Linked by Eugenia Loli on Sat 1st May 2010 22:17 UTC
Legal We've all heard how the h.264 is rolled over on patents and royalties. Even with these facts, I kept supporting the best-performing "delivery" codec in the market, which is h.264. "Let the best win", I kept thinking. But it wasn't until very recently when I was made aware that the problem is way deeper. No, my friends. It's not just a matter of just "picking Theora" to export a video to Youtube and be clear of any litigation. MPEG-LA's trick runs way deeper! The [street-smart] people at MPEG-LA have made sure that from the moment we use a camera or camcorder to shoot an mpeg2 (e.g. HDV cams) or h.264 video (e.g. digicams, HD dSLRs, AVCHD cams), we owe them royalties, even if the final video distributed was not encoded using their codecs! Let me show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.

UPDATE: Engadget just wrote a reply to this article. The article says that you don't need an extra license to shoot commercial video with h.264 cameras, but I wonder why the license says otherwise, and Engadget's "quotes" of user/filmmaker indemnification by MPEG-LA are anonymous...

UPDATE 2: Engadget's editor replied to me. So according to him, the quotes are not anonymous, but organization-wide on purpose. If that's the case, I guess this concludes that. And I can take them on their word from now on.

UPDATE 3: And regarding royalties (as opposed to just licensing), one more reply by Engadget's editor.

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RE: So...
by Eugenia on Sat 1st May 2010 22:30 UTC in reply to "So..."
Eugenia
Member since:
2005-06-28

As I explained in the article, even if there was such a Theora camera, MPEG-LA would probably still sue them for patent infringement (if one fine day they decided to become patent trolls). And MPEG-LA are the kind of organization (judging from their current licensing agreements) that could go against the consumers who purchased and used such a camera too -- not just the manufacturer.

The solution is to completely dissolve, or invalidate, MPEG-LA as an organization, and its patents. There's no way going around it. They have created such an extreme situation (as explained in the article), that only an extreme solution would fix the problem.

Edited 2010-05-01 22:46 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 8

RE[2]: So...
by drcoldfoot on Sat 1st May 2010 23:15 in reply to "RE: So..."
drcoldfoot Member since:
2006-08-25

Talk about lock-in

Reply Parent Score: 3

kragil Member since:
2006-01-04

Great find and great article, Eugenia.

Now it is clear why Google want to establish a free codec for Youtube. Without a free codec there could be a situation where they have to pay for every video they stream. (Not likely, but still possible and businesses have to ensure those situations are handled.)

Now I am sure that they will open source VP8 and Firefox, Opera and Chrome will ship it in 2011.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: So...
by Luis on Sat 1st May 2010 23:21 in reply to "RE: So..."
Luis Member since:
2006-04-28

The solution is to completely dissolve, or invalidate, MPEG-LA as an organization, and its patents. There's no way going around it.


And I think that MPEG-LA knows that if they start an open war, it will end in the invalidation of all these patents (simply because they can't have the monopoly on codec design as they pretend to have).

I'm sure that they won't start a war, and I'm sure that if they start it they'll lose. And I think they know it.

So what can they do? Spread FUD. Scare everyone but without ever actually starting a war. Just threatening with it again and again.

And what can WE do? Use Free codecs and believe that they are really Free. If we start to get scared that they might not be Free after all, they win. If they think that those codecs are not Free, let them take that to court. We'll see what happens.

But yes, for the cameras it's a problem. For now use MJPEG and for the future, hope for Theora ones.

Reply Parent Score: 8

RE[3]: So...
by Zbigniew on Sat 1st May 2010 23:32 in reply to "RE[2]: So..."
Zbigniew Member since:
2008-08-28

I'm sure that they won't start a war [..] So what can they do? Spread FUD. Scare everyone but without ever actually starting a war. Just threatening with it again and again.

I think, the problem isn't that they will "declare war on the rest of the world" - but rather, that anyone can be blamed for using codec. That anyone - "in case of need" - can be sued.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[3]: So...
by bhtooefr on Sat 1st May 2010 23:48 in reply to "RE[2]: So..."
bhtooefr Member since:
2009-02-19

The other thing is, it's in Google's interest to see all these patents get destroyed, at least right now.

And Google owns VP3, which predates H.264, and which Apple is possibly assembling a patent pool to combat.

Time for a pre-emptive strike against H.264. Google, sue the hell out of the MPEG LA for infringing on On2's patents.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[3]: So...
by -APT- on Sun 2nd May 2010 01:10 in reply to "RE[2]: So..."
-APT- Member since:
2007-03-20

So what can they do? Spread FUD. Scare everyone but without ever actually starting a war. Just threatening with it again and again.

And what can WE do? Use Free codecs and believe that they are really Free. If we start to get scared that they might not be Free after all, they win. If they think that those codecs are not Free, let them take that to court. We'll see what happens.


What can we do?

Spread FUD regarding h.264. So far h.264 has had such an easy ride from people who merely look at it from the technical point of view. Yes, it's probably a better codec than the alternatives - but if it's close to impossible to use a product which uses h.264 for business use without another license then it becomes a useless format.

