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Nokia Claims Ogg Format is "Proprietary" 619

a nona maus writes "Several months ago a workgroup of the W3C decided to include Ogg/Theora+Vorbis as the recommended baseline video codec standard for HTML5, against Apple's aggressive protest. Now, Nokia seems to be seeking a reversal of that decision: they have released a position paper calling Ogg 'proprietary' and citing the importance of DRM support. Nokia has historically responded to questions about Ogg on their internet tablets with strange and inconsistent answers, along with hand waving about their legal department. This latest step is enough to really make you wonder what they are really up to."
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Nokia Claims Ogg Format is "Proprietary"

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  • by Mesa MIke ( 1193721 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:35PM (#21634299) Homepage
    They don't like open standards.
    • by Mantaar ( 1139339 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:48PM (#21634417) Homepage
      I still don't understand why though.

      Apart from it not supporting DRM, ogg has only advantages - it's equal or superior to most other codecs (the widely used mp3 and wma are inferior) and it's open-source w/o patents restrictions...

      Seriously, does anyone have an explanation for that?
      • by drharris ( 1100127 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:58PM (#21634527)
        I still don't understand why though. .... Apart from it not supporting DRM

        You have your answer.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:15PM (#21634713)
        Actually Nokia has a great history with "open" standards (generally defined as RAND as opposed to royalty free). In fact Nokia's entire current business comes out of it's ability to cooperate with arch rivals such as Ericsson to build open standards such as NMT, GSM and WCDMA. So the question is not "why is Nokia opposed to open standards?". The question is "why is Nokia opposing this standard?"

        Reading through the document, it's actually much more reaonable (DRM should be possible, but shouldn't be mandatory) than implied. The OGG thing, however, is very interesting. To me it almost reads like they know someone who has a fundamental patent on OGG. A fundamental patent is one which can't be avoided to implement a standard and thus guarantees control of the standard. However, give that Xiph.org have done a patent search and claim that OGG is patent free and nobody has contradicted them, I can think of at least two more likely things here.

        a) the recent Microsoft / Nokia WMA licensing agreements have seriously crippled Nokias freedom to operate with different formats.

        b) they are afraid of the fact that whilst OGG is open, control of how the standard evolves is "proprietary". By this they mean not under control of an "open" standardisation body that they can join. Looking at it; Xiph.org seems to have too much industry independence.

        Make no mistake, though, the Nokia of five years ago is probably not the Nokia of today. Where old Nokia was trying to deliver devices to let you do whatever you wanted to do, new Nokia is trying to become a media company and that means is almost certainly joining the dark side.
      • by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:23PM (#21634789) Journal
        Apart from it not supporting DRM, ogg has only advantages - it's equal or superior to most other codecs (the widely used mp3 and wma are inferior) and it's open-source w/o patents restrictions...

        Seriously, does anyone have an explanation for that?

        Ogg isn't a codec. It's a container format. Vorbis is the audio codec in question, and Theora is the video codec in question.

        Theora was created using proprietary code and patented techniques developed by On2 and used in their VP3 codec, adapted to fit inside an Ogg container. There are tools to let you convert existing VP3 streams into Ogg streams.

        The Xiph.org foundation negotiated free access for all to those patented technology before adapting and adopting it. From the Theora FAQ [theora.org]:

        Yes, some portions of the VP3 codec are covered by patents. However, the Xiph.org Foundation has negotiated an irrevocable free license to the VP3 codec for any purpose imaginable on behalf of the public. It is legal to use VP3 in any way you see fit (unless, of course, you're doing something illegal with it in your particular jurisdiction). You are free to download VP3, use it free of charge, implement it in a for-sale product, implement it in a free product, make changes to the source and distribute those changes, or print the source code out and wallpaper your spare room with it.

        The paper from Nokia seems to revolve around the fact that it doesn't support DRM from what I can see.
      • by DECS ( 891519 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:33PM (#21634897) Homepage Journal
        Ogg is not "equal or superior to most other codecs" because it's not a codec. It's a container file that holds content compressed using a codec.

