back to article Patent attack on Google open codec faces 'antitrust probe'

The US Department of Justice is investigating MPEG-LA – the patent pool organization backed by Apple, Microsoft, and others – over the organization's effort to undermine the royalty-free V8 codec Google introduced last year, according to a report citing people familiar with the matter. The Wall Street Journal reports that the …

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  1. Colin_L

    it's good to be friends of Obama

    This probe may well have merit, but I think it's interesting how swift action was taken since Google's interests are at risk. Compared to many other opportunities that the DoJ has passed on, this timing reeks of favoritism.

    1. asdf Silver badge
      Flame

      never happens with Republicans

      Yep after Micro$oft gave lots $$$ to W Bush's campaign I was proud how W allowed the antitrust proceedings to continue without interference. </sarcasm>

      1. Brian 18
        FAIL

        Both sides being corrupt makes it alright.

        So Obama's corruption is acceptable because his predecessor was also corrupt. This is the kind of rationalization I would expect from a young child. If you are a US citizen and wonder why the government is so fouled up, look in a mirror and the answer will be starring back at you.

        As to the original commenter: It is good to be friends with those currently in power, regardless of their names, political affiliations, etc. Examples of this kind of favouritism can be found throughout history.

    2. E 2

      Calm down fellow

      What's with all your hating?

    3. we are all ignorant
      Black Helicopters

      I would think....

      ...it's more about Google's cozy relationship with the NSA and various other intelligence agencies. They can't have anything stand in the way of their number one intelligence gathering tool on the web!

    4. Red Bren
      Welcome

      Friends of Obama

      Wasn't a certain Mr Jobs also a recent visitor to the White House?

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/02/17/obama_hosts_tech_titan_meeting/

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Undermining HTML video

    Maybe they should also be looking at how Google is undermining HTML5 video and forcing everyone to keep on using proprietary Flash (maybe in their own interest as it appears to

    be, by far, one of the most popular features in Android)

    No company in the MPEG-LA group can really take up WebM without shooting themselves in the foot, given Google's WebM IP rights grant condition.

    1. Ray Simard

      @Undermining HTML video

      What the bloody hell are you talking about?

      Forcing everyone to keep using Flash? How? Firefox 4 has native WebM support; so does Opera and codecs (free) are available for IE and Safari. Flash is only another alternative.

      The only way companies in the MPEG-LA group would be "shooting themselves in the foot" by taking up WebM is that a chance for a stranglehold on HTML5 video they can exploit for their own benefit is lost. Are you suggesting that is a bad thing?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dominant player

    When the dominant player in a domain seeks to add barriers to entry and thus prevent competition, one should not need to be a friend of the president in order to get the DoJ to investigate.

    Gk.pm: Google is try to prevent the open html standard from being dependent on a proprietary standard. Flash is proprietary, but it uses the plugin model which isn't. The pluggin mode is an indirection that allows proprietary tech to be used with an open spec.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      HTML doesn't care for codecs

      The HTML5 spec contains no restrictions on the video codec so it's not going to be less open or dependent on H.264. To me your answer is a bit unfounded.

      Codecs themselves are "indirections" just like Flash but far more specific and less intrusive (ie. they don't try to be a self contained operating system like Flash)

      1. Ray Simard

        @HTML doesn't care for codecs

        "The HTML5 spec contains no restrictions on the video codec"

        True

        "Codecs themselves are "indirections" just like Flash but far more specific and less intrusive..."

        No. HTML4 had no video support at all. Players like Flash, Real Player, Silverlight, a Java-based player or anything else, operated outside of the HTML spec, using <embed> or <object>, and was thus arbitrary, and entirely optional.

        HTML5 does support video, and thus imposes a requirement on browser design to support video natively. Exactly how the requisite codec(s) are physically incorporated into the browser can vary; nonetheless, this support is not an add-on, like Flash is to HTML4, and not optional.

