Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 30th Oct 2013 23:33 UTC, submitted by drcoldfoot
Multimedia, AV

Remember the whole H.264 thing? Cisco just solved it for us - more or less.

The industry has been divided on the choice of a common video codec for some time, namely because the industry standard - H.264 - requires royalty payments to MPEG LA. Today, I am pleased to announce Cisco is making a bold move to take concerns about these payments off the table.

We plan to open-source our H.264 codec, and to provide it as a binary module that can be downloaded for free from the Internet. Cisco will not pass on our MPEG LA licensing costs for this module, and based on the current licensing environment, this will effectively make H.264 free for use in WebRTC.

Cisco will release the code of its H.264 codec under the BSD license, and will also make binaries available for just about every possible platform. Cisco will pay all the licensing costs - over the coming decade, this will cost them a whopping $65 million, illustrating just how expensive H.264 is, and how unrealistic it was to expect it to become a standard without a free implementation being available for everyone to use. It has to be noted that both end users and developers can make use of this.

Mozilla has already announced it will implement this codec into Firefox. All this is great, but it doesn't really address the issue in the long term - the next generation of codecs is coming, and once they arrive, this whole process starts all over again. Will another sugar daddy step up by that time?

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RE: Hmmm...
by ssokolow on Thu 31st Oct 2013 00:50 UTC in reply to "Hmmm..."
ssokolow
Member since:
2010-01-21

This could be a bit of a trojan horse on Cisco's part.

According to one of the commenters on the LWN announcement, the vote on what video codec(s) should be Mandatory To Implement for WebRTC is a week from now and, apparently, Cisco is a member of the MPEG-LA.

https://lwn.net/Articles/572205/

Edited 2013-10-31 00:50 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 7

RE[2]: Hmmm...
by galvanash on Thu 31st Oct 2013 01:12 in reply to "RE: Hmmm..."
galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

This could be a bit of a trojan horse on Cisco's part.

According to one of the commenters on the LWN announcement, the vote on what video codec(s) should
be Mandatory To Implement for WebRTC is a week from now and, apparently, Cisco is a member of the MPEG-LA.

https://lwn.net/Articles/572205/


Well I'm just going by what they say they are going to do, I'm not saying they don't have a selfish motive. Still, it is what it is... This has broader implications than just WebRTC.

The world dealt with the MP3 codec in much the same way ... Its certainly not an ideal solution, but it is better than nothing for those it matters to and it solves the problem from a practical point of view. I'll still encode my videos with webm, thank you very much, but I honestly can't fault them pushing for h.264 in WebRTC when the players who will benefit the most from this standard are either already paying MPEGLA royalties or are in fact patent holders themselves.

If it makes all the webm haters shut up and leave me alone I'll be happy ;)

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: Hmmm...
by galvanash on Thu 31st Oct 2013 02:19 in reply to "RE: Hmmm..."
galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

This could be a bit of a trojan horse on Cisco's part.


Just say another tidbit I hadn't though much about until now... With all the video conferencing gear/software Cisco already sells, they are probably not far off from the $5 million annual cap anyway. This may in fact not really cost them much (if any) money at all...

I wonder how the other patent holders in the MPEGLA patent pool really feel about this? Its too early to say, but if this is structured as liberally as they are implying this could drastically cut the patent pools licensing revenue going forward. Why would anyone pay for patent licensing if they can harness this instead? Maybe h.265 is close enough that they don't care, but still...

Reply Parent Score: 6

RE[3]: Hmmm...
by Bill Shooter of Bul on Thu 31st Oct 2013 14:31 in reply to "RE[2]: Hmmm..."
Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:
2006-07-14

The licensing is so complex for h264, I wouldn't be surprised if they legally couldn't make use of it. IE, it might be licensed for consumption/decoding only.

Reply Parent Score: 5

RE[3]: Hmmm...
by jared_wilkes on Thu 31st Oct 2013 16:08 in reply to "RE[2]: Hmmm..."
jared_wilkes Member since:
2011-04-25

Because licensing is actually negligible for for-profit businesses and having encoding/decoding built-in and tuned to your product and customers's needs rather than require a separate download and user interaction to the Cisco implementation and then being dependent on whatever Cisco has come up with for whatever hardware is preferable for these businesses and their users.

Reply Parent Score: 3