        Ogg is comparable with Apple's QuickTime container format (MOV), Microsoft's former AVI (based on IFF), Microsoft's newer ASF, the rival FOSS Matroska container, or the ISO's MPEG-4 container (MP4, based on QuickTime).

        When you talk about Ogg being a "good codec," it demonstrates the kind of impractical, blind bias for free-sounding buzzword projects, which FOSS advocates are quick favor over real open standards that are accepted and established. Ogg isn't open vs closed MPEG-4; they're both open containers available for non-discriminatory licensing. The difference is that there are only some theoretical uses of Ogg and a single source of documentation and libraries for it, while MPEG-4 is in use everywhere, has support across the industry, and has wide hardware support in silicon, because the MPEG-4 container is paired with a portfolio of codecs that people actually use. Ogg also competes with other FOSS containers such as Matroska, so it's not the lone FOSS messiah at all.

        Ogg's video codec is Theora, which was proprietary. On2 developed it as its closed competition to MPEG-4's H.263 (DivX) and H.264 (AVC) codecs, alongside other competing proprietary codecs from Real and Microsoft (WMV). The winner to shake out of all that competition has been the MPEG-4 standard, which includes both a container and different sets of codecs. MPEG-4 is open and supported by lots of companies, and is also supported by FOSS (x264 is among the best implementations).

        After realizing there was no reason to fight MPEG-4 with a proprietary runner up, On2 donated Theora to Xiph to use with Ogg, and Xiph published it as an open specification. However, Microsoft basically did the same thing: it published WMV with the SMPTE group as an "open standard" called VC1.

        If you think Microsoft's VC1--which it's using to compete against the open MPEG-4--is an "open standard," then you can also say Theora is. It's easier to describe both as failed proprietary technologies that nobody uses, although Microsoft is pushing VC1 hard in HD-DVD and in Windows Vista.

        For the WC3 to push an obscure format that nobody uses as the baseline of web video of the future is absurd. It means that rather than having one set of codecs that the world contributes toward, we'll have an official joke that nobody uses decreed the "standard" while everyone actually uses MPEG-4 / H.264 (and probably H.265 by the time HTML5 arrives).

        This is not a case of OpenDocument vs MS-XML, open vs closed. It's closer to a case of GPL v3 vs BSD/Apache: rhetoric vs reality. Trying to rip apart MPEG-4 and install an openly published version of a failed proprietary standard that nobody uses in its place will only hand the lead to Microsoft's VC-1 (which itself is a proprietary version of H.263). What would that accomplish?

        Supporters for Ogg/Theora are voting for a Ross Perot, assuring that we'll really get a George Bush. What we really need is an Al Gore: centrist, workable, functional, capable, and proven to work.

        If that analogy lost you: pushing Ogg/Theora might make you proud to have voted, but it will only distract from the industry's coalition to unitedly back H.264 from mobile devices to HD. There's far more FOSS support for MPEG-4 and H.264 than for Ogg/Theora and the rest of the outdated codecs Xiph has salvaged from the dumpster of proprietary efforts. Having wide support behind one good, open portfolio of standards will make it easier for FOSS to compete with and participate in the desktop computing world.

        Why Low Def is the New HD [roughlydrafted.com]
        Origins of the Blu-ray vs HD-DVD War [roughlydrafted.com]

        ITU & ISO MPEG-4 codecs and container [roughlydrafted.com]
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 )
          You know, as network speeds and storage capacities have been improving so dramatically, the importance of compression has decreased in a similar fashion. MPEG-4 became pervasive because it allowed people to share movies illegally. Nowadays, you can download an ISO of a DVD and it's no big deal.

          Now, licensing on the other hand becomes more important as the number of people in the network increases and as the speed with which people can access it increases because there's more people who might have had acce
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            You know, as network speeds and storage capacities have been improving so dramatically, the importance of compression has decreased in a similar fashion. MPEG-4 became pervasive because it allowed people to share movies illegally. Nowadays, you can download an ISO of a DVD and it's no big deal.

            DVDs are still significantly compressed. And speak for yourself; if I downloaded DVD ISOs on a regular basis I'd fear that my ISP would come after me.

