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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maybe you're misreading it
by mikesum32 on Sun 2nd May 2010 03:46 UTC
mikesum32
Member since:
2005-10-22

This is the only thing I could find in the manual you linked to.

ANY USE OF THIS PRODUCT OTHER THAN CONSUMER PERSONAL USE IN ANY MANNER THAT COMPLIES WITH THE MPEG-2 STANDARD FOR ENCODING VIDEO INFORMATION FOR PACKAGED MEDIA IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED WITHOUT A LICENSE UNDER APPLICABLE PATENTS IN THE MPEG-2 PATENT PORTFOLIO, WHICH LICENSE IS AVAILABLE FROM MPEG LA, L.L.C, 250 STEELE STREET, SUITE 300, DENVER, COLORADO 80206.

According to mpeg licensing agreement
http://www.mpegla.com/main/programs/M2/Pages/Agreement.aspx

This sublicense does not grant a license to use MPEG-2 Encoding Products to encode/produce DVDs or other MPEG-2 Packaged Medium for other than personal use of Licensee’s customer, however; the grant to encode/produce DVDs or other MPEG-2 Packaged Medium for other than personal use of Licensee’s customer is covered by the sublicense for MPEG-2 Packaged Medium

The key here being "Packaged Medium," which seems to me rather clear, even if it's in legaleze. I read it to mean you can't sell dvds or anything else that encodes in to mpeg-2 without a license, which should not come as a surprise.

Reply Score: 3

RE: maybe you're misreading it
by Eugenia on Sun 2nd May 2010 05:08 in reply to "maybe you're misreading it"
Eugenia Member since:
2005-06-28

The h.264 dSLR manual does not mention packaged media:

"About MPEG-4 Licensing

This product is licensed under AT&T patents for the MPEG-4 standard and may be used for encoding MPEG-4 compliant video and/or decoding MPEG-4 compliant video that was encoded only (1) for a personal and non-commercial purpose or (2) by a video provider licensed under the AT&T patents to provide MPEG-4 compliant video. No license is granted or implied for any other use for MPEG-4 standard."


As you can see, while the mpeg2 licensing might have been about packaged media, the h.264 is not. Because since the mpeg2 thing, the Internet happened. So MPEG-LA adjusted their licensing agreement to be MORE broad.

Edited 2010-05-02 05:10 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 4

Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

Then wouldn't it be fine to use MPEG-2 for internet-related purposes ? It has pretty good quality already, and MPEG-2 camcorders are way more common and more modern than MJPEG ones...

Edited 2010-05-02 06:10 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 1

n4cer Member since:
2005-07-06

The h.264 dSLR manual does not mention packaged media: "About MPEG-4 Licensing This product is licensed under AT&T patents for the MPEG-4 standard and may be used for encoding MPEG-4 compliant video and/or decoding MPEG-4 compliant video that was encoded only (1) for a personal and non-commercial purpose or (2) by a video provider licensed under the AT&T patents to provide MPEG-4 compliant video. No license is granted or implied for any other use for MPEG-4 standard." As you can see, while the mpeg2 licensing might have been about packaged media, the h.264 is not. Because since the mpeg2 thing, the Internet happened. So MPEG-LA adjusted their licensing agreement to be MORE broad.


I don't expect anything to come of this given the proliferation of MPEG-2/MPEG-4 devices and content creation tools over the past decade, but regarding the quoted text, the key would be how "video provider" is defined.

Google, for example, is a licensee and is the distributor of content on YouTube. It may be reasonable (depending on other references to "video provider" excluded from the quote) to conclude that in uploading to YouTube, the creator the video is meeting the "personal and non-commercial" clause as long as they aren't directly benefiting from the video's availability. Google is "a video provider licensed under the AT&T patents to provide MPEG-4 compliant video" who then alters the content for their (not the user's) commercial interests by re-encoding, re-distributing, or attaching ads not in the original work. The provider could be the entity distributing the video to the end user, or it could be the encoder implementation that produces the video.

A narrow reading of the quote may imply the video provider is the camera user, but even professional videographers aren't personally licensees. The entities they shoot for may be. I think MPEG-LA just wants to be sure they're getting paid for the encoders/decoders. The license text could be clearer to better convey that intent.

Reply Parent Score: 2

mikesum32 Member since:
2005-10-22

Ok, let's break that down.

This product is licensed under AT&T patents for the MPEG-4 standard and may be used for encoding MPEG-4 compliant video.

I see no problem with that...

and/or decoding MPEG-4 compliant video that was encoded only (1) for a personal and non-commercial purpose or (2) by a video provider licensed under the AT&T patents to provide MPEG-4 compliant video. No license is granted or implied for any other use for MPEG-4 standard.

Here's where it might get sticky, this is saying you can't use the camera to decode commercial video unless it's licensed under AT&T's patents. I'd say since you bought the camera, that Canon has payed a fee to AT&T for you to watch what you recorded, but it almost seems to disallow you to preview the video if you are considered commercial, a "provider". In this case though, you are the author, and any licensing to edit the files would be taken care of by your editor of choice and to distribute a film on a disc would probably come as something similar to the mpeg-2 license. I'm thinking the personal and non-commercial clause is meant to apply to your home movies vs decoding a blu-ray stream.

So remember, don't watch movies on your camera.

Reply Parent Score: 3