back to article Google, MPEG LA kiss and make up in WebM patent spat

Google and the MPEG LA licensing body have announced that they have reached a licensing agreement for patents related to the Chocolate Factory's WebM streaming media technology, clearing the cloud of potential litigation that has loomed over the format for more than two years. At issue was VP8, the codec used for the video …


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  1. Ray Simard

    What is MPEG-LA's take-away?

    It's not clear from this what MPEG-LA is getting in exchange for its relaxing of its threats. In particular, I'd like to know what this bodes for the openness and royalty-freedom WebM currently enjoys, following from which if we're going to find ourselves back in the (possible) realm of being forced, if not now then eventually, to include closed-source elements in players to handle any or all WebM content.

    1. ThomH Silver badge

      Re: What is MPEG-LA's take-away?

      It's always possible that Google paid for a simple perpetual licence, especially if the patents the MPEG LA found didn't add up to a particularly strong collection. VP8 was bought and open sourced so it doesn't seem too much of a stretch to think Google might just say 'okay, so it'll have cost us slightly more than we thought' .

      Alternatively, maybe Google's counter-attack patent collection twisted the MPEG LA's arm? They've got a commercial interest in keeping their H.264 patent pool customers happy.

      1. Fatman Silver badge

        Re: maybe Google's counter-attack patent collection twisted the MPEG LA's arm

        One could actually hope that the achieved effect was to twist off MPEG-LA's balls.

    2. Mike Dimmick

      Re: What is MPEG-LA's take-away?

      It means that Google have acknowledged that it *does* (potentially) infringe on a number of patents that MPEG-LA administer for their respective holders, and that they have agreed a royalty to be paid by Google for all copies. The patent owners aren't going to give it away for free, and I imagine MPEG LA have inserted themselves in between Google and the patent owners and will get administration fees.

      The bit about 'MPEG LA will discontinue its effort to form a VP8 patent pool' just means that they have agreed that Google will manage the licensing of these patents. MPEG LA try to be a one-stop shop for patents for other video- and audio-encoding technologies, but there is no guarantee that they have signed up all holders of patents essential to those technologies, and no guarantee that Google will manage it for VP8 either.

      The WebM project site license is very careful to state that it only grants a royalty-free licence to Google's patents, and patents acquired by Google, that are licensable by Google. There is still a possibility that someone else out there, not a company whose patents are managed by MPEG LA, will claim that a patent of theirs is infringed by VP8. As, indeed, Google are doing with H.264.

      Because VP8 is not a product of a large standards organization, patents are not required to be licensed on Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory terms. IEC, ISO and ITU's patent policies require that any contributor to a standard licences any patents on FRAND terms, though the meaning of FRAND is left undefined. W3C has a stronger requirement, that all patents covering a W3C specification must be royalty-free. That leaves them with a conundrum: they can't mandate support for any video encoding in HTML5 because no-one contributing to the standard will - or can - make that guarantee.

  2. ThomH Silver badge

    "one next-generation VPx video codec" is the most important part

    Bringing VP8 to market years after H.264, without adequate hardware acceleration and so as to cause uncertain legal liabilities for implementors doomed it. Google's only hope is to trump H.265 before it sees wide adoption, though even then chances are unlikely because it's pretty much a guarantee that H.265 will be used for 4k and 8k transmission standards so it's more or less guaranteed to be easy to find silicon for.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "one next-generation VPx video codec" is the most important part

      >without adequate hardware acceleration and so as to cause uncertain legal liabilities for implementors doomed it.

      No-one was in a particular rush, not quite the same as doomed - forthcoming crop of Samsung TV appliances do h/w acceleration for You Tube - and you can watch a number of vp8'ed fat ladies singing in 1080p on the new LGs Smart TVs now.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google should have....

    Google should have spent some money making sample videos in VP8, and the sat down with the CEOs of the various entities in the MPEG-LA and shown them the samples:

    Google: Look, let us show you this sample video, which we think will help you understand this isn't covered under your patents.

    MPEG-LA member: HRMPH! You can't.... wait. that's

    Google: yes, your mistress. She has good wrist action with that whip, I must say.

    MPEG-LA member: That blackmail! wait - that's

    Google: Yes, a view of you exiting your car at your executive parking spot. Nevermind the cross-hairs. Say, there's a lot of tall buildings with uninterrupted sight-lines and clear escape routes around there, as this Google Maps view shows.

    MPEG-LA member: And thats

    Google: Ah, yes, our demonstration of text compression. Your Cayman islands accounts, I believe. And that's your last tax filing, showing where the Caymans should have been listed.

    MPEG-LA: I think you are right - there are no patents covering your code.

    (ah well, a man can day-dream, can't he?)

    1. Desidero

      Re: Google should have....

      Street view? Without the smudgy pixelated naughty bits?

      (the penguin, because all we're asking for is "open source" so we can do some bits twiddling & twaddling)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Google should have....

      "(ah well, a man can day-dream, can't he?)"

      Yes, a crazy man who dreams about blackmailing and threatening to kill people over the licensing terms for a video codec...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Die now, please.

  5. Paul Shirley

    hope we see the license deal

    We can only hope the ongoing MS+Apple v Motorola+Google fight leads to MPEG LA being forced to reveal the licence terms, the same way they were forced to reveal Googles H264 licence. Not very likely though.

    If it were anyone but Google I'd assume they'd just done the expedient thing of licensing regardless of the merits of MPEG LAs claims, to cut at least 3 years of damaging delay while grinding through the courts. Invalidating patents is neither cheap or quick sadly.

    But it is Google and they don't normally roll over like that. I'd like to believe MPEG LA found just enough to cause problems but not enough to make Google worry or fight a cheap/free license. More realistically it's the shitty US patent regime and simply impossible to create anything new without patent challenges, however hard you try.

  6. Peter Galbavy

    whatever happened to the BBCs Dirac?

    Well, the BBC claimed it was patent free and open. Then, even with the advances in hardware mostly negating the performance overhead of encoding, they completely failed to use it in-house or promote it. Our tax money (yes, the TV license is a tax in all but name) not at work.

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