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Open Source Patents

OSI President Questions WebM Patent License Compatibility with Open Source 37

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the just-a-bit-of-a-snag dept.
Via the H comes a report that the Simon Phipps, current President of the Open Source Initiative, thinks that the VP8 patent Cross-license agreeement Google brokered with the MPEG-LA is incompatible with the Open Source definition. The primary problems are that the license is not sub-licensable and only covers certain uses, leading to conflict with OSD clauses five, six, and seven. Phipps concludes: "As a consequence, I suggest the license is flawed when considered in relation to open source projects and is likely to be negatively received by many communities that value software freedom. Doubtless a case can be made that the patent license is optional, but I suspect the community issues may remain. Once again we're left with our fingers crossed. Google's making the right noises, but this draft agreement seems like a particularly unworkable approach for free and open source software. Its failure to allow sublicensing seems like a major flaw. Even if this doesn't result in a requirement for all end-users to sign the agreement, the discrepancies between this document and the OSD leave it disruptive to open source adoption of VP8."
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OSI President Questions WebM Patent License Compatibility with Open Source

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  • by Microlith (54737) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @11:45AM (#43794615)

    Did anyone really expect the MPEG-LA to offer license terms that were amenable to FOSS goals? That would eliminate their ability to exert and enforce control over the market.

    Patents have no value in conveying knowledge these days, they are simply artillery for court battles and chains you can yank to control the actions of others.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Well, we could always start firing back with our own artillery -- I'm sure someone has 3D printer plans coming soon.

    • by westlake (615356) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @02:09PM (#43795925)

      Did anyone really expect the MPEG-LA to offer license terms that were amenable to FOSS goals? That would eliminate their ability to exert and enforce control over the market.

      WebM is a distribution codec for the web.

      The MPEG LA licensors are a global R&D and manufacturing combine of breathtaking size, scope and power. The licensees are built on the same scale. MPEG LA [mpegla.com]

    • Re:No Big Surprise (Score:4, Insightful)

      by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @05:32PM (#43797811) Journal

      This is why I railed against H.264 in HTML V5, as MPEG-LA made it VERY clear when Mozilla tried dealing with them that there will NEVER be any license that covers downstream, ever.

      The sad part is thanks to them being villains with good PR Apple will ram so much nasty shit through with HTML V5 its gonna be a corporate wet dream, but because so many devs dream of iMoney they won't say boo. Look at how many actually tried to excuse having HTML V5 stuck with H.264 over WebM or Theora or Drac with "Its open!". Bullshit, its a patent troll, and now its built in to the future of the web and I have no doubt Apple will get the DRM rammed through as well.

      I feel a rant coming on..To all the guys that said "Anybody but M$!" that bought Apple products to stick to teh man? You deserve this, the point was to replace MSFT with something better NOT with something worse. The sad part is how many buy the bullshit, H.264 is worse in EVERY SINGLE METRIC over the Flash that its supposed to replace, worse in CPU, memory,bandwidth, and of course while Adobe let you package Flash with anything and even let there be a FOSS spinoff without so much as a C&D you're gonna replace it with a patent troll, because St Steve of Cupertino said it should be so. Did anybody ever think, for even a second, he just MIGHT have an ulterior motive? Like how Flash would let anybody host apps and games without going through his appstore?

      What is fucking sad and pathetic is for the first time in history we have made truly insane amount of CPU power affordable to the masses, computers like something out of Dick Tracy you can throw in your pocket that can do just incredible things, and this huge web of knowledge that opens up everything, music, video, the world, yet we are gonna hand the whole damned thing over to the suits because they are good at the bullshit and they make shiny hipster toys...fuck! Wake the fuck up people, these are NOT nice guys! How many lawsuits have we seen from MPEG-LA in the past 5 years? How many from Apple? You are replacing a bumbling hamfisted company like MSFT with one that can actually pull off their nasty plans, doesn't anybody think this is a bad idea? Don't replace one master for another guys, that is just insanity.

