Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Google Graphics Patents Your Rights Online

Google Announces WebM Community Cross Licensing 120

Posted by Soulskill
from the everybody-hold-hands dept.
theweatherelectric writes "Google's WebM project has announced the formation of the WebM Community Cross-License Initiative. Members of the WebM-CCL agree to license patents they may hold that are essential to WebM technologies to other members under royalty-free terms. This initiative would seem to address some of Microsoft's concerns about WebM. Meanwhile, the MPEG LA appears to have remained silent after the submission period of its call for patents essential to WebM ended over a month ago."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Google Announces WebM Community Cross Licensing

Comments Filter:
  • by Rockoon (1252108) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @07:29AM (#35940582)
    It appears that Google isnt so sure any more about how much of WebM it owns. While there have been no public statements about what patents VP8/WebM infringes on, there have almost certainly been cases of patent holders making specific claims in private. How many of those claims are valid remains to be seen, but it sure looks like at least a few of them are being considered by Google as too risky to fight, so here we are with a patent pool proposal that offers a win-win for all involved rather than patent fights.
    • by moronoxyd (1000371) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @07:43AM (#35940682)

      Have you had a look at the list of companies that join this CCL?

      Besides Google we have Xiph.org (who develop Ogg Vorbis, which is the audio codec used by WebM), Matroska (the WEbM container is based on their container format), Mozilla and Opera (who use WebM in their browsers), companies lei MIPS and TI who most probably are in the process of developing chips who will use WebM in hardware, and so on.

      These are companies that use WebM in some way and who join the CCL to support each other and the format against patent trolls and attacks like that of MPEG-LA (read: Microsoft and Apple).

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Apple has only one patent in the MPEG-LA and it is the one for the container format. I doubt that Apple has any intention to sue anyone over WeBM. Ditto for Microsoft. It's more likely that they're just satisfied with what they have and don't want to risk being sued over a visually inferior format.

        • What about the trolls at MPEG-LA?
          Their "Raison d'Ãtre" is to make $ by suing.

          Can you actually see MS or Apple telling MPEG-LA to back-off?

          • If one of the MPEG-LA members wants to sue, what business is it of Microsoft or Apple? You can't say that either of those companies is attacking WebM because a third patent holder starts throwing their weight around.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Have you had a look at the list of companies that join this CCL?

        Exactly. Every company in the CCL is a company that has one of the following:

        1. Patents on technologies used in WebM (i.e. VP8, Vorbis, Matroska)
        2. Prior art for technologies used in WebM (i.e. VP8, Vorbis, Matroska)
        3. Patents or prior art on hardware acceleration related to VP8

        In other words, before the CCL, Apple and Microsoft-Nokia could spout FUD about Google not having all the necessary patents to make WebM safe, even though there wasn't a snowball's chance in heck they'd get sued by the likes of Xiph or Matros

      • MPEG-LA is a mutually beneficial organization too.

        They're both patent pools.

        TI isn't really developing new chips, they are developing new software for their chips (DSPs) which is actually better because it means WebM acceleration will be available more quickly and on a wider range of devices than if you had to wait for new chips.

        Calling MS and Apple patent trolls is to misuse the term. Patent trolls are companies that don't develop anything, they just make claims against other people's products. MS and Appl

        • by Anonymous Coward

          MPEG-LA is a mutually beneficial organization too.

          They're both patent pools.

          They're not even remotely comparable, and MPEG-LA is not all that mutually beneficial. The CCL Initiative uses royalty free licensing that can be sublicensed, which means you pay nothing even if you're using open source software. By contrast, you have to pay MPEG-LA, even if you have patents in the patent pool, so the only "mutual benefit" you get is the ability to subtract your own patent royalties from how much you pay. (Of course, if you don't sell any actual products or services, it's a really great dea

      • by westlake (615356)

        These are companies that use WebM in some way and who join the CCL to support each other and the format against patent trolls and attacks like that of MPEG-LA (read: Microsoft and Apple).

