to h.264. Anybody with any kind of understanding of the field knows that.

      • by TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @10:14AM (#38325348)

        At least with H.264 I can be certain that my business isn't going to be taken to court one day and I lose it all.

        No you can't. They do *not* protect you from 3rd party patents that and it explicit states in the license agreement that its between you and the 3rd party, not them. MPEG-LA offer *zero* immunity or guarantees. In fact guess how many 3rd parties have come forward with claims on MPEG-LA licensed codecs? Now guess with either Theora or VP8?

        It does not matter what you do, you are not safe from patent trolls. Paying one of em does nothing to remove the rest.

      • by andydread (758754) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @10:30AM (#38325492)

        And use inferior technology that is a patent minefield? At least with H.264 I can be certain that my business isn't going to be taken to court one day and I lose it all. With H.264 I don't need to worry about such, and I get better technology (and hardware decoders on almost every kind of device on planet that can show video).

        You are being sarcastic right? You do know that when you purchase equipment such as cameras and software that include a H.264 license it's for non-commercial uses only right?. Let say you purchase a shiny new Mac and you purchase Final Cut Pro. Note the "pro" in the name. And you decide to produce professional video and re-distribute it. You must get a license from MPEG-LA to do that. Read the fine print in the Final Cut Pro license. [apple.com]

        Additional use licenses and fees are required for use of information encoded in compliance with the MPEG-4 Visual Standard other than the personal and non-commercial use of a consumer (i) in connection with information which has been encoded in compliance with the MPEG-4 Visual Standard by a consumer engaged in a personal and non-commercial activity, and/or (ii) in connection with MPEG-4 encoded video under license from a video provider. Additional information including that relating to promotional,internal and commercial uses and licensing may be obtained from MPEG LA, LLC. See http://www.mpegla.com./ [www.mpegla.com]

        You mentioned "At least with H.264 I can be certain that my business isn't going to be taken to court one day and I lose it all." So I am assuming you are using MPEG-4 for commercial uses and you have contacted MPEG LA for MPEG-4 licenses for each MPEG-4 work that you use commercially correct?

        • by Goaway (82658)

          Anybody who works in video distribution knows that distribution may require a different license than just encoding. Encoding software does not and can not include that license.

          • by Raenex (947668)

            Anybody who works in video distribution knows that distribution may require a different license than just encoding. Encoding software does not and can not include that license.

            That sounds pretty absurd to me. It's like if somebody patented a drug, and then the maker of the drug was charged twice, once to make, and second to distribute the drug, and then the doctor was charged for prescribing the drug.

            You really can't distribute a file just because it is encoded in a certain format? Really?

            • by Goaway (82658)

              Yes, that is how the licensing works.

              This is probably preferable to the alternative, which would be that encode licenses would be astronomical sums. With license fees dependent on distribution, that means that those that can afford to pay a lot pay the largest part of the money involved, and smaller companies get away with small sums.

      • by aix tom (902140)

        Yeah. It's always a better choice to just pay the guys that come along, look around, and say "Nice business you have there. Wouldn't it be a shame if something happened to it?"

    • by dzfoo (772245) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @09:36AM (#38325116)

      And what do you do with the sections of your workflow that are not specifically Web-based?

      H.264 is a video industry standard, which includes myriad delivery media. VP8 is a web video technology.

                  -dZ.

      • by ogrisel (1168023)
        Because the media industry primary goal is to produce videos that are not to be broadcasted on the web? Yeah television is the probably media of the future.
        • by isorox (205688)

          Because the media industry primary goal is to produce videos that are not to be broadcasted on the web? Yeah television is the probably media of the future.

          I have an editor in Syria that's shot some local footage, and wants to incorporate some library material, before feeding it back to base.

          Once in base it's reversions for various outlets (childrens news). A few graphics are then added.

          The editor is on a 192kbit bgan, and has a 5 minute package to send back, sending uncompressed video around the place just won't work.

          How do I get this footage back in
          1) A high quality
          2) A decent time

          But I need to be able to change that footage later, which tends to mean bringi

          • by Vanders (110092)
            Sure, your scenario is bang on and I don't think anyone would seriously suggest that H.264 isn't a great solution for that work. However, this bit:

            Eventually the media goes onto the web for a few thousand people to watch

            That bit right there is where VP8 can just as easily replace H.264, and where Google are not surprisingly positioning it with WebM. As you're transcoding the original high quality source anyway, you lose nothing transcoding it to VP8 instead of back to H.264.

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      MPEG is not MPEG-LA.

    • by westlake (615356)

      Or you can just tell the MPEG-LA group to screw themselves and use VP8.

      There are about thirty H.264 licensors --- most of them global giants in manufacturing like Mitshubishi.