        HTML5 video doesn't mean a thing if users have to put up with videos that won't play because some use one codec and some use another. It is pointless hair-splitting to argue that codecs are immaterial because the spec doesn't require any particular one; in any practical sense, and with respect to the intent behind adding video support to the spec, HTML5 does indeed care about codecs.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Pointless hair-splitting

          I'm sorry but I still think the pointless hair-splitting discussion is whether <embed> tags for flash and other content types are more optional than HTML5 video.

          If you don't have support the content included in a <embed> it will not be shown even tough the document is asking that it be included, the same applies to unsupported HTML5 video codecs. If you think in practical terms - not from a HTML spec writer's perspective - is one really that different from the other?

          It's looking almost certain that users will have to download their own codec "plugins" (like MS's Chrome H.264 support pack) , so maybe HTML5 video really doesn't mean a thing.

          1. Ray Simard

            @Pointless hair-splitting

            The content types in <embed> or <object> tags and the modules that handle them are not specified in the HTML language (by definition), and are thus optional. HTML5 video IS specified, and is thus not optional.

            "It's looking almost certain that users will have to download their own codec "plugins" (like MS's Chrome H.264 support pack) , so maybe HTML5 video really doesn't mean a thing."

            Correct on both points, and that's the problem. Like anything else in the HTML5 spec, or any other Internet spec for that matter, it just has to work; otherwise it's worse than useless. In this case, it will only work if external, unspecified requirements are met (those being the choice of a codec), and that is a very serious flaw in the specification. Browser publishers cannot guarantee that their product will render all video because they cannot include the necessary codecs with their product, or even guarantee that they will be available at all.

            That is why, as things stand, a browser's technical compliance with the spec is of little meaning in and of itself.

            The availability of the WebM codec does not correct the omission in the spec; but it at least makes it possible to create full-quality video content that all browsers can render, and in the process respect the central design philosophy of an Internet that is open and free. It is imperfect--WebM is patented, but the patent-holder has expressly made it freely available, guaranteed, which is at least the next best thing.

    2. ThomH Silver badge

      @AC

      Legally it's not that simple. Patents are a government granted monopoly over the ideas they contain. The simple act of having patents and of asserting patents is not (legally) anticompetitive, but the grant of them is explicitly a barrier to entry in that it prevent other people from using your intellectual property in the marketplace completely without you.

      Based on the wording of the article, this sounds like it is more about the tubthumping. Since MPEG-LA don't yet assert to have any members with patents that use of WebM would infringe, the running around trying to create an atmosphere of doubt may be anticompetitive. If they find patents that cover WebM then it probably isn't.

      In short: it's not the simple presence of barriers, it's whether those barriers are the ones the state likes to provide.

      Add me to the list of people calling for patent reform, as I strongly suspect that WebM will be covered by MPEG-LA member patents when someone turns in their patent for "displaying video on a screen" or "encoding video such as for transmission via the Internet" or some such.

      1. Keith Williams
        FAIL

        @ThomH

        Patents are supposed to be a government granted monopoly over the specific implementation of an idea.

        1. ThomH Silver badge

          @Keith Williams

          Sorry. Obviously: "a method for displaying video on a screen", which describes the idea of having the image for each frame of video within a memory area and transmitting it to a screen via an electric cable, and "a method for encoding video such as for transmission via the Internet", which covers one device sending another video data in sequential order so that it can be played.

          After all, Net2Phone obtained a patent in 2000 on "point-to-point internet protocols" ("A point-to-point Internet protocol exchanges Internet Protocol (IP) addresses between processing units to establish a point-to-point communication link between the processing units through the Internet"; source: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=6,108,704.PN.&OS=PN/6,108,704&RS=PN/6,108,704).

      2. Tom 13

        Moreover, in the US anti-trust laws focus

        on collusion rather than actual market share. If you capture a market without engaging in collusion, that is perfectly legal. But if you and I were to make a secret agreement to corner the market for nanobot video codes, that would be subject to criminal charges.