        There are about thirty H.264 licensors.

        Including global industrial giants like Mitsubishi, Philips, Samsung and Toshiba.

        1,000 H.264 licensees.

        H.264 is a global standard in digital television - and if you want to know who the major players are here you need to be looking across the Pacific -

        and not at Cupertino or Redmond.

      • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @05:27PM (#35947598) Journal

        If Microsoft really wanted WebM dead so bad, then why is it the only codec other than H.264 that's whitelisted in IE9's implementation of HTML5 video?

        (the codec itself needs to be separately downloaded [google.com], but it's the only third-party codec that IE9 allows)

    • And ready the shotgun (and lots of ammo) for the first wave of patent troils.
    • by Jezza (39441)

      Why was this better than h.264 again?! Technically it isn't, it's worse. It was supposed to be all about patents...

      Am I alone in thinking we're being lied to by Google?

      • by hedwards (940851)

        No, but no matter how deluded or paranoid the chances are good that you're not alone in thinking it.

        Google is an American company and in America you can never be completely free of some bogus patent that somebody has managed to get by the USPTO, and because they don't ever bother with verifying that something is actually eligible before granting it a patent it's nigh impossible to ever have something that's truly patent free.

        Plus, it's better because of the royalty free bit. H.264 is not royalty free and ne

    • by sjames (1099)

      That's the problem with the current system. Nobody can EVER be 100% sure they're not infringing on a patent, even if they invent the entire specialty by themselves in private and receive a patent for it. There exists no procedure at all, much less a practical one for gaining that assurance.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @07:31AM (#35940596) Homepage

    I know... you can't take a step in any direction without infringing on some software patent somewhere, so it can't be expected that there aren't patents that cover some aspect of video "on the internet." But this consortium that requires membership? Hrm... I guess it's part of how we all agree "not to sue each other" analogous to peace accords and treaties.

    And MPEG-LA remained silent? Of course they did! If they spoke up, they wouldn't be able to file law suits later! It's what they exist for, after all. Why would anyone expect MPEG-LA to speak up and act against their very purpose for existence? No one has to be insightful or prophetic to predict that if/when WebM becomes the defacto standard, MPEG-LA will file suits.

    • by Nerdfest (867930)
      According to this [theregister.co.uk], an antitrust investigation into MPEG-LA is already underway for their attack on WEBM.
      • by sl3xd (111641)

        It's difficult to do anything with antitrust over patents. Patents are a government-granted monopoly, and the patent holder(s) are free to do whatever they want, abusive or not, with their patents for the duration the patent is valid. Patents are not granted on the condition that the patent owner play nice with others.

        Moreover, it's hard to pin anything particularly abusive on the MPEG-LA, as the pool is licensed under reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. As patent licenses go, the MPEG-LA's terms ar

  • by unity100 (970058) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @07:36AM (#35940638) Homepage Journal
    What about me, as a developer, or small business, or a member of the public ?
    • Re:Holders ? (Score:4, Informative)

      by theweatherelectric (2007596) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @07:42AM (#35940678)
      From the FAQ [webm-ccl.org]:

      Does the WebM Project require that I join the CCL to use WebM?

      No. Xiph.org, Matroska and Google make the WebM technologies available under an open-source BSD license. The terms and conditions of that open-source license have not changed.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That doesn't say anything about patents though. Either there are no patents (or only patents licensed for free to anyone), in which case this CCL group is unnecessary, or there are patents, in which case you either have to join the group (presumably impossible for us regular schmoes) or face litigation. As an independent developer who'd like to maybe use WebM in one of my games, this tells me that WebM is unsafe and I should stick with Theora. Am I wrong?

