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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Member since:


"Exposed, untouchable source is not open source"

I cannot tell whether Cisco has ulterior motives, maybe yes, maybe no.

But to be fair, it *is* open source. If Cisco had ONLY released the code under a BSD license without releasing a royalty free binary, you wouldn't be complaining, right? The fact that Cisco *additionally* released a royalty free binary doesn't change the fact that the source code is just as open as it was before.

The pathetic patent system is the root cause of the issue, and for what it's worth I believe Cisco when they claim they aren't able to release the source code royalty free under their license obligations. However, given the realities of the situation, would you go so far as to suggest that Cisco's open source code is worse than any other open source code BECAUSE of the royalty free binaries? Most people would say 'no', although as I indicated in another post: if too many devs end up choosing a binary over open source versions that could still lead to negative repercussions for open source.

Like, dionicio said, it's libre versus gratis. Cisco has positioned itself in the center of this ironic controversy by giving us the choice to choose gratis, which wasn't an option with respect to 264.

Edited 2013-10-31 18:08 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 4

dionicio Member since:

The source
and the compiling script
is there
only for you
to check they are the same.

You are not allowed
to use the source
in any other way.

Every user
still has to install the blob.

Reply Parent Score: 0

dionicio Member since:

"See? No Troyan Horses here..."
"I can put whatever Troyans on the exposed code if I want"

Edited 2013-10-31 18:14 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 1

Alfman Member since:


"You are not allowed to use the source in any other way. Every user still has to install the blob."

Cisco's blog has a bit of a Q/A going on where they answer some of these concerns. Going by what Nadee Gunasena has said on behalf of Cisco, your statements are incorrect.
"The source code will be open source and distributed with a BSD lIcense."

So this would mean your right to use/modify/distribute this source code would be the same as for any other BSD licensed source code. Keep in mind that it's NOT the license that's restricting usage here, it's the patent system. All open (and closed) source software runs the risk of infringing patents held by others, we must not confuse the difference between copyright and patents.

Edited 2013-10-31 18:28 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 4