        If you do achieve monopoly power, you can't use that monopoly to create another one. They treat it as sort of a one-company collusion.

  4. The Cube
    Jobs Horns

    Lying turd

    "We have no dog in that fight [the fight over which video codec wins out]."

    - Except of course for his job as if VP8 succeeds the whole MPEG-cArteL will be forgotten as an unfortunate period in history and he will be as unemployed as Mussolini's tailor.

    But Horn did have some strong words about VP8. "I can tell you: VP8 is not patent-free," he said. "It's simply nonsense."

    Nice bit of FUD and misdirection Mr Horn, VP8 is not about patent free, it is about not enforcing a license which says "your customer has no rights at all, they are not even allowed to breathe unless Sony say so". Of course Google (or the org they acquired) had to patent everything involved to stop MPEG LA members patenting it after seeing it on the Internet and then suing them in the Eastern District Court of a state which keeps income tax down by taking a cut of patent settlements but has no conflict of interest or corrupt judges.

  5. kissingthecarpet
    Gates Horns

    Nice Codec you got here

    It'd be a shame if anything "happened" to it, wouldn't it?

  6. OSC
    Boffin

    American Needle got there first

    In that case, last June, the US Supremes handed down a ruling that collaborative exclusionary action by competing bodies could infringe the Sherman Act. (Competition Law) and now there's this. More here

    http://www.opensourceconsortium.org/content/view/133/89/

  7. JaitcH
    WTF?

    Browsers and their use will determine the prevailing standard

    Even though MS Internet Explorer is ahead by a mile in the browser business, Safari is small potatoes. The ones that will count are Chrome, Firefox and Opera.

    MS wins as it is the free and default browser but what will happen when Google's (free?) OS hits the market? Since hardware manufacturers are always seeking ways to improve profits taking on Chrome is a sure fire way to further those goals.

    Android has demonstrated that this model works for both Google and manufacturers so it is not too pioneering from others, particularly hardware manufacturers who already have Android products.

    Content is another determining factor. If browser users visit YouTube this enhances the adoption of the royalty-free V8 codec. What popular content does Apple or MS offer?

    I just checked our company work centre computers and of the 165 computers only one has used Apple's Quicktime in the past three months.

    With the DOJ kicking the tires/tyres of MPEG-LA it will force them to put up ... or shut up.

    1. Alastair 7

      Uh...

      "Safari is small potatoes. The ones that will count are Chrome, Firefox and Opera."

      If Safari doesn't belong on that list, then Opera sure as hell doesn't either.

      Repeat after me: Opera is not the second coming. Opera is not the second coming.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Flame

        Linear gradients...

        Opera doesn't even do pretty basic CSS3 like linear gradients, used in buttons all over the place.

        WTF are their devs thinking?

      2. Tom 13

        Not a big Opera user myself,

        but I get the impression that Opera is to the browser Market as Apple use to be to MS: the place where most of the innovating happens. Then the other app makers say "Coolness! How do we implement that differently so we don't infringe on their copyrights or patents?"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Huh?

      You do it deliberately don't you?

      "Even though MS Internet Explorer is ahead by a mile in the browser business, Safari is small potatoes. The ones that will count are Chrome, Firefox and Opera."

      On the website that I manage, (as of 2 minutes ago) Firefox is in the lead with 29.78% of visitors,

      Safari is second with 19.71%, IE8 and Chrome keep swapping places in the third slot with 16.8 and 16.48 respectively at the moment. Opera9 has a meagre 0.48% and Opera7 is just on a par with Netscape at 0.06%.

      In case you think the stats are skewed - the dominant OS is WinXP with over 30%, Win7 is next with 24% and then MacOS with 19% and then Vista, the last one in double figures.

      Below vista there is an OS marked 'Unknown" which swaps places daily with iOS at about 3%. Linux is just under 2% and Android has just cracked 1%

      1. Lewis Mettler
        Stop

        and how would IE do

        And how would IE do if it were not a forced purchase?