        • Yes, you're wrong. The point of this group is rather than every individual company stating separately "yes, the patents are licensed free to anyone" they join the group which is considered to own the patents which singularly states "Yes, the patents are licensed for free to anyone." That's why it says the terms and conditions have not changed. The Open-Source license it is speaking about is a royalty free, non-revokable license to use all patents required for the use of WebM.
        • by Skuto (171945)

          or face litigation

          This can only happen when (1) There are patents (2) They're held by a company not bound to whatever patent pledge was given.

          In other words, the situation is exactly the same as before.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        From the FAQ [webm-ccl.org]:

        Does the WebM Project require that I join the CCL to use WebM?

        No. Xiph.org, Matroska and Google make the WebM technologies available under an open-source BSD license. The terms and conditions of that open-source license have not changed.

        Sorry, but in case other members do have patents, the actual terms say that only end users and members are protected, not persons developing, distributing WebM or using WebM for non-personal use.

  • MPEG is trouble (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tsingi (870990) <graham.rick@gma i l .com> on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @07:39AM (#35940658)
    MPEG LA is a panther waiting to spring.

    When it happens, we won't be able to say that we weren't warned.

    (Oh, but where's the trust!)

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      So which one is troublesome? MPEG or MPEG LA?

      You mention both, possibly assuming they're the same thing.

      • by Tsingi (870990)
        I don't see the conflict, or any assumptions.

        You can use MPEG in your software for a low annual fee. They promise (MPEG LA) that for the next few years that fee will be capped at $5,000,000.00. A drop in the bucket for any gigantic corporation. Firefox isn't paying. I sure can't afford it.

        No, they wouldn't sue me if I used it, but they could.

        MPEG does not belong in HTML5, as it is heavily encumbered.

        • Re:MPEG is trouble (Score:4, Informative)

          by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @08:26AM (#35941078) Journal
          MPEG is an ISO working group (the Motion Picture Experts Group), which oversees the creation of standards for encoding digital video. MPEG LA is an industry consortium that collects royalties on MPEG standards, after they are official ISO standards. There are some common members, but MPEG LA is not in any way affiliated with MPEG.
          • by Tsingi (870990)

            MPEG is an ISO working group (the Motion Picture Experts Group), which oversees the creation of standards for encoding digital video. MPEG LA is an industry consortium that collects royalties on MPEG standards, after they are official ISO standards. There are some common members, but MPEG LA is not in any way affiliated with MPEG.

            I understand that, I still don't see the conflict, but maybe I'm missing something?
            I never said that MPEG == MPEG LA, I just mentioned them both. There is a relationship there and using mpeg standards implies MPEG LA licensing. We know that one is the group that creates the standards, and the registered file extension, the other is the group that enforces the patents on said standards.
            So, am I missing something? Or is this some kind of a petty distraction?

    • by segedunum (883035)
      Eventually yes, I think the MPEG-LA will start getting increasingly desperate. However, if it's one thing we've learned from Android it's that no one wants to attack Google directly so it might get a little difficult.
  • From my understanding, the codec by MPEG-LA is superior to WebM, but that WebM is theoretically safer to use than MPEG-LA. Has MPEG-LA caused any troubles or are people just assuming that one day MPEG-LA may do something dastardly evil?
    • by x*yy*x (2058140)

      but that WebM is theoretically safer to use than MPEG-LA.

      That's upside down. H.264 is safer to use, but you have to pay license fees if your software encodes to H.264. WebM is a hope-for-the-best.. Even Google doesn't guarantee there won't be trouble with patents.

      Has MPEG-LA caused any troubles or are people just assuming that one day MPEG-LA may do something dastardly evil?

      They're asking a small percentage of the money you make using H.264. Evil, I know.

      • by Skuto (171945)

        H.264 is safer to use

        Citation needed.

        you have to pay license fees if your software encodes to H.264

        And you don't know how much to whom yet, but you are already guaranteed a small part will be to the MPEG-LA. There are no other guarantees.

        How is this safer? It isn't.