            The technical inferiorities of Theora just mean your perfectly good
        • by silviapfeiffer ( 1200749 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @07:21PM (#21635305)
          You are correct in saying Ogg is not a codec. But when you compare Theora to VC-1, you must not have been reading the license terms of VC-1 properly. VC-1 is riddled by patents and there are royalites to pay when you use it: http://www.mpegla.com/pid/vc1/ [mpegla.com] . There is no such thing as royalties to pay for Theora. Also, the only patent on Theora were ones owned by On2 Technologies, who donated their VP3 codec as the *basis* technology for Theora and kindly granted an unrevocable free license regarding those patents: http://www.theora.org/benefits/ [theora.org]. As for quality - yes, Theora is a generation behind in compression technology and H.264 is much better quality at lower bitrates. Again - have you read the license conditions? Theora is simply the only open codec standard (as to the definition of Open Standard by Buce Perens: http://perens.com/OpenStandards/Definition.html [perens.com]) with a usable implementation. Mind you, I would watch out for the BBC's Dirac codec http://dirac.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net] which is based on Wavelet technology and is thus opening a whole new space of new video codec developments and improvements - a space H.264 didn't enter. And Dirac is an open standard.
        • by GrouchoMarx ( 153170 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @07:45PM (#21635493) Homepage

          Ogg isn't open vs closed MPEG-4; they're both open containers available for non-discriminatory licensing.
          There is no such thing as non-discriminatory licensing. If I have to beg permission of some patent holder to use it, then it is discriminatory. It's discriminating against people building players that do not have a revenue model (read: most FOSS players) with which to pay for licensing fees.

          "Non-discriminatory" simply means that the patent holder can't charge Sony a different price per unit than they charge Microsoft. And they'll charge me that same fee, which is of course set based on the assumption that only Sony and Microsoft and companies of their size and revenue model are going to be licensing it. Can you afford $1 every time your movie player is downloaded by someone through APT on Debian/Ubuntu? I can't. That means that I am being discriminated against in terms of access to the codec.

          When H.264 can be legally implemented by any "kid in his basement" and distributed to the world without any permission, license fee, or NDA involved, then we can discuss it as an "open web standard". Until then, it is neither open nor free, nor should it be a de jure "standard" for anything. Ogg/Vorbis+Theora, however, can be. Their relative technological merits are not in dispute.
          • Discriminatory licensing would be for me to license the rights to a given patent to the FOSS community but NOT license it to MS because they've been naughty.

            Non-discriminatory licensing is where anyone that pays the up-front and ongoing royalty price gets to license it.

            If I license it for FREE, then that's the price.
            If I license it for a fifty cents per instance using the hypothetical patent then that's the price.

            Anyone stepping up to the plate gets to license.

            RAND (Reasonable And...) means that it has to b
          • Yes there is (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @01:12AM (#21638129)
            Non-discriminatory doesn't mean "Doing whatever anyone wants," it just means being consistent. In the case of a license it means two things:

            1) The license must be available to all comers. You do not get to choose who gets a license, anyone who pays the fee gets a license.

            2) The fee must be fixed. One person can't get a sweetheart deal and another get the shaft.

            You meet those criteria, that is a non-discriminatory license, you aren't discriminating.

            Take a situation where I own a bar. If I have a night where I sell beer to any customer for $2, that's a non-discriminatory special. Whoever you are, you get to have beer for that price. However if I run a special where only girls in tight shirts get $2 beers, that's a discriminatory special. I am dictating who or what you must be or do to get the pricing.

            Trying to redefine things just because you don't like how it works doesn't change how it really is. You aren't being discriminated against just because someone won't give you something for free. You are only being discriminated against if they will give it to someone else for free, but not you.
        • by Chandon Seldon ( 43083 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @08:23PM (#21635805) Homepage

          You're missing the point here: Vorbis + Theora is the only major non-patent-encumbered (and therefore legal to use commercially or in free software without paying a bunch of lawyers to figure out what patent fees you owe who) option for video.

          MPEG-4 and similar are great for pirates and organizations big enough to have patent lawyers on staff - but standards have to do better than that. Small companies and free software projects have to be able to play too.