        Or, if IE were not commingled so that customers could uninstall it?

        If you have a copy of IE, your opinion just does not matter. And it does not matter what you do or what your job entails. You do not count.

        Just ask Microsoft. They force you to buy IE regardless.

    3. Lewis Mettler
      Stop

      IE is NOT free

      Being bundled with the OS does not make IE free. Not economically. And not legally.

      It is simply a forced purchase.

      If you have a copy of IE, your opinion simply does not count. Microsoft makes it so.

      Other than that, it is true that use will determine the prevailing standard.

      Google's brouser and OS (when it becomes available) will be free. As is Opera and Firefox. But, IE is not. You pay money when you take it. And you do not have the choice not to take it. It is illegally bundled and commingled into the monopoly OS.

      Check your company computers again. Did you really buy IE for all of them? Just because you had no choice in the matter and your opinion does not count, does not make it free.

      1. PsychicMonkey
        FAIL

        if IE isn't free

        how come you can download it for free....just because it is already installed doesn't make it paid for. My pc came with firefox pre-installed, does that mean I paid for it?

        1. Lewis Mettler
          Stop

          you may have paid for Firefox

          Pre-installed does not mean you paid for it. The OS and associated applications may have been without cost.

          IE is not. everytime you buy a Microsoft OS you also purchase IE.

          Acting like you can not tell the difference between paying money and not paying money does not mean IE is free. It clearly is not.

          If you have a copy of IE, your opinion does not matter anyway. Microsoft makes that the case.

          1. PsychicMonkey
            FAIL

            my opinion doesn't matter?

            So your argument is that because you have to pay for Windows that you therefore pay for IE as well? Massive flaw in that logic. IE is available for mac as well, so is that not free either?

            Your argument is against free vs paid for OS, it has nothing to do with IE at all, and no amoutn of BS you spout will make it any different.

            For the record I don't use IE, not because of any anti MS bias, I just think it's crap as a browser, but thats only my opinion, which you claim doesn't matter.

  8. Robert Heffernan
    Flame

    <title></title>

    Ideally the W3C needs to grow some balls and just standardize a codec. The problem then (In Theory) goes away since anyone not providing the codec is not following the HTML5 spec.

    In reality that won't happen and Google is in the perfect position to win the whole thing.

    Youtube is the linchpin to this whole HTML5/H264/WebM debacle.

    Google needs to start a move to HTML5/WebM on Youtube exclusively. If users of non-WebM compliant browsers suddenly couldn't view the videos and were given a link to download a browser that could, then the vast majority of people would up and migrate on the spot.

    Sure, you would have some trolls flaming forums about it, but trolls are trolls and use any excuse, hell, they flame people for poor spelling while their own posts are even worse!

    *Bonfire.. for the MPEG-LA, Patent Trolls, General Trolls, and the rest of the scum in the bottom of the interwebs bucket.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Google will do no such thing

      They can only gather attention to themselves by dropping H.264 support from their small market share browser, while keeping good company with Adobe Flash to make sure that even there H.264 still plays.

      On the other hand have you seen the number of devices accessing Youtube content? Those don't come with WebM and won't for a while now. Would Google be willing to give up all those partners? Of course not. Not even Flash supports it yet so content would still need to be in H.264 for Youtube's flash interface alone

      Plus we're not anywhere near non-H.264 hardware-accelerated video playback for HD content.

      Given what's already out there (know any WebM-native cameras?) I'm sorry but it's simply insane to think that WebM will ever replace H.264 as the dominant codec.

      Maybe If it was any better, but at the same level of compression and quality (or even worse) there's no chance.

      1. Lewis Mettler
        Stop

        you forgot to add

        You forgot to add that other codecs have little chance as long as IE is a forced purchase.

        If you have a copy of IE, your opinion does not count. And that is true even if you know you are buying IE.