      • by horza (87255)

        That's upside down. H.264 is safer to use, but you have to pay license fees if your software encodes to H.264. WebM is a hope-for-the-best.. Even Google doesn't guarantee there won't be trouble with patents.

        Incorrect, as Skuto also points out. They both run exactly the same risk. MPEG-LA exhort a percentage from anybody that infringes the pool of patents put together to prevent people using h.264, but they do not indemnify a licensee from infringement if a 3rd party has a patent covering h.264 not in that p

      • by Halo1 (136547)

        Even Google doesn't guarantee there won't be trouble with patents.

        As others have mentioned, neither does MPEG-LA. And after you've paid MPEG-LA for an H.264 patent license, you can pay AT&T [engadget.com] for an additional patent license. And after that, you can pay Philips/Sisvel [blogspot.com] for an additional patent license. And who knows who will be the next one to come knocking at your door...

      • by Jason Earl (1894)

        It is important to note that the MPEG-LA does *not* protect people paying their license fees from patent holders that may or may not exist outside of their patent pool. In that regard H.264 is in precisely the same boat as WebM. Both Google and MPEG-LA state that they believe that they own all of the required patents for implementing their respective standards. Neither indemnifies you against the chance that someone else owns a patent that applies.

        The difference, of course, is that Google is happy to g

    • by segedunum (883035)
      Is it superior? By virtue of WebM and VP8 development being less well advanced you would hope that h.264 would be superior, but is that the case now? Hard to tell. There's certainly a lot of development happening with them so that's highly unlikely to continue to be the case if it is now.

      I think we will see some action eventually if the MPEG-LA gets desperate and sees their 'license' fees seriously under threat. That might well happen sooner rather than later because with one fell swoop Google has critic
    • by Skuto (171945)

      Has MPEG-LA caused any troubles

      They've been spewing FUD about creating a licensing pool for VP8. If Google was right wrt. VP8 rights, that pool could only contain invalid patents. So it would have been interesting to see if anything really showed up in there. So far nothing turned up in the MPEG-LA pool, but the threat that this could happen is FUD to stop VP8/WebM.

      So now Google is spewing back some counter-FUD.

    • From my understanding, the codec by MPEG-LA is

      And that's where you start to go wrong. There are no CODECs from MPEG-LA. There are CODECs from MPEG. There are patent licenses from MPEG-LA. MPEG-LA does not create CODECs, nor does it define standards. It just offers licenses for patents that you must infringe to implement some existing standards.

      • There are no CODECs from MPEG-LA. There are CODECs from MPEG. There are patent licenses from MPEG-LA. MPEG-LA does not create CODECs

        The organizations have distinct functions, but as I understand it, the companies behind the codecs are members of both organizations. Or is there a fundamental difference between the memberships of MPEG and MPEG-LA that I'm also missing?

    • by Draek (916851)

      No, they're just assuming they'll stick to their original "pay us for encoding, watching, hosting and/or supporting h.264 content" plan that was going to be in place until WebM posed a credible threat to their money-making scheme.

      Some people think that's not evil, mostly out of a "I'm too small to sue for patent infringement" mindset, but those of us that like to stay within the bounds of the law believe differently.

    • By actively targeting a specific competing codec and requesting any patents that may be relevant they are undermining the attempts of a competing format to organize and establish itself. Of course, in the eyes of MPEG-LA there's nothing wrong with that, but that's really not the way patents are supposed to work. It's really up to the companies using WebM themselves to sort out the legal issues.

  • by Kamiza Ikioi (893310) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @07:58AM (#35940786) Homepage

    I don't think any global company in the history of the world has done more for open source and open standards as Google. Comparing apples to apples, and throwing out quality, streamability, and all the technical standards, who do you REALLY trust with backing up an open codec?

    Microsoft, Apple, or Google?

    Who profits most from open protocols? Who profits most from DRM? The distinction is clear, and MS or Apple bashing Google is just laughable at this point. They are the ones who for years profited from DRM while Google profited from linking to open sites and content.