      • by KugelKurt ( 908765 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:38PM (#21634951)
        I'm sure that I'll be modded down for my following comment, but I post it anyway:

        Vorbis is pretty much dead. While its quality is good, Vorbis has quite high performance requirements just for decoding (negligible on current desktop PCs, but not on portables that run on battery). Even Vorbis's developer Xiph.org acknowledged that and instead of trying to "fix" Vorbis, they started development of an entirely new audio codec called Ghost.

        While Vorbis and Theora are in no way proprietary, the industry already decided to support MPEG-4. Even Microsoft supports it out of the box on Xbox 360 and Zune. Vorbis was cool when it was released, but it never had a modern video codec as companion.
        • I have recently written what I believe is the world's fastest Ogg Vorbis decoder, it takes about 600 ms to decode my longest song sample (4:05 minutes encoded with 192 Kbit/s for a final filesize of 5.7 MB).

          IMHO there are just a few problems with Vorbis, cpu load is not one of them:

          a) It is not at all suitable for contineous streaming, with multiple receivers connecting/disconnecting on the fly, since you have to start by decoding the 4-8 KB header before you can make any sense of the sound frames.

          b) To get
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by arivanov ( 12034 )
      Wrong, they do if they know where to pay and how much and if they consider the payment reasonable. Cellular industry mentality. Every bit of IP has to be payed for and accounted for. Essentially the software industry mentality of the early 80-es redux. They are not alone in this. Most of the industry is just as bad if not worse.
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:36PM (#21634313) Homepage Journal
    "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.

    "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean different things."

    "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master -- that's all."

    Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again.

    "They've a temper, some of them -- particularly verbs, they're the proudest -- adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs -- however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That's what I say!"

  • From Vorbis.com (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fractalVisionz ( 989785 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:37PM (#21634325) Homepage
    From vorbis.com:
    "Ogg Vorbis is a completely open, patent-free, professional audio encoding and streaming technology with all the benefits of Open Source."

    I lost any respect for Nokia.
    • Re:From Vorbis.com (Score:5, Insightful)

      by curunir ( 98273 ) * on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:36PM (#21634935) Homepage Journal
      From reading the whole position paper, rather than just the one poorly-phrased sentence, it sounds like the poster is making a mountain out of a mole hill.

      The actual quote that's being focused on is:

      ...including a W3C-lead standardization of a "free" codec, or the
      active endorsement of proprietary technology such as Ogg, ..., by W3C...
      If you look at what the intent of this sentence is likely to have been in the context of the statement as a whole rather than read it literally, it appears that that he's using Ogg as an example of 'a "free" codec or a proprietary technology'.

      The reason for opposing Ogg, though, is best summed up by another sentence from the paper:

      Compatibility with DRM. We understand that this could be a sore point in
      W3C, but from our viewpoint, any DRM-incompatible video related
      mechanism is a non-starter with the content industry (Hollywood). There is in
      our opinion no need to make DRM support mandatory, though.
      It seems to me that Nokia just wants a standardized way to deliver paid-for video to mobile devices. This kind of service is coming relatively soon and it will involve DRM. And while we like to bitch and moan about how horrible DRM is, the average wireless customer could care less. Nokia just wants the delivery mechanism to be somewhat standardized so that they don't have to have separate implementations for each wireless carrier.
      • Agreed (Score:3, Informative)

        This appears to be a case of poor sentence construction, with a misplaced modifier and a missing comma. It looks like the guy is just a bad writer.

        And here I was all ready with a joke about Mitt Romney calling secularism a "religion" last week!
  • what a tool ! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by maharg ( 182366 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:38PM (#21634331) Homepage Journal

    All these alternatives are, in our opinion, preferable over the recommendation of the
    Ogg technologies, based almost exclusively on the current perception of them being
    The current perception ? WTF ?
  • by sh3l1 ( 981741 ) * on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:38PM (#21634337) Homepage
    In other news Microsoft is making claim that odt is proprietary.
  • Apple and Ogg (Score:5, Interesting)

    by christurkel ( 520220 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:44PM (#21634393) Homepage Journal
    Apple doesn't support Ogg, which as a Mac user bums me. It shouldn't be hard to add support.
    • Re:Apple and Ogg (Score:5, Informative)

      by jandrese ( 485 ) <kensama@vt.edu> on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:49PM (#21634437) Homepage Journal
      There is a plugin you can get for iTunes that lets it support ogg, but last time I tried it there were problems with it (you couldn't stream music to another copy of iTunes for instance because it would stream at the wrong rate and break up every couple of seconds, nor could you stream to an Airport Express).
    • Re:Apple and Ogg (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Petrushka ( 815171 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:58PM (#21634533)

      It shouldn't be hard to add support.