Remind businesses that any h.264 camera they've got is potentially illegal usage. Remind people who export h.264 video that they can't use it in any slightly commercial way.

It's amazing how some people are getting slightly scared of the potential Ogg Theora minefield when h.264 is a confirmed legal minefield.

Edited 2010-05-02 01:11 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 5

RE[2]: So...
by Morgan on Sun 2nd May 2010 00:35 in reply to "RE: So..."
Morgan Member since:
2005-06-29

I just checked my lowly Nikon Coolpix L12 and it shoots in 640x480 30fps MJPEG with PCM Wave audio, in an AVI container. Obviously I'm not going to be making any epic movies with this format, but it's nice to know I'm relatively safe from litigation should I upload family movies to America's Funniest Home Videos.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[3]: So...
by shotsman on Sun 2nd May 2010 06:36 in reply to "RE[2]: So..."
shotsman Member since:
2005-07-22

Until you get paid for said home movie. Then you fall into a completely different licensing category. MPEG-LA will come a knocking for their dues which will probably be several orders of magnitude greater than the pittance you get for your Video.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[3]: So...
by membrain on Mon 3rd May 2010 13:36 in reply to "RE[2]: So..."
membrain Member since:
2008-06-19

I was a little p-o'd when I found out that my new Pentax Optio P80 shoots HD video (1280x720 30fps) in MJPEG, but after reading that article, I'm more than glad.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[3]: So...
by pepa on Thu 6th May 2010 05:29 in reply to "RE[2]: So..."
pepa Member since:
2005-07-08

Starting to wonder how many camera's actually use the MJPEG codec, because my Canon A480, my Ricoh Caplio G3, and my Konica/Minolta Dimage Z3 all use MJPEG. MJPEG might be more popular than Eugenia suggested, probably precisely because of licensing cost.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: So...
by macUser on Sun 2nd May 2010 19:05 in reply to "RE: So..."
macUser Member since:
2006-12-15

As I explained in the article, even if there was such a Theora camera, MPEG-LA would probably still sue them for patent infringement (if one fine day they decided to become patent trolls). And MPEG-LA are the kind of organization (judging from their current licensing agreements) that could go against the consumers who purchased and used such a camera too -- not just the manufacturer.

The solution is to completely dissolve, or invalidate, MPEG-LA as an organization, and its patents. There's no way going around it. They have created such an extreme situation (as explained in the article), that only an extreme solution would fix the problem.


Would love to have some links or follow up articles on legal analysis on all this...

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: So...
by TemporalBeing on Mon 3rd May 2010 18:26 in reply to "RE: So..."
TemporalBeing Member since:
2007-08-22

As I explained in the article, even if there was such a Theora camera, MPEG-LA would probably still sue them for patent infringement (if one fine day they decided to become patent trolls). And MPEG-LA are the kind of organization (judging from their current licensing agreements) that could go against the consumers who purchased and used such a camera too -- not just the manufacturer.


IANAL The problem for MPEG-LA to go after Theora is that the makers of Theora have done their due diligence to try to NOT infringe. This ways heavily in court. So MPEG-LA may not be able to do as much as they would like, even to Theora.

The solution is to completely dissolve, or invalidate, MPEG-LA as an organization, and its patents. There's no way going around it. They have created such an extreme situation (as explained in the article), that only an extreme solution would fix the problem.



Dissolving MPEG-LA won't do any good. The companies will just reform under a new entity. The ONLY solution is to invalidate the patents MPEG-LA holds - ALL of them. The removal of Software Patents would pretty much solve the issue.

Reply Parent Score: 2

There's a better way: Elphel.com RAW cameras
by bogdanbiv on Tue 4th May 2010 03:38 in reply to "RE: So..."
bogdanbiv Member since:
2008-01-23

I don't quite get to know why recording to Theora is encumbered by patents, but maybe that's because I'm just an amateur.

However, I thin http://www3.elphel.com/files/Elphel_Brochure.pdf fits your needs better than other cameras, here is an excerpt from their spec pages:
"Recording formats: Quicktime, OGM, JPEG Image Sequence, JP4 RAW Image Sequence, RAW sensor data, HDR (experimental)"
- I suppose MJPEG is the same as JPEG Image Sequence and if that doesn't fit I'm sure the RAW sensor data does so.

Here's another excerpt, this time from their website home page:
"Elphel, Inc. was started in 2001 to provide high performance cameras based on free software and hardware designs. Freedom of the users of Elphel products is our top priority - we value and protect it with the GNU General Public License that covers all the Elphel software and hardware designs."

As for the moment I don't have the money to buy any camera, including Elphel's, I can't try their products myself.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[2]: So...
by ArneBab on Tue 4th May 2010 06:24 in reply to "RE: So..."
ArneBab Member since:
2009-11-10

Your assumption that theora is unfit revolves around breaking patents. But if a big company with its own patents would throw its weight behind it (or VP8) it could just counter-sue the MPEG alliance.

And that might be another reason why Google bought On2: The MPEG alliance won’t dare sue them when in the same instance they would also lose their right to license h.264 (which surely breaks some On2 patents, too).

Reply Parent Score: 1