    • by Timmmm (636430)

      Apple do a fair bit too, which is kind of odd considering their rampant control-freakery.

    • Who profits most from open protocols? Who profits most from DRM? The distinction is clear, and MS or Apple bashing Google is just laughable at this point. They are the ones who for years profited from DRM while Google profited from linking to open sites and content.

      So Google is open because they made... a search engine? Because "linking to sites" is required for that. Where's the distinction between "open" and "closed" sites, anyway?

      Also, how do Microsoft and Apple profit from DRM? Microsoft doesn't sell anything they could attach DRM to, and iTunes has been DRM-free for a while.

      It's simply not true to say that Apple doesn't value openness - their products may be closed, but they often open-source significant portions of them. Darwin, the core of Mac OS X, is open

      • by dvdkhlng (1803364)

        Darwin, the core of Mac OS X, is open source, for example, as well as Webkit, Apple's browser layout engine used in most browsers today, including Google Chrome and Android. And Grand Central Dispatch. And FaceTime. I could go on.

        I won't say that this argument proves much about Apple's attitude towards openness. Webkit is based on KHTML [wikimedia.org] which is LGPL and authorship not residing with Apple, so they absolutely had to open it up to satisfy the license.

        The Darwin kernel is based on other free software work [wikimedia.org] (mostly BSD?), BTW. No, the BSD license might not force Apple to open-source it, but it doesn't hurt so much, open-sourcing code that's freely available anyways.

        • I won't say that this argument proves much about Apple's attitude towards openness. Webkit is based on KHTML [wikimedia.org] which is LGPL and authorship not residing with Apple, so they absolutely had to open it up to satisfy the license.

          Apple didn't have to choose KHTML as the basis for their layout engine, though. They could just have easily (well, maybe not just as easily) written their own engine from scratch, or found (or purchased) another engine to use. I'm sure Opera wouldn't have argued if Apple tried to put their browser in front of every Mac user.

          The Darwin kernel is based on other free software work [wikimedia.org] (mostly BSD?), BTW. No, the BSD license might not force Apple to open-source it, but it doesn't hurt so much, open-sourcing code that's freely available anyways.

          Honestly, I'm not sure at all how much of that code is Apple's own, or how free they are required to make it by the license, but it is under active development, so they at least deserv

      • Darwin, the core of Mac OS X, is open source, for example, as well as Webkit, Apple's browser layout engine used in most browsers today, including Google Chrome and Android. And Grand Central Dispatch. And FaceTime. I could go on.

        Just a little niggle. Webkit, "Apple's browser layout engine" started as a fork of an existing open-source project. And they finally open-sourced it after the KHTML group continued to blast them over non-disclosure agreements and lack of access to their bug database which prevented the ability to adequately integrate the changes back into the KHTML code. Essentially, they open-sourced it out of necessity for the life of the project not out of a sense of community or anything. So sorry, I don't give Apple po

        • I'm not saying Apple is a larger proponent of open source than Google, I'm just saying that this whole "Apple is closed, Google is open" fallacy needs to stop. Both companies only open their technologies when it doesn't impact their revenues, which happen to come from totally different places (Apple will probably never open up most of iOS, and call me when Google releases the source to AdWords).
          Yes, in general Google has been more committed to open source than Apple. But that doesn't mean that Google is
          • No one has said it was black and white. However, it's not a fallacy that Google is much more open than Apple. Just look at their business models, Google doesn't open it's technologies only "when it doesn't impact [its] revenue". Google has many times opened it's technology as a point of maximizing its revenue. On that note, Apple doesn't open a technology when it doesn't impact revenue, Apple does it, like Google and any other company, because it helps the revenue by getting more developers involved. If the

            • This reminded me of something [bonkersworld.net].
            • by tepples (727027)

              If Google suddenly locked Android down to only the Android Market and stopped allowing external installations of applications, it would be a complete surprise.