      Of course it isn't. But I hope you weren't under the impression that Apple is actually against DRM in principle. They're only against DRM some of the time, only when it makes them money, and only because they're one of the few companies that have woken up to the fact that they can make more money by doing away with DRM some of the time.

      And that's why Apple opposes Vorbis -- because they're actually on the ball, because they've got the foresight to realise both the pros and the cons of open formats for them, and they know exactly what the consequences would be if open standards were to become dominant.

      • Re:Apple and Ogg (Score:5, Interesting)

        by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:27PM (#21634831)

        But I hope you weren't under the impression that Apple is actually against DRM in principle.

        I think you're following a red herring here. Apple is opposed to DRM, from pure selfishness, but that applies as much to Vvideo as it does to audio. Apple implements DRM when they have to and removes it when they can, this is because their goal is to sell hardware. To sell hardware, you need content. If they can only get content with DRM, they'll try to use minimal DRM under their control because their goal is to make things as easy for users as possible, because then more people buy their hardware. If they can do away with it, well that is even easier for users and will sell even more hardware.

        No, Apple's opposition to Vorbis as a standard has little to do with DRM, as they could always apply DRM encapsulation for it. Actually I suspect Apple is just heavily invested in the MPEG standard, which is not as open, but is DRM agnostic as well. Having developed a lot of technologies on top of the MPEG standard as well as both pro and consumer tools for creating it, Apple just sees no benefit to them for Vorbis, since licensing costs are not all that significant.

    • Re:Apple and Ogg (Score:4, Informative)

      by raddan ( 519638 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:14PM (#21634693)
      Nokia and Apple obviously have stakes in determining the codec that people use for video over the web. Apple is pushing H.264, which they point out is a standard [apple.com], but fail to mention is also proprietary [wikipedia.org]. Nokia mentions this in their position paper, but goes on to recommend H.264 anyway. Ironically, they list their #1 criteria for codec adoption to be "The specifications, and supporting documentation and code (i.e. conformance test suites, example/reference code, ...) are obtainable by everyone, for free or against a reasonable fee (ISO/IEC fees are reasonable in this sense)." You can't get a more reasonable fee than free, which is the case with Ogg. Anyhow, it's clear that Apple wants AppleTV to be a new content-delivery platform. Nokia probably has similar plans.

      What I really suspect Nokia is saying in this paper are in criteria #2 and #5: "There is only a manageable risk in implementing the specification. In practice, we prefer specifications that have been developed in a collaborative manner under an IPR policy with disclsore requirements. Examples include specifications developed by the ITU-T, ISO/IEC, or the IETF." and "Compatibility with DRM. We understand that this could be a sore point in W3C, but from our viewpoint, any DRM-incompatible video related mechanism is a non-starter with the content industry (Hollywood). There is in our opinion no need to make DRM support mandatory, though."

      Basically, "we think Ogg will get us sued" and "Hollywood won't use Ogg". It's a shame that Stephan Wenger (the author of this paper) has now damaged his own credibility by writing a four-page exercise in being disingenuous.

      I'd like to point out that the one really successful proprietary codec, MP3, is a success because of the huge numbers of people who intially implemented the codec without a license and because it didn't support DRM, thus leading to widespread piracy, and establishing the format as the de facto standard for unencumbered audio. I would personally consider the W3C negligent if they did not choose an open (free as in beer and speech) codec.
  • ACC/H2.64 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Stevecrox ( 962208 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:48PM (#21634425) Journal
    Its seems Nokia wants to support Apples codecs, rather than Ogg or MP3 (although MP3 is mentioned as a possible) I found the paper interesting as they talk about majorally accepted file formats they state their after ACC, I always thought ACC was about as popular as Ogg with MP3 the generally accepted and mainstream codec.