      2. Ray Simard

        @Google will do no such thing

        I don't think the poster is suggesting that Google switch to exclusively WebM overnight. By gradually shifting the encoding of video to WebM, it will allow time for an orderly transition.

        Firefox 4, which is just now edging toward release, supports WebM natively. Opera already does, and is very rightfully proud to. (They originally proposed the <video> tag).

        http://labs.opera.com/news/2010/05/19/

        Flash support for WebM is quite close at hand.

        http://blogs.adobe.com/flashplatform/2010/05/adobe_support_for_vp8.html

        WebM codecs are available for IE and Safari, so there is only minor inconvenience for users of those browsers even without depending on Flash player.

        WebM hardware acceleration may not be as far off as you think. ATI and nVidia are both working on it.

        H.264 does seem to have a (very small) edge in quality vs. compression. WebM is evolving, but even as it is now, the benefit of avoiding the encumbrances of H.264 is far and away worth that small compromise.

  9. Ed Deckard
    Grenade

    Death to the US patent system!

    I have no doubt MPEG-LA will find a few patents held by their members which -could- be read as covering the VP8 codec, video encoding, "moving pictures" and why the hell not, light itself. We need to stop handing overly-general patents out, and we should probably stop handing out patents on non-mechanical ideas entirely.

    1. sphery
      FAIL

      Patent-ly ridiculous

      I'm a huge fan of--and user and developer of--Free/Libre and Open Source Software, but I also recognize that it's nearly (completely?) impossible to create any non-trivial software, today, without violating any software patents. Therefore, I have no doubt that VP8/WebM is in violation of many patents, and even the FFmpeg developers have said as much--see http://x264dev.multimedia.cx/archives/377 , in the paragraph starting, "Finally, the problem of patents appears to be rearing its ugly head again."

      That said, it's amazing that the US DoJ is investigating under antitrust laws what amounts to a coalition of patent holders who are attempting to enforce the patents granted them by the USPTO. Since even the Department of Justice can't understand how the US patent system works, it seems clear that US patent law is in dire need of reform--ideally, including the abolishment of software patents. (After all, patents are for inventions--copyright is for ideas!)

      1. Oninoshiko
        Troll

        MPEG-LA's trolling would make 4chan blush.

        Ahh, but they aren't enforcing their patents, that's the problem! They keep saying "we think we have patents in here" loudly, and publicly. It looks like they are just lying, trying to discourage potential users. If they really have patents, lets lay the cards down, and file a lawsuit. Until then, it's anti-competitive FUD. The talking with no action taken is what the DoJ is investigating.

        Of course, proving a negative is difficult at best, and in the article you quote it also reads: "It’s quite possible that VP8 has no patent issues" and "This doesn’t mean that it’s sure to be covered by patents."

        Jason Garrett-Glaser may be an expert in video compression, but I don't think he is an expert in patent law. It actually sounds to be like he doesn't even have any patents in mind when he wrote the article, exempting intra-prediction, which he had to correct in an update:

        "Update: spatial intra prediction apparently dates back to Nokia’s MVC H.26L proposal, from around ~2000. It’s possible that Google believes that this is sufficient prior art to invalidate existing patents — which is not at all unreasonable!"

  10. JC 2
    FAIL

    Day Late Chaps

    If they'd wanted to challenge it they should have done so long before Google ever purchased (it). No, this is clearly fear in their hearts that you can't compete with free, by not defending one's patents they should lose ownership... not that I'm implying that they have a valid claim, rather that even if they /did/, they don't now.

  11. Tom 7 Silver badge

    It reminds me of school

    where the bullies used to beat up the clever boys if they got good marks in the vain hope that they wouldn't look so stupid when the clever boys couldn't do their homework with broken fingers. Got them support from hangers on who hoped to benefit too.