      These are the companies that dominate every link in the hardware chain from the studo camera to your tv set. Your Internet enabled HDTV doesn't need a browser, it only needs the client app.

      Open the Metro UI in Windows 8 and the H.264 or HEVC Netflix app will be there. "Web Standards" no longer matter when you can distribute higher quality or more secure video outside the web.

      There are close on to 1100 H

    • by evilviper (135110)

      Or you can just tell the MPEG-LA group to screw themselves and use VP8.

      That's... productive. Obviously we don't want the MPEG involved, they're just a standards body that's brought us MPEG-1 (VCDs), MP3s, MPEG-2 (DVDs, HDTV, ALL broadcast back-ends, etc), DivX, and H.264. Clearly they are useless...

      Honestly, if they were to basically adopt VP8, maybe enhance it a bit, and standardize it, it might actually make some headway, instead of being the in-thing among the 1% of people who follow /. regularly. If

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 10, 2011 @09:29AM (#38325060)

    WebM is already royalty-free, and it out-performs h.264. Where is the problem?

    Support: here is a performance comparison of the latest iteration of the WebM encoder hardware, showing also previous versions and a h.264 encoder for comparison.

    http://blog.webmproject.org/2011/11/time-of-dragonflies.html

    If WebM is better anyway, already royalty-free, and WebM/HTML5 is supported by more browsers than h264/HTML5, then why on earth shouldn't people just go ahead and use WebM.

    Where is the issue?

    • by JAlexoi (1085785)
      Hardware with baked in VP8
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      It maybe supported by more browsers, but in terms of market share of said browsers, H.264 leads. The native browsers of two largest OS, IE and Safari, only support H.264. That's what counts. And frankly, H.264 support is included in both OS and is technically better. It would be stupid to choose lesser solution only because authoring tools don't need to pay small licensing costs. I'm glad they haven't done that decision either. at least once better technology wons over idealistic views.
      • It would be stupid to choose lesser solution only because authoring tools don't need to pay small licensing costs.

        Hey! I'm an indie dev with Zero initial capital! I want my players to be able to capture video feeds of in-game play and upload them to video sites. I also want to open source the game at some point... Guess which codec standard PREVENTS THIS? Not WebM. I'm sorry, H.264 isn't even an option for me. It was trivial for me to include a WebM encoder in my code, took one afternoon. It's also natively supported by the most used video upload site... Youtube. I can't even begin the process of legally doing t

      • You are right, IE and Safari both support h264 but not WebM. I wonder why that would be?

        Oh, yes. Microsoft and Apple are both MPEG-LA members, and stand to profit substantially from the success of h264. Whereas WebM is the product of one of their rivals.

        I can't see either of those browsers getting WebM support any time soon - and those browers which can support WebM are excluded from h264 by patent and licencing concerns. We're back in the bad old days of Netscape vs IE, where web designers had to write s
      • The native browsers of two largest OS, IE and Safari, only support H.264.

        Two important things of note here.

        First, on Windows, only IE9 supports HTML5 video at all. Past versions of IE are still more popular than IE9, largely because it's not bundled with any OS out of the box. It'll take some time to change.

        Second, IE does support WebM, just not out of the box. It requires a separate download [google.com] of the codec. I don't know for sure, but I think that Safari also supports installable codecs for HTML5 video on OS X. It definitely does not support them on iOS.

    • by John Betonschaar (178617) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @09:40AM (#38325146)

      [quote]Support: here is a performance comparison of the latest iteration of the WebM encoder hardware, showing also previous versions and a h.264 encoder for comparison.

      http://blog.webmproject.org/2011/11/time-of-dragonflies.html%5B/quote%5D [webmproject.org]

      I hope you realize that the comparison you linked to compares ENCODER quality between two decoders (H264 and WebM) made by the same company? It says nothing about the abilities of WebM as a codec.

      Try this one instead:
      http://x264dev.multimedia.cx/archives/377 [multimedia.cx]

      • by makomk (752139)

        Good luck running x264 on your mobile phone, which is the platform both of those hardware encoders are targetting.

        • by Elbart (1233584)
          Why would you run an ENcoder on a mobile phone?
          • by Vanders (110092)
            What do you think happens when you point the camera on your phone at something and hit the record button? Those terrible videos people upload to YouTube don't encode themselves.
          • by makomk (752139)

            Because you want to record a video? Pretty much all mobile phones have hardware allowing them to encode video in real time these days; some of the newer smartphones even support recording in 1080p.

          • When I am using the rear facing camera to capture videos of my family or the front facing camera for video conferencing.

        • by NearO (591410)

          x264 has a variety of settings that allow you to tweak the quality/speed ratio. It also has (and is getting more) ARM assembly optimizations, which should be useful for use on a number of phones. It's a really well optimized piece of software over a number of platforms.