              Which is why it was such a surprise when AT&T tried exactly that with the Motorola Backflip, HTC Aria, and Samsung Captivate. People who want to load unapproved applications on AT&T can't do it through the ordinary "Settings > Applications > Unknown sources" checkbox, which AT&T's custom firmware hides. Instead, they have to register with AT&T as a developer to get the Android Debug Bridge drivers for their phone model and then install apps through sideloading utilities that wrap ADB.

              • Yup, which is why all my friends and family have been told not to get an Android phone from AT&T.
                • by tepples (727027)

                  Yup, which is why all my friends and family have been told not to get an Android phone from AT&T.

                  Pending regulatory approval, AT&T will become the only nationwide GSM provider in the United States. Are you recommending a switch to Verizon or to Sprint, even if others in one's household are already on an AT&T family plan?

                  • Pending regulatory approval...

                    Which I hope they do not get

                    AT&T will become the only nationwide GSM provider in the United States. Are you recommending a switch to Verizon or to Sprint, even if others in one's household are already on an AT&T family plan?

                    The advice I've given is that if you desire to get an Android phone either do not go with a phone from AT&T (perhaps buy one retail and put a sim card in it) or pick a phone that is know to be easily rootable and has custom roms. Generally if they are part of a family plan I recommend the latter since it makes sense to save money by joining the family plan.

                    • by tepples (727027)

                      either do not go with a phone from AT&T (perhaps buy one retail and put a sim card in it)

                      Except AT&T charges just as much for a SIM-only plan as for a plan with a bundled phone.

      • Huh? iTunes still has DRM. They just don't slap it onto music files any more.

        I would also argue that Apple's whole "iOS" system is a bad case of DRM. In light of that the fact that Apple sell unencrypted Audio files seems quite unimportant.

    • by Americano (920576)

      Yes, Google profits from data mining your private data, they have no particular interest in giving you ways to lock it up and secure it. They don't profit from DRM at all.

    • Well, if we can live with "Comparing apples to apples, and throwing out quality, streamability, and all the technical standards" we'd be living on a very different planet with very different grounds for companies to decide on media technologies.

      In the real world, it gets down to comparing the cost of licensing different technologies versus the costs of encode, cost of delivery, and breadth of playback for different technologies. Today, VP8 takes about 4x the time/joules to encode, 40% higher bitrate compare

  • As a patent holder I can join Google, and make sure I never receive money from creating that patent, or I can join MPEG, which I probably already am a member, and perhaps receive royalties from large customers in the future. Hmmm... tough choice. Even Goog is now basically admitting WebM is patent incumbered.
    • by Skuto (171945)

      Not everybody is a patent troll, you know. Some companies prefer the formats to be used so they can sell hardware or software rather than litigation protection rackets.

    • If that was true, then no-one would be members of Open Invention Network [openinventionnetwork.com] or Open Patent Alliance [openpatentalliance.com], but both have several large companies that have joined and/or contributed patents.

      Furthermore, Microsoft is a member of MPEG-LA and their VC-1 format is part of the Blu-Ray standard, but they still loose out on the deal, as they have to pay more in MPEG-LA licenses for windows than they get from their patents. They gain nothing by having MPEG-LA start charging license fees for WebM.

      The fact is that no-one can d

  • Business Software Alliance members [wikipedia.org]

    MPEG-LA H.264 licensors [wikipedia.org]

    Note how Microsoft and Apple are both members of the above groups (in case you haven't heard of BSA, they're basically the MPAA and RIAA of the software world). Google isn't a member of either group.

    Any complaints that can be leveled against WebM can be leveled against H.264 (that is, it is just as likely that submarine patents exist for H.264 as for WebM). The difference is that Google is pushing for open standards that don't require license fees

Top Ten Things Overheard At The ANSI C Draft Committee Meetings: (2) Thank you for your generous donation, Mr. Wirth.

Working...