    I just hope some kind of precedent get set here where you cant say 'you infringe our patents' without actually mentioning which ones - after all you own your patents and with open source you can see the stuff that might be infringing. OK that means someone can work around the patent but the idea of patents was not to stop anyone else doing anything ever which is the way it seems to be being used.

  12. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    Linux

    Flash

    Buggy Flash has just done it again, this time YouTube vids are displaying in red/white.

    See: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1698956

  13. Dave White
    Paris Hilton

    Patent-pool license?

    "MPEG-LA chief executive Larry Horn said the organization was looking into the formation of a patent-pool license for VP8 and WebM".

    Can anybody explain to me what that sentence means? Why would one group be looking for a license for a competing group's software?

    Paris, because I'm dumb where IP law is concerned.

    1. Lewis Mettler
      Stop

      pretty simple actuallly

      MPEG-LA is in the business of collecting royalties for patents. That is what they do.

      Of course, they want to collect royalties (keeping a share) for everyone's patents if they can do so.

      They only make money if technology is encumbered by patents.

    2. Tom 13

      I'll give it a shot, but the explanation has an obvious fallacy.

      Mr. Horn's group doesn't actually own the patents, they are only the managers for the companies that do. So his company doesn't know what is actually in the patents, and therefore doesn't know what might actually be infringed. They make their money from people who purchase a license for the codec because those people believe it is the best option for their purpose. Think of it as a SCO like operation with the exception that in the case of MPEG-LA, they've actually been hired to collect the royalties.

      Now being the observant Reg reader that you are, you've obviously noticed the fallacy: patents are public, so MPEG-LA should damn well be able to know what is in the patents they are licensing.

  14. Joerg

    Barack Hussein Obama is a disgrace

    Along with US Democrats Left Wing party.

    What is DoJ under Obama order going to do then? Are they going to kill MPEG LA and crush the whole IT industry to defend their Google managers because now Google is to their new puppet?

    1. Spanners Silver badge
      Grenade

      When will some people realise?

      The US Democratic party is in pretty general agreement over its stances about many things with the UK Conservative party. This is the most right-wing but mainstream party in Europe!

      No, it does not show how far left the rest of the world is. In the army, you are taught that if everyone else is out of step with you you are the one that is wrong.

      No, this is not some sort of tyranny of the majority. If you call something green, but almost everyone else says it is red, you are the one that has a visual problem - not the rest of the planet.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        And that can get people killed.

        Just because everyone is charging into a known fortified position doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. Just because it doesn't occur to them to sneak around to try to flank them doesn't make it the wrong thing to do. If someone doesn't think "outside the box", someone on the other side will to potentially devastating effect.

    2. 42
      FAIL

      You can always tell a US troll

      They include Hessein in Obamas name. Its the sign of the redneck moron.

  15. etabeta
    FAIL

    Patent pool?

    They are trying to create a patent TROLL pool!

    I am sick on how the US patent office operates.

    NO to software patents.

    NO to patent trolls.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/Design/graphics/icons/comment/fail_32.png

  16. HMB

    Opera is small potatoes, not safari

    When you're a web developer you look at market share as that correlates with client visitors.

    Like it or not that means Opera is actually small potatoes (at 2%) with Safari at (5%) being Small-Medium potatoes with well over twice the share. Also since your client might have an iPhone or iPad, then your reason to do good Safari testing just went up past it's desktop market share value. Customers with money are not happy if your site doesn't work on their precious fondle slab. Those sorts of people think of fat women singing if you say Opera too.

    If something is broken in Opera because Opera didn't follow standards or there's a bug (it happens) most of the time I will just ignore it. It's not worth writing fixes for.

    (Source was gs.statcounter.com, worldwide share)

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Libya

    Could Qaddafi's fighters not leave the poor civilians alone for a few days, and go on an overseas excursion flattening MPEG-LA instead?

  18. mike panero

    Well really

    Any future codec discussion is mute, I will use Moors law to encode it on the fly after asking for the clients ID, or even cache it now, on huge hard drives say over 1TB each ( yeah in the 21st century they will be common...)

