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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 jockm (233372) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @07:09PM (#43110749) Homepage

    They never said it was patent free, they said that they held all the patents (and licensed them royalty free) and that it didn't infringe on any others.

    What they didn't do was indemnify people using WebM from litigation. MPEG-LA said they had a portfolio of patents that covered WebM, and said that they would indemnify... for a price.

    So what Google has done is to cross-license parts of their own portfolio to ensure that people can use WebM for free and with (little) threat of litigation.

    While most of use want to get rid of software and process patents, that isn't going to happen in the short term. Google did a good thing here...

  • 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.

  • by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@nOsPAm.hotmail.com> on Thursday March 07, 2013 @09:05PM (#43111799) Journal

    but that doesn't matter either because microsoft is evil.

    Well spotted.

    As a participant in WebRTC, Microsoft had the opportunity to improve that standard. As the developer of the protocol, they had the opportunity to make CU-RTC-Web genuinely platform agnostic. Instead they chose to preserve their ability to Balkanise VOIP communications, and ensure their platform(s) could be advantaged for the foreseeable future.

    Their decision to be evil is what makes it dangerous to adopt their suggestion as a standard.

  • Re:Woo hoo (Score:2, Informative)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday March 07, 2013 @11:01PM (#43112581) Homepage Journal

    This doesn't really substantially increase or decrease freedom. It slightly increases freedom by slightly mitigating a restriction on it, thus permitting distribution of stuff based on VP8 without having to worry about being sued by a member of the MPEG-LA codec pool.

  • Re:My perspective (Score:3, Informative)

    by MrMickS (568778) on Friday March 08, 2013 @06:13AM (#43114137) Homepage Journal

    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 recognised that VP8 was patent encumbered all along. Google will be paying substantially for this licensing deal and its nothing to do with a battle for the FOSS movement and everything to do with Google positioning itself for the future. In effect this is a loss for Google and they've had to stump up to get themselves out of a hole that they managed to dig themselves into.

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