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Google and MPEG LA Reach VP8 Patent Agreement 112

Posted by timothy
from the you-drive-a-hard-bargain dept.
First time accepted submitter Curupira writes "The official WebM blog announced that MPEG LA has licensed all VP8 essential patents to Google Inc., allowing the company to sublicense the described techniques it to any VP8 user on a royalty-free basis." TechCrunch offers a bit more analysis.
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Google and MPEG LA Reach VP8 Patent Agreement

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Score one for freedom

    • It legitimizes the patents in question and if I want to abide by the license I have to use them ONLY to implement VP8, not a fork of VP8 which doesn't obey the VP8 specification ... score one for collaboration with the enemy.

      • As far as I'm aware licensing agreements aren't an admission that the patents are valid in any way.
  • by ozduo (2043408) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @06:50PM (#43110533)
    isn't going to like this. Google watch out for a horse's head in your bed.
    • by game kid (805301)

      On the contrary, the "horse's head" already hit the bed, when the MPEG LA all-but-threatened to sue if Google STFU-and-GTFO'd them. So Google bent over, let 'em through the skirt, and paid the "protection" fee.

      Seems like Horn was..."pleased for the opportunity [slashdot.org]" to shake down even more video-format developers.

  • by Qwavel (733416) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @06:54PM (#43110589)

    TFA indicates that MS was only holding back on WebRTC (which uses VP8) because of patent concerns, so they may now move forward on it.

    That seems to defy history. MS drags its feet and tries to undercut every new web tech it can. That's just MS - their strength is the desktop and they see the web and the Internet in general as a threat.

    I can well believe that MS said that patents were the reason, but making random excuses for why they won't support a web tech - and then creating new ones as necessary - is just how MS operates when it comes to the web and open standards.

    • No this won't change a thing. Microsoft will make up another excuse.

      They are a significant party of MPEG LA after all. If they were concerned they could have done this ages ago.

    • by Instine (963303)
      Skype.
    • That seems to defy history. MS drags its feet and tries to undercut every new web tech it can.

      I'm not sure this is true. It's true MS has the reputation for that, but the fact is until Microsoft basically decided with IE6 that there was no need to ever do anything again in the web browser world, that IE6 was perfect and any flaws weren't an issue because the whole world was using IE anyway, Internet Explorer was more standards compliant than its biggest rival, Netscape Communicator 4.x.

      This isn't to say

  • by Anonymous Coward

    In some future scenario when Google stops paying the licensing fees, what happens to the (developers/users/businesses/etc) who are using/developing with VP8/9/10/*/etc. Are these entities going to now be at risk?

    • Depends how long in the future. Patents have a pretty short shelf-life.

    • In some future scenario when Google stops paying the licensing fees, what happens to the (developers/users/businesses/etc) who are using/developing with VP8/9/10/*/etc. Are these entities going to now be at risk?

      The agreement appears to cover all use of VP8 and the still-in-development VP9 forever (or, well, for the life of any of the notional patents that MPEG LA members may or may not have that impact VP8 or VP9), so I don't think there is any risk of that for VP8/9

      VP10+ would require a new agreement, pre

  • by westlake (615356)

    I would be absolutely amazed if Google can deliver a competitive codec before HEVC/H.265 becomes entrenched.

    H.264's great strength is that it reaches far beyond the web.

    Theatrical production. Broadcast, cable and satellite distribution. Home video. Industrial applications and so on. WebM is for all practical purposes a transcode for YouTube and that in the end is simply not enough.

  • Closely connected, Google has proposed that ISO/MPEG standardize VP8 in its royalty-free Internet Video Coding activity. http://www.robglidden.com/2013/03/google-mpegla-vp8-mpeg-proposal/ [robglidden.com]
    • by slew (2918) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @08:41PM (#43111583)

      It's a bit more complicated than that...

      For those not familar with what is going on in the video compression standards group, there were 2 independent efforts: HEVC (the so-called high-efficiency video codec to update H.264) and the IVC (internet video codec). IVC was not meant to replace HEVC, but be optimized for internet applications. Many folks seem to be confusing these in their responses.

      One of the goals for IVC was for it to acheive so-called "type-1" licensing (basically free-as-in-beer) which would require all those that contribute to the standard to freely licence their patents. Of course the ISO/IEC groups that standardize this stuff (aka the MPEG group) cannot assure that the standard is free of patents, but only that no contributor to the standard will charge for the use of their patents in conjunction with the use of the standard.

      The original baseline for IVC was a stripped down version of MPEG2 (basically MPEG1++ or MPEG2-- depending on your point of view) that was thought to be unencumbered by patents (MPEG1 is really old and some of the patents that cover it are even older and expired). Google submitted their VP8 for consideration for IVC. Needless to say, the ITM (IVC Test Model used to experiment with IVC) didn't perform very well relative to the more modern VP8 in recent comparison tests in Bit-Distortion modeling.

      I would venture to guess that Google decided that it needed to clear the air with MPEG-LA (not related to ISO/IEC, but a separate patent-pool/licensing company created by the owners of the patents of original MPEG standard and some other corporations) so that it did not hinder its proposal for being considered as the baseline IVC codec for the test model.