    Apart from my dominant market position I can also leverage the 1st amendment to invalidate your onerous h264 licence, plus your a cartel, plus you are using a time-limited resource; patents

    On top of all this the <video> tag is about the same as <embed>/<Object> bollocks, spawn another thread and start a shared library, no hang on I got HW support, just point the files handle at this GPU... Now who needs to pay who? ATI/AMD/NVIDA M$, umbungo or Apple?

    1. Steve Todd
      FAIL

      So much stupidity in one post

      Firstly you currently need one fairly hefty CPU to transcode HD video for one user in real time. In 3-4 years time Moors law will have brought that down to 1 CPU per every 4 users. That's still a lot of resource per user.

      Secondly industrial grade web servers that can handle more than a handful of video streams don't use cheap SATA 1TB drives. They use much faster and more flexible SAN storage which is MUCH more expensive and storing everything twice becomes an issue.

      Thirdly this isn't a 1st amendment issue. You are not prevented from saying whatever you want to say, you just can't encode it in h.264 or (probably) WebM for free. That's covered in the original constitution and prevents idiots like you selling bootleg copies of music, stealing patented ideas etc.

      Fourthly by the time these patents have expired (and we're talking 10+ years for many of them) then the state of the art will have moved on. Moors law will allow even better compression, and the techniques used will have fresh patents. As it is h.264 is a moving target. The standard keeps extending and improving, go take a look at it's history sometime.

      Finally the patents cover two things - encoding and decoding. Encoders like your transcoding website definitely have to pay. Decoders, if shipped in small volume, don't. In larger volume they do, and it doesn't matter if they get hardware assist from the chipset (AMD, NVidia etc will have payed to licence the technology they use already) so it's pretty well defined who has to pay what to use the technology. You don't get out of it that way.

      1. It wasnt me
        Thumb Up

        I agree...

        ....with everything you said. But I still had to upvote the OP for amusingly renaming the common linux distro "Umbongo".

        Made me chuckle.

  19. Don Mitchell

    Politics

    Now we will see who has the best lobbyists and political connections. Microsoft got the shaft a decade ago, because they didn't give enough money to congressmen and influential academics. I think they are still behind Google. Look at the dinner Obama had a few weeks ago in Silicon Valley, the political connections and influence of Kleiner Perkins and friends is enormous.

  20. Glen Turner 666

    MPEG-LA and its Business Review Letter

    The MPEG-LA weren't too fussed when it was On2 selling the VP8 codec. So there should be some entertainment when MPEG-LA try to explain that they are fussed now that On2 has been bought by Google and the VP8 codec and source being provided royalty-free to anyone. No wonder DoJ are taking an interest.

    There's also the question of the Business Review Letter. This is a 1997 reasoning from DoJ's Antitrust Division to MPEG-LA stating exactly where the DoJ draws the lines of anti-trust in MPEG-LA's particular activities. The MPEG-LA has been operating beyond the bounds of those activities for some time. In theory that means the view of DoJ is that MPEG-LA is breaching anti-trust laws.

    The DoJ might find the MPEG-LA's activities in attempting to form a patent pool for VP8 as a convenient moment to consider if the constraints of the Business Review Letter are being met by MPEG-LA.

  21. SAP Bod
    FAIL

    Sloppy

    Ok, let's have a look at this "patent pool organization backed by Apple, Microsoft, and others" shall we. So, who are these "others" that El Reg don't think are as important as Apple and Microsoft and fail to mention. Here's a few of the 'others' that have patents in that pool that El Reg don't think are as important (read "headline grabbing") as A & MS:

    Cisco, Fujitsu, HP, LG, NTT Docomo, Panasonic, Phillips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba and JVC.