    Personnally I'd rather see divx and mp3 be used as the next standards, but Xvid and Ogg would be cool.
    • Re:ACC/H2.64 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by netcrusher88 ( 743318 ) <netcrusher88@gmai l . c om> on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:14PM (#21634689)
      First off, it's actually AAC. And it's not proprietary, at least not to Apple - AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) is part of the MPEG-4 standard and intended as a successor to MP3, though like MP3 it legally requires a patent license. Also H.264 is not an Apple codec - it's an ITU standard, also known as MPEG-4 Part 10, or AVC (but again with the patent nonsense).

      I think why Apple picked them up is that they are about the best codecs out there (I'm not going to entertain a debate between AAC and OGG quality, please, the reasoning here is that H.264 and AAC are DESIGNED to work together). Also AAC is very good at surround sound, something MP3 has never been popular for, perhaps for the reasons below.

      The reason that the community and market have been slow to accept them are that they are more complicated, thus heavier and/or more expensive to implement, as well as the fact that Xvid and Divx (same thing, different encoders - another part of MPEG-4 by the way) can (or used to) produce smaller filesizes for video, and at standard def you wouldn't really know the difference. But as HD content has become more popular, it's become more common to find media in H.264 with AAC 5.1 audio, and as en- and decoders get better (not to mention computers) H.264 and AAC present less of a relative strain on both disk (or bandwidth) and processor, and at HD resolution the hit to speed is completely worth it.

      I think this might be way Nokia is pushing H.264 and AAC - they present real possibility for advancement into high-def streaming content, something that other codecs really don't. Please note that I really haven't had any experience with Ogg Theora (which is NOT the same as Ogg Vorbis) in high-def environments, so I can't really say for sure. Also I'm not sure how it is at streaming.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      AAC and H.264 are Apples? Hmmm, you may want to let the Moving Pictures Expert Group know [wikipedia.org] about [wikipedia.org] that. [wikipedia.org]
  • Reaaallly? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nmoog ( 701216 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:49PM (#21634443) Homepage Journal
    This document was written by Stephan Wanger [stewe.org] who, according to his bio "serves on the Board of Directors of UB Video Inc., a leading supplier of video compression software".

    I wonder if this has anything to do with him not particularly liking ogg?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by PCM2 ( 4486 )

      I wonder if this has anything to do with him not particularly liking ogg?

      His name is Wenger, and you're probably right. If I had this guy's level of experience in digital multimedia and was as actively involved as he is in implementing such widely-used, RAND-licensed formats as MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264 etc. (which is what UB Video provided, [compression-links.info] before it was bought by Scientific Atlanta, [scientificatlanta.com] itself now a subsidiary of Cisco), then I might have reason to not particularly like OGG, Vorbis, Theora, etc., either. Or, fo

  • by segedunum ( 883035 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:57PM (#21634511)
    Yer. I would imagine the web would work brilliantly, and would have taken off the way that it is over the last 15 years, if it was wrapped up in lots of DRM stuff so people didn't have access to any information. Yer, that would really have worked.

    I had a scan through the PDF document, and couldn't really believe what I was reading. They're yet another company being pussy-whipped by Hollywood and the whole DRM issue (and it has now been demonstrably proven that widespread DRM can never work), rather than looking at the realities of the technology and working out how to make money from it. This is a very bizarre section to read: Commercial Constraints of the Web and Video ecosystems:

    In their vast majority, neither the digital video standard implementations nor the encoded content are "free". The forms of payment vary greatly: patent royalties are folded into the device/software prices; content fees (both for patent use and copyright royalties) are part of the subscription fees a consumer pays (i.e. for cable TV), absorbed through advertising, by governments (e.g. public radio/TV stations), and so on.
    Nokia doesn't seem to understand that the W3C is not in the habit of recommending technologies as web standards that are patented and proprietary and that mean that implementation is restricted.