      • H.264 is worse in EVERY SINGLE METRIC over the Flash that its supposed to replace, worse in CPU, memory,bandwidth

        There is so much wrong with this one statement I don't know where to begin. First, Flash is not a video codec, and in fact most Flash video uses H.264. Second, most GPUs these days (both x86 and ARM) have dedicated hardware decoding units for native H.264 that are extremely power efficient and don't require any significant amount of processing from the CPU. Flash playback of H.264 video, on the other hand, requires significant CPU resources (Flash video has for years been a notorious way to get the system f

      • by exomondo (1725132)

        The sad part is how many buy the bullshit, H.264 is worse in EVERY SINGLE METRIC over the Flash that its supposed to replace, worse in CPU, memory,bandwidth, and of course while Adobe let you package Flash with anything and even let there be a FOSS spinoff without so much as a C&D you're gonna replace it with a patent troll, because St Steve of Cupertino said it should be so.

        You do realize that most of the YouTube content in Flash was encoded in H.264? I don't know where you get the idea that Flash (a container) was ever supposed to replace H.264 (a codec).

    • Did anyone really expect the MPEG-LA to offer license terms that were amenable to FOSS goals? That would eliminate their ability to exert and enforce control over the market.

      That isn't really about FOSS, it is about MPEG-LA vs. Google. Google is trying to extort multi-billion dollar payments over h.264 patents formerly owned by Motorola from one of the biggest MPEG-LA licencee, so MPEG-LA isn't going to be happy with that.

  • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @12:16PM (#43794855)

    VP8/WebM is the only halfway-viable competitor to h264. Don't demand perfection, you won't get it.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If VP8/WebM can be halfway-viable, other efforts can as well. But Google's only willing to support it's own tech, which is already asking a lot from the rest of the world.

      Sure, we want something like it, but I'd rather we don't let Google dictate every little motion the web makes. It's not virtuous or noble of Google to act this way, and the last time someone did we ended up holding the web back for almost a decade.

      • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @01:00PM (#43795325)

        Sure. But to have any chance, the tech needs three things:
        1. It has to be very good indeed. At least as good as the existing offerings. Open source can do this - the existance of x264 shows this is true - but starting over from scratch? That's a massive project.
        2. It has to be patent-proof. That's just not possible. No way. Patents are so broad now, it'd be impossible not to violate a lot of them without even knowing about them. That's why we need google: Their big money and legal muscle let them fight the legal battle.
        3. It has to be supported by at least one major player, who has the clout to get players widely available. Not just on PCs, but embedded codecs on phones and tablets too. Distributed with browsers or operating systems, so my mother who has no idea what 'codec' means can still watch her silly dog videos on the internet.

        To ask for all that, and full ideological compliance too, is just asking too much. Not going to happen.

        • Guess I won't be adding video record / playback / and upload to youtube to my games then... If the demo record and playback cooperate with the encoder, rendering a frame at a time, then the game can generate super high quality videos even on low end machines without requiring a screen recorder. Yeah, I did just that. Instead of calling into Google's code I started writing my own encoder, the parts I replaced are about twice as fast as the current WebM shite. Oh? Patents don't cover me? Well then, I

    • by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @12:39PM (#43795079)

      The only thing we wanted was a competitor that was FOSS compatible. If WebM is not that it has no use at all. Might as well stick with h264 in that case.

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      The only thing WebM has going for it is Google money, and we haven't seen any indication they are willing to put their money where their mouth is. As far as technical merits...what is wrong with Theora and Drac? I tried them both and they run nicely, Drac is better IMHO as it doesn't seem to need as many CPU cycles as Theora but both of them seemed to work decently.

