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Not So Open

May 3, 2010 11:25:23.000

I haven't paid much attention to the H.264 patent issues, but perhaps I should have - according to CS News, the license for H.264 encoded video is insane:

As I explained above, the problem CAN NOT be fixed by simply exporting your footage using OGV Theora, because by the time you decided you want to charge for your video, or upload it on a free streaming site with ads, or you used a non-licensed *decoder* to edit it, you're already liable. In fact, you've already made your decision which route to take by the moment you pressed that "REC" button on your camera! Theora (and any other Free codec) only helps you in one small part of the licensing minefield that MPEG-LA has setup in the last 20 years. It doesn't protect you in the whole chain of creation-editing-exporting-sharing, which is how MPEG-LA has locked us in for good.

If their reasoning is right, most people who have shot video and uploaded it to YouTube (et. al.) are in violation - because the streaming ads push it off "non-commercial and personal". Maybe, I don't know. Certainly if you charge for video in any way you could have a problem.

On the other hand, I can't see how the patent owners would enforce this now. Doesn't mean they won't try though - witness the idiots at the RIAA and MPAA....

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posted by James Robertson


Re: Not So Open

[W^L+] May 3, 2010 21:12:40.319

I don't think patents lose force if you don't enforce them for a while. Remember when GIF was under patent threat? They'd waited for years before they started enforcing that one.

Same for the JPEG patents.

So there is historical precedent for waiting until the format is popular (e.g., the default for its type of data) and then sending out lawyer letters.

The good thing, though, is that everyone from camera manufacturers to software companies, to hosting companies to Google/YouTube may be willing to preempt patent enforcement actions by creating workarounds.

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