Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 16th May 2010 12:52 UTC, submitted by mrsteveman1
Internet & Networking Mozilla, sticking to its ideals of the open web, decided long ago that support for the patent-encumbered H264 codec would not be included in any of its products. Not only is H264 wholly incompatible with the open web and Free software, it is also incredibly expensive. Mozilla could use one of the open source implementations, but those are not licensed, and the MPEG-LA has been quite clear in that it will sue those who encode or decode H264 content without a license. Software patents, however, are only valid in some parts of the world, so an enterprising developer has started a project that was sure to come eventually: Firefox builds with H264 support.
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For a counter example of why Acceleration != Full-Implementation see 3D accelerators. They contain neither OpenGL or DirectX, but rather functions which can accelerate their common operations.

I think you might find that there are a great number of patents involved in h.264, but all of them relate only to one or other of the low-level functions. (Here, I use the classic meaning of "function", which is a mathematical operation which takes one or more parameters as inputs, and produces one or mor values as output. Which, BTW, is why software patents are silly in the first place, because mathematics should not be patentable subject matter). Anyway, there is no patent which covers h.264 "overall".

I'm not sure what that means for licensing...

The card is advertised (by ATI) as including the following functionality within the hardware.

This is a long list.

When I buy the card, I get an implied license to use all of those functions.
Implied licenses often arise where the licensee has purchased a physical embodiment of some intellectual property belonging to the licensor

There is no doubt at all that when I purchased my ATI HD4350 video card, I have purchased a physical embodiment of all of the functions listed in the specifications as linked above.

Within the list it includes specifically hardware decoding of h.264. I have a full and reasonable expectation, when I bought my ATI HD4350 card, that included within that purchase was a license to use the h.264 decoder which is described as being included within it.

Any lawyer representing MPEG LA is going to have a very, very difficult task trying to claim that I must pay again for a licenase for the same functions in my Linux OS, because of this:
Under the exhaustion doctrine, doctrine of exhaustion, or first sale doctrine, the first unrestricted sale of a patented item exhausts the patentee's control over that particular item.

Having been effectively sold one license for H.264 decoding, I don't need to buy any other. To imply anything else would be misrepresentation at least, or outright fraud even.

Now, the really, really interesting thing is this: why exactly are people like you so keen to try to imply that this is not the case?


Edited 2010-05-18 23:35 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

saynte Member since:

Sure, but the primitive functions have to be composed in the correct manner to make the more complicated ones. For example, you can provide matrix multiplication primitives, which then are used to do all sorts of interesting things (rotations, some basic cryptography, statistics, etc). The primitive operations could be accelerated, while the upper-level ones (patented ones, possibly) are not. However, I don't believe this is the case for modern video cards, in most cases they would have a full decoder onboard.

I was merely responding to the idea that one may always construe 'acceleration' as 'full-implementation'.

Now, the really, really interesting thing is this: why exactly are people like you so keen to try to imply that this is not the case?


Wow, you're paranoid. It was just a question, I'm no lawyer.

Reply Parent Score: 1

lemur2 Member since:

Wow, you're paranoid. It was just a question, I'm no lawyer.

Neither am I a lawyer, but I do know when companies are trying to rip me off, and I do know a little about what rights I should have as a consumer.

Perhaps I am a bit paranoid ... you copped that response because it is an absolute favourite notion of some supporters of commercial software on OSNews that Linux users have no legal way to render h.264 video. They desperately want h.264 to be illegal on Linux systems, whilst at the same time they try to insist that h.264 can be hardware-accelrated but Theora cannot (which is not true).

Little do they realise that their two favourite themes in respect of h.264 are actually at odds with one another.

If h.264 over the web is to be hardware-accelerated when viewing the video in browsers, then Linux can do that just as legally, and with the same performance, as commercial OSes can, because Linux users have also paid for their video card hardware, and they are therefore licensed to use it.

If video over the web is to be software-rendered when viewing the video in browsers, then Theora is by far the better choice because it is significantly less demanding on the CPU.

Either way, h.264 web video (or Theora web video) just isn't going to be a lock-out for Linux or a lock-in of commercial OSes and browsers.

This is especially so when you look at the constantly-improving performance of Theora, in particular at low bit-rates. Here is the latest update:

Here is the history:

Edited 2010-05-19 06:48 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2