      But frankly I'll take any damned thing you have to offer over H.264, its a fricking pig. You take any video and without hardware acceleration to

  • by njahnke (757694)
    No one uses WebM. Google dropped the ball. Now even Mozilla is allowing their browser to use the underlying OS to support H.264 playback. This ship has sailed. Better luck next time.
    • by Air-conditioned cowh (552882) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @12:43PM (#43795135)

      No one uses WebM. Google dropped the ball. Now even Mozilla is allowing their browser to use the underlying OS to support H.264 playback. This ship has sailed. Better luck next time.

      The very presence of VP8/VP9 means that the license terms for H.264/H.265 can't become too unreasonable. If they do then there is an alternative. If there is no alternative then MPEGLA can jack the license fees up as much as they wish.

      • by Microlith (54737) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @01:25PM (#43795551)

        The fees aren't what's important. It's the licensing terms and rules they seek to impose as a condition of access. The goal isn't money, it's using the rights granted by patent protection as a club to control others.

        • The goal isn't money, it's using the rights granted by patent protection as a club to control others.

          Does the MPEG-LA believe that they have some kind of divine mandate to control what videos people are allowed to watch?

          I would guess that whatever control they're seeking is simply a means to an end, and the end is simply money.

        • by Raenex (947668)

          I'm pretty sure it was for the money. Do you have a single example of its use "as a club to control others" that just wasn't about getting license fees?

    • No one uses WebM.

      YouTube does. Wikipedia does. Wired Video [wired.com] does. Microsoft's Channel 9 [msdn.com] does. Revision3 [revision3.com] does. Et cetera and so on.

  • Mozilla (Score:4, Informative)

    by WedgeTalon (823522) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @12:58PM (#43795311)

    Pretty sure this is why Mozilla originally decided to instead back Ogg Theora video.

  • One thing about this is that this isn't the only license, nor is it even the license of most interest to open-source projects wanting to use the WebM codebase. The license here is for a bare patent license independent of any software or code. If you're wanting to use the WebM code, you're more interested in the Additional IP Rights Grant that'd apply in that case. You'd only be interested in the cross-license agreement if you wanted the patents alone and weren't using WebM in an open-source project.

  • Got an alternative? (Score:5, Informative)

    by gr8_phk (621180) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @03:07PM (#43796463)
    It's great to write an article outlining the problem, but it would be nice if he offered a better solution. Google put WebM / VP8 / VP9 out there are open source with a strong belief that it didn't infringe the H264 patents. Turns out the scum at MPEG-LA rounded up some patents for an attack and Google has made some effort to allow use of those patents. What else could they do? Go to court and get the claims thrown out? Perhaps, but what it some are valid claims?

    We can hope that Google has a larger strategy than they are letting on. The thing to do is get WebM out there to take power away from MPEG-LA. For the short term that means Google, Android, and the major browsers have to be able to use it, and then YouTube needs to use it exclusively. Everyone else can use the code, but it's kinda hard for Google to influence other patent holders. Rather than just complain, the author and OSI should propose a better solution - there isn't one.

    BTW, your phone probably supports VP8 - Android has supported it in software since 2.3(?) and Google has made hardware implementations available for some time now with many SoC vendors licensing it (for free).
    • . Turns out the scum at MPEG-LA rounded up some patents for an attack and Google has made some effort to allow use of those patents.

      Interesting that you call MPEG-LA scum, while Google _is_ _actually_ suing Microsoft over the use of h.264, right here, right now. So who is the scum?

      • by gr8_phk (621180)

        Interesting that you call MPEG-LA scum, while Google _is_ _actually_ suing Microsoft over the use of h.264, right here, right now. So who is the scum?

        I wasn't aware of that. Hmmm. It's one thing to sue for patent infringement, but what MPEG-LA did was IMHO much worse. Not the creation of the H264 patent pool or its licensing, but their attempt (solicitation) to create a patent pool specifically to use against WebM. It's one thing to patent some stuff, use it, and defend it. It's entirely different to see a

  • Open source is about copyrights. This is a patent. What relevance does a patent bear on whether a piece of software is open source?

Too much of everything is just enough. -- Bob Wier

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