      Lest folks think that current VP8 is going to get through unscathed by the MPEG group, I believe that they will warp it a bit so that it isn't exactly the same as the current VP8 (as that's what the ISO/IEC group's charter is to develop new standards). That's one of the reasons why Microsoft didn't try to standardize WM9/10 codecs with the ISO/IEC standards body and they instead went to SMPTE (which has a history of just stamping "standard" on proprietary implementations). Unsuprisingly, SMPTE dutifuly stamped Microsoft's codec as SMPTE 421M (aka VC-1) w/o any substantial changes.

      • ISO/MPEG has a huge problem with NIH syndrome ... every time they are involved with video standards lately they just make it worse.

        H.263+ was better than MPEG4, H.264 was better before MPEG involvement ... they have the reverse midas touch.

  • âoeThis is a significant milestone in Googleâ(TM)s efforts to establish VP8 as a widely-deployed web video format,â said Allen Lo, Googleâ(TM)s deputy general counsel for patents. âoeWe appreciate MPEG LAâ(TM)s cooperation in making this happen.â

    âoeWe are pleased for the opportunity to facilitate agreements with Google to make VP8 widely available to users,â said MPEG LA President and CEO Larry Horn.

    I LOLed.

  • .. which patents MPEG LA were claiming to be essential?

  • From a technical standpoint VP8 doesn't do anything significantly better than h.264, and isn't as good as h.264 in a number of ways. The only real advantage it ostensibly possessed was its licensing terms... and most people simply don't care about that.

    • One of the major reasons Apple and Microsoft have been anti-WebM was because of "license uncertainty". Given that they manage two of the four major browsers (in Apple's case I'm more concerned about the iOS version of Safari FWIW), this has been a major blow to WebM and a major blow to HTML5 video.

      Now, to be fair, Apple has also criticized the power of WebM, but at this point simply arguing that a particular codec isn't as powerful as another one isn't really a good reason to refuse to support it if ther

  • My perspective (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xiphmont (80732) * on Friday March 08, 2013 @01:48AM (#43113285) Homepage

    I'll add my own thoughts here, also posted at http://xiphmont.livejournal.com/59893.html [livejournal.com]

    "After a decade of the MPEG LA saying they were coming to destroy the FOSS codec movement, with none other than the late Steve Jobs himself chiming in, today the Licensing Authority announced what we already knew.

    They got nothing. There will be no Theora patent pool. There will be no VP8 patent pool. There will be no VPnext patent pool.

    We knew that of course, we always did. It's just that I never, in a million years, expected them to put it in writing and walk away. The wording suggests Google paid some money to grease this along, and the agreement wording is interesting [and instructive] but make no mistake: Google won. Full stop.

    This is not an unconditional win for FOSS, of course, the LA narrowed the scope of the agreement as much as they could in return for agreeing to stop being a pissy, anti-competetive brat. But this is still huge. We can work with this.

    For at least the immediate future, I shall have to think some uncharacteristically nice things about the MPEG LA.*

    *Apologies to Rep. Barney Frank"

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MrMickS (568778)

      If Google won, full-stop, then why have they felt it necessary to license the MPEG-LA patents, and why is this license restricted to VP8 and one successor generation? Your spin on it is interesting, especially as it comes from reading the announcement by WebM which isn't exactly without interest.

      Here is the press release http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20130307006192/en/Google-MPEG-LA-Announce-Agreement-Covering-VP8 [businesswire.com].

      Far from the rosy picture you are painting this seems to say that Google have recognis

      • Re:My perspective (Score:5, Interesting)

        by xiphmont (80732) * on Friday March 08, 2013 @06:24AM (#43114173) Homepage

        When MPEG LA first announced the VP8 pool formation, a rush of companies applied to be in the pool, partly because everyone wanted to see what everyone else had. That gave way to some amount of disappointment. And by 'some amount' I mean 'rather a lot really, more than the MPEG-LA would care to admit.'

        Eventually, things whittled down to a few holdouts. Those '11 patent holders' do not assert they have patents that cover the spec. They said '_may_ cover'. The press release itself repeats this. Then these patent holders said 'and we're willing to make that vague threat go away for a little cash'. Google paid the cash. This is what lawyers do.

        That's why it's a huge newsworthy deal when companies like NewEgg actually take the more expensive out and litigate a patent. It is always more expensive than settling, even if you'd win the case, and very few companies are willing or able to do it. Google was probably able, but not willing.

        We deal with this in the IETF all the time. Someone files a draft and a slew of companies file IPR statements that claim they have patents that 'may' read on the draft. Unlike other SDOs though, the IETF requires them to actually list the patent numbers so we can analyze and refute. And despite unequivocal third-party analyses stating 'there is no possibility patent X applies', these companies still present their discredited IPR statements to 'customers' and mention that these customers may be sued if they don't license. This is not the exception; this is standard operating procedure in the industry. These licensing tactics, for example, account for more than half of Qualcomm's total corporate income.

        It's this last threat that Google paid a nominal sum to make go away. It's the best anyone can hope for in a broken system. If those 11 patent holders had a strong claim, it is exceedingly unlikely they would have agreed to a perpetual, transferable, royalty free license.

  • How does this affect the Theora [theora.org] and Vorbis [vorbis.com] formats ..
  • Ah! Here it is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danegeld [wikipedia.org]

    I can't decide if Google is now just craven or cowardly.

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