    The perhaps astonishing part of the story is that all these royalties have, however reluctantly, be accepted by the market, and have not significantly hindered the adoption of digital video.
    Digital video over the web has been severely hindered, because it is not as widespread as content available through HTML.

    Compatibility with DRM. We understand that this could be a sore point in W3C, but from our viewpoint, any DRM-incompatible video related mechanism is a non-starter with the content industry (Hollywood).
    No other W3C standard takes into account DRM. Nokia seems to misunderstand the role of the W3C.

    Reasonable content fees, including provisions for royalty free content from non-professional sources.
    Non-professional sources?

    Anything beyond that, including a W3C-lead standardization of a "free" codec, or the active endorsement of proprietary technology such as Ogg, ..., by W3C, is, in our opinion, not helpful
    I think that should confirm that this document is junk, and that Nokia doesn't have the faintest idea what it is talking about.

    MP3 has been ratified in 1991, and that also sets a certain target year (not too far in the future) from which on one can be reasonably certain to be able to use this technology without financial compensation. The disadvantage of this approach is clearly the use of technologies that are two decades old, but that may be at least partly offset by the commercial advantage. And, these codecs are very lightweight on the computational complexity aspect.
    This is just downright bizarre.

    At first, I wasn't not so sure that Nokia was concerned about keeping Hollywood happy, as they are about keeping the current status quo of proprietary video and audio codecs, additionally restricted by patents if required. However, I haven't got the foggiest what Nokia are arguing. They just seem to be squirming over Ogg Vorbis and Ogg Theora for some reason.
  • by neutrino38 ( 1037806 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:58PM (#21634531) Homepage Journal

    The post focuses on a single detail: the author calls Ogg a "proprietary format". This is of course a regrettable and stupid comment as Ogg, Theora and Vorbis are not proprietary in any sense. But I suggest reading the whole paper which is an interesting and valid point of view. They are AGAINST the decision of the W3C to recommend those format for Web video. They use three arguments:

          1. Theora video is somewhat based on H.261 and is obsolete in regards with recent developments such as H.264 and VP8 from On2. Can someone knowledgable about Theora make any comment on this assertion?
          2. De facto standard of the Web is Flash video and H.264 encapsulated in either FLV or MPEG 4 file formats. This one valid and reversing the trend seems difficult to imagine.
          3. They believe are not at ease with the process of the organisations behind ogg / vorbis / theora development and fear standard forks.

    The last one is partially valid also but I have to add a comment: First, Nokia has vested interest in codec developments itself (they have patents related to the AMR codec). Second one has to remind that they are phone manufacturers. It is clear that they are more at ease with the standard process developed by the ITU. And I understand them: they are not building software but they are embedding chips with hardware codec capabilities. If someone 'forks' the standard and the OSS community decides to create an alternative standard (see Torrent protocol), all the chips that they developped are toasted.

  • Poorly Written (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Selanit ( 192811 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:00PM (#21634561)

    For a position paper issued by a major company, that was awfully rough. I found several spelling mistakes ("anoher" for "another") for example. Apparently Nokia can't be bothered to run a spell checker on documents like this one. And call me crazy, but usually you don't use smiley faces like :-) in a position paper (as he does on page four). Then we have sentences like this one, which is the bit about Ogg being proprietary:

    Anything beyond that, including a W3C-lead standardization of a "free" codec, or the active endorsement of proprietary technology such as Ogg, ..., by W3C, is, in our opinion, not helpful for the co-existence of the two ecosystems (web and video), and therefore not our choice.

    Holy comma splice, Batman! And isn't it redundant to talk about a "W3C-lead standardization ... by W3C"? But te worst thing here is the totally unclear use of "proprietary." At other places in the document, the author recommends selecting "older media compression standards, of which one can be reasonably sure that related patents are expired (or are close to expiration)." Which seems odd. Isn't the whole attraction of Ogg Theora that it isn't patented at all? Why recommend an older standard that IS patented over a newer one that isn't? And how exactly does that come under the label "proprietary" anyway?

    As a position paper, then, it could be better. It does in fact give their position. But it does so in a way which is unclear, and its author doesn't seem to think that writing a position paper is different from writing a comment on a web forum.