    Ok, let's give El Reg the benefit of the doubt. Maybe Apple and MS control this evil patent pool that is being wielded against Google, by having the majority of the patents in it? Actually, no. Two of the main stakeholders are Toshiba with 341 patents and LG with 500+. By contrast MS is relatively small (around 120 patents); Others such as Sharp (87) and Samsung (60) are also in that 'middle ground'. So, that leaves the evil empire of Apple that is so beloved to El Reg - how many do they have ...... 4. Not fourteen, or forty, or four-hundred. Just 4. Even JVC has more patents than they do (5). Want to know who DOESN'T hold any patents in that pool ....... Google.

    For anyone who's really interested (not many I bet) here's the list of patents and owners for the H264 pool :

    http://www.mpegla.com/main/programs/AVC/Pages/PatentList.aspx

    I did want to count them all and list them but I couldn't be bothered; I'm not getting paid for my sloppy journalism.

    1. hexx

      no point

      I already put this link several times, nobody wants know that. ppl are like sheep. of course, who would click on the article if it doesn't have ms or apple in the headline? nobody.

    2. Tom 13

      The long list of contributors and the relative size of their pools

      is largely irrelevant to an informed reader. If you are a player in the business the business reason for your contribution to the patent pool is so you can avoid having to pay/being sued by all the other patent holders in the IP snake pit. What makes Google's current offering different is that they aren't trying to be the biggest snake in the pit, they're trying to clean out the whole damn thing. So that sort of make this a Giant Scorpion Death Match.

  22. Wang N Staines

    LOL

    H.26L and H.264 ... They can't even bothered to rename their version properly.

    These guys are eejits.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Yawn...

    Boring...

    "MPEG-LA licenses the competing H.264 codec on behalf of Apple, Microsoft, and many other patent holders. Apple and Microsoft use H.264 for HTML5 video in their Safari and Internet Explorer browser's, while Google, Mozilla, and Opera use VP8. Mozilla and Opera have said they will not use H.264 because it's encumbered by licensing fees."

    Capitalism holds back production...yawn...what's new...it is obviously anti-human in it's nature...yawn...totally beyond me why so many folks support it....weird...

  24. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Some confusion here

    Our esteemed scribe seems to unclear about the difference between V8 (a JavaScript engine) and VP8 (a video codec). Okay, so they're both Google products, start with "V" and end in "8", but come on...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And here I though V8 was

      a tomato based vegetable juice you could drink instead of eating your veggies.

  25. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Patents and the cost of IE

    "Maybe they should also be looking at how Google is undermining HTML5 video"

    Simple: They are not. H.264 is patent-encumbered and royalty-encumbered; VP8 is attempted to be patent and royalty free. This does not undermine HTML5, it makes it so the video tag can be implemented by anyone instead of anyone with deep pockets.

    "if IE isn't free how come you can download it for free....just because it is already installed doesn't make it paid for."

    I can't download and use it for free. The license terms say, right up top:

    "Microsoft Corporation (or based on where you live, one of its affiliates) licenses this supplement to you. If you are licensed to use Microsoft Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003, or Windows Server 2008 software (for which this supplement is applicable) (the "software"), you may use this supplement. You may not use it if you do not have a license for the software. You may use this supplement with each validly licensed copy of the software."

    I didn't pay for Windows, I'm not running Windows, so I'm not licensed to run IE. You paid for IE when you bought XP, Vista, 2003 server or 2008 server (and IE8 is a supplement to replace the version of IE you paid for with a newer one). (This particular license was from IE8, Windows 7 is not listed because IE8 is already bundled with it instead of being a supplement.)

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      And don't say MacOS, either...

      ...because Microsoft killed IE on Mac eight years ago. IE is only available on Windows platforms, which means you have to "buy in".

  26. cs94njw
    FAIL

    Patent free? Nothing is patent free

    Nothing is patent free. With all the good work that the US PTO is doing, everything has been patented, probably multiple times, and covering things like going to the loo, filling your car with petrol, and scratching your head.

    These days - it's a game of Top Trumps to see whose patents are bigger than the next man's.

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