        • Ignoring your x/h confusion, h264 both encoding and decoding works very well on mobile devices. The key is hardware acceleration. It takes great amounts of processor time on a plain old general-purpose processor to handle video (My old C2D struggled on 1080p h264), but if you have purpose-built silicon to handle the hard parts like motion estimation/compensation than it becomes quite practical even for mobiles. The downside is that you can't add new codecs using a simple software plugin.
        • by citizenr (871508)

          Good luck running x264 on your mobile phone, which is the platform both of those hardware encoders are targetting.

          This is exactly what I am doing just fine at 720p on my phone, what exactly is the problem?

    • by Goaway (82658)

      WebM is not in any way better than h.264, and your link does not support this claim.

  • by sgt scrub (869860) <saintium@@@yahoo...com> on Saturday December 10, 2011 @09:48AM (#38325202)

    What is wrong with just using Theora?

    • by bk2204 (310841)

      Theora isn't as great a video codec as VP8 or H.264.

      • It has a completely different target... as does MPEG-1 and MPEG-2. Theora goes after the same target as MPEG-2 IIRC.

    • by Goaway (82658)

      It is not known to be patent-free, unlike MPEG-1. MPEG-1 is, due to its age, patent-free by definition.

    • by evilviper (135110)

      What is wrong with just using Theora?

      Absolutely everything...

      Theora really can't even compete with MPEG-1 on either video quality at a given bitrate, or performance. It was very specifically designeed for extremely low quality, extremely low resolution, extremely low bitrate streaming video, over a decade ago...

      Theora is the perfect example of how NOT to run a project. They dicked around with alpha and beta versions of Theora for a decade, and in all the time we've got basically nothing to show for it.

      • by sgt scrub (869860)

        Interesting reply. What do you think of x264?

        • by evilviper (135110)

          Interesting reply. What do you think of x264?

          What is there to think about it? It's an H.264 implementation, so it comes with all the patent problems that go with it.

          Most people find it to be the best video codec out there. Personally, I have some reservations... It does a couple things like include a small amount of high frequency random noise that I find very unsightly and distracting, and it also washes out the picture a bit, and there are no settings to allow you to adjust this behavior (afaik). Whe

      • I don't have to explain:

        Theora really can't even compete with MPEG-1 on either video quality at a given bitrate, or performance. It was very specifically designeed for extremely low quality, extremely low resolution, extremely low bitrate streaming video, over a decade ago...

        This isn't true. There's plenty of results out there which say Theora is, while not the best, a good codec. To quote Wikipedia: More recently however, Xiph developers have compared the 1.1 Theora encoder to YouTube's H.264 and H.263+

        • by evilviper (135110)

          There's plenty of results out there which say Theora is, while not the best, a good codec. To quote Wikipedia:

          Wkipedia is a shit-hole, end of story. There's tons of utterly inaccurate crap on there, which will never go away. There have been plenty of fights over quality on there for many years, but eventally the fair-minded give up and the cult of Xiph & RMS stay, and corrupt it.

          The idea that Theora can remotely compete with H.264 is positively laughable. That you believe it either suggests you've go

  • "MPEG has received" or MPEG-LA?

    I thought I read here on Slashdot that -LA is different from just plain old MPEG.

    So who is actually doing the receiving? Good guys/bad guys?

  • Yes, this is needed (Score:5, Informative)

    by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @10:12AM (#38325332) Homepage

    From the point of view of technological progress, proposing the use of 20-year old technology is shameful, but it really is the only solution. (until software patents get abolished)

    This was also suggested by Nokia during the html5 standard discussion of the video tag:

    http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Use_software_and_functionality_from_20_years_ago [swpat.org]

    And remember, this problem is caused not by trolls but by the MPEG-LA signatories: Columbia University, Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute of Korea (ETRI), France Télécom, Fujitsu, LG Electronics, Matsushita (Panasonic), Mitsubishi, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia, Philips, Robert Bosch GmbH, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba, and Victor Company of Japan (JVC).

  • I know many of the patents in H.264 are on specific equations used for the integer DCT equivalent, Hadamard transform, and so on. My question is, does a patent cover an equation that is not specifically written in the patent but is mathematically equivalent? If not, couldn't some of the patent encumbrances be worked around in this fashion?
  • by GPLHost-Thomas (1330431) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @11:05PM (#38331968)
    They still don't get it do they? We don't want a ROYALTY free format, but also a PATENT FREE format.
    • by jrincayc (22260)

      I think there are only two major patent free video formats right now, Motion JPEG and H.261. Theora and VP8 are patented, but the patents are allowed to be used royalty free.

  • "Royalty-Free MPEG Video Proposals Proposed."

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