  • by Fzz ( 153115 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:17PM (#21634723)
    Here's a rough summary of the concerns Nokia have:
    • No-one knows if Ogg Vorbis or Ogg Theora are encumbered by patents. They were developed to be free of the main known patents, but they could still be encumbered by some submarine patent. If they're accepted as the baseline, Nokia face unknown risk if such a patent emerges after they've deployed the technology in hundreds of millions of phones. With H.261/AAC, the risks are more known because an unknown patent-holder would have sued someone by now.
    • There's a lot of content available online (though not directly as part of Web standards). Nokia in concerned that the content producers will will stear clear of Ogg in favour of solutions that support DRM or at least have a known track record. Better the devil you know...
    The second concern is probably rubbish, in so far as they are asking for H.264/AAC instead. DRM on these is completely orthogonal to the issue of the codec - you could easily wrap Theora in a DRM wrapper if you wanted (though why you'd want to is beyond me).

    The first concern though is more interesting. Basically Nokia seems to be saying that they'd rather pay predictable patent licensing fees for H.264/AAC than face unknown risk. That's a business decision, and I don't know of any good argument against it - we really don't know if there are any submarine patents that Theora or Vorbis might infringe on. From what I know about coding, it seems unlikely (especially in the case of Vorbis), but not impossible to me.

    Despite this, I think W3C made the right call and should stick to it.

  • by halk ( 139476 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:23PM (#21634793)
    Ogg Theora is a product of a single company. It has not been standardized by any recognized standards organisation. That indeed makes it "proprietary".

      The company, On2 Technologies, has disclaimed all patent right on the technology. However, as far as I know they are not a significant holder of video compression patents. I don't think any actual big video patent holders has commented about Theora. This means that there is a significant risk of submarine patents.

    According to the paper Theora is comparable in performance to the old H.261 codec. H.261 is about 20 years old so all patents on it have most likely expired. H.261 is widely implemented and if the performance claims are true, it makes Theora rather pointless.
    • by Andrew Cady ( 115471 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @08:02AM (#21640189)

      Ogg Theora is a product of a single company. It has not been standardized by any recognized standards organisation. That indeed makes it "proprietary".
      Proprietary \Pro*pri"e*ta*ry\, a. [L. proprietarius.] Belonging, or pertaining, to a proprietor; considered as property; owned; as, proprietary medicine.

      Theora may be the product of a company, but that is not enough to make it proprietary; the question is whether the company maintains control over it as its own property. As it stands, while the company could change or supersede the current standard and people would probably follow along to the extent that the changes are reasonable, this is not owing to any special "intellectual property" rights they have, but only their social position. Moreover, if Theora was adopted as the standard, it would then be standardized by a recognized standards organization. By your logic here, the C language would have been proprietary before its standardization, yet its status at that point was the polar opposite of what is normally called proprietary (e.g., the .doc format). This is a severe abuse of language.

  • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @07:15PM (#21635259)
    It's easy to see what they want for video (h264), audio (aac), but I don't know what they want for a container format, except they want DRM (container format is the component that implements DRM, I would guess, but I'm quite possibly wrong). They note that the Theora/Vorbis has not seen commercial distribution, so patent trolls have not had a reason to come out, and it scares them. Theora is patented, but On2 already said it would be no problem, but Nokia is concerned about a non-obvious company waiting for a single big player to adapt those technologies to bring a suit.

    The three suggestions they give are interesting. The first is to stay out of it, making interoperability difficult, as they said, but they effectively dismiss it because look how great Flash is without being a standard (that's a good argument to actually dictate something as far as I'm concerned). The second is to use no technology newer than about two decades, ostensibly to avoid patent issues. I think Nokia is angling for this because it ultimately ends up being the same as specifying nothing, as any web content provider will be forced to not stick to the standard, as it would mean delivering poorer quality content or being incredibly costly bandwidth wise. All it takes is one or two sites to deviate, but provide a richer standard to make standards compliance mean absolutely nothing. The final suggestion they are confident would lead to H264 and AAC, and they certainly wouldn't mind that.

COMPASS [for the CDC-6000 series] is the sort of assembler one expects from a corporation whose president codes in octal. -- J.N. Gray