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05.19.10

EU: NoSoftwarePatents and FFII Respond to Google’s VP8 Announcement

Posted in Apple, Europe, Google, Microsoft, Patents at 2:35 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Camcorder in hands

Summary: Initial announcement, interpretation, and comments about the good news from Google

WITH Microsoft and Apple opposing Theora, while Google insinuated that it would support Free software, the following announcement from Google was inevitable and expected. VP8 is being liberated and regardless of the consequences (for Theora, for example), it is good news which is welcomed by opposers of software patents. Techrights too would like to thank Google (more detailed coverage coming soon).

For background, see:

Florian Müller has just mailed us some quick comments regarding Google’s WebM codec initiative and patents. He writes:

As the founder of the European NoSoftwarePatents campaign and author of the FOSS Patents blog http://fosspatents.blogspot.com (covering open source patent topics), I have some quick comment for you concerning Google’s unveiling of the WebM “open web media project” http://www.webmproject.org, which was announced today:

“Google says it holds certain patents on the VP8 video codec that is part of WebM but there’s no assurance that Google’s patents are the only patents required. What about patents that third parties could assert? While it appears to be a nice gesture if a major player releases software on open source terms, it’s imperative to perform a well-documented patent clearance.”

“Developers should be provided with detailed explanations why Google believes that no one adopting WebM will have to fear allegations of patent infringement. Otherwise those developers might be exposed to a considerable risk. It wouldn’t be possible to check on millions of different patents but at the very least I think Google should look at the patents held by the MPEG LA pool as well as patents held by some well-known ‘trolls’ and explain why those aren’t infringed. Programmers have a right to get that information so they can make an informed decision for themselves whether to take that risk or not.

“It’s not unreasonable to ask Google to perform a well-documented patent clearance because they certainly have the resources in place while most open source developers don’t.”

“The situation surrounding Android shows that Google might opt to stand on the sidelines if those adopting its open source technologies — such as HTC — are sued by patent holders. I can’t find any promise on the WebM website that Google would come to the aid of third parties adopting the technology, so Google should at least help everyone to assess the risk.”

“We all know Steve Jobs’ recent email in which he said a patent pool was being assembled to go after open source codecs. So the patent question is really a critical one.”

I have previously called for this kind of patent clearance, in connection with the open source Theora codec as well as with VP8, on my blog, such as in this post:

http://fosspatents.blogspot.com/2010/05/…

About an hour ago, the FFII also released the following statement.


FFII welcomes Google’s move to open VP8 video format

Berlin, May 19th 2010 — Today Google announced it would make the VP8 codec open source and royalty-free as part of their WebM project. The codec is on par with other video codecs for high video quality and can be used in the emerging HTML5 web standard for playing video content natively in a web browser. HTML5, the VP8 video codec and Vorbis audio codec are open standards and thus require no royalty-bearing patents license.

“The web is based on open standards, a patent-unencumbered world, allowing developers to create applications without patent toll gates”, explains FFII board member Stephan Uhlmann. “We are happy to see Google use its market force to keep the web open.”

“In the Web openness always prevails.”
      –André Rebentisch
The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) had called on the company behind the video site Youtube to support a patent free video codec for the upcoming HTML5 technology. The video codec VP8 was acquired by Google together with On2 technologies.

HTML5 will be the next generation of the world wide web, but the standard has been delayed by a clash over streaming video patent licensing conditions. In a controversial move Microsoft and Apple indicated they would support the H.264 video codec only, which is encumbered by more than 1000 patents.

“Support for the VP8 video codec by their popular web browsers Internet Explorer and Safari is only a matter of time”, says FFII board member André Rebentisch. “In the Web openness always prevails”.

Links

FFII call to support open video fromats in HTML5
http://press.ffii.org/Press…

The WebM project: high-quality, open video format for the web

http://www.webmproject.org/

FFII Open Standards Working Group

http://action.ffii.org/openstandards

Permanent link to this press release:
http://press.ffii.org/Press…

Contact

FFII Office Berlin
Malmöer Str. 6
D-10439 Berlin
Fon: +49-30-41722597
Fax Service: +49-721-509663769
Email: office (at) ffii.org
http://www.ffii.org/

About FFII

The FFII is a not-for-profit association registered in twenty European countries, dedicated to the development of information goods for the public benefit, based on copyright, free competition, open standards. More than 1000 members, 3,500 companies and 100,000 supporters have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions concerning exclusion rights (intellectual property) in data processing.

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6 Comments

  1. David Gerard said,

    May 19, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Gravatar

    The consequences for Theora don’t really matter – you can be sure Xiph will be shouting “WOO HOO!”, throwing their hats in the air and preparing to tweak the heck out of the encoder, as they did for VP3, to make it as absolutely good as possible.

    Everyone at Wikimedia is also very pleased :-) I don’t think .webm uploads have been enabled yet.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    It’s important to see what happens in YouTube/Google Video. Most of the Web’s video streaming take place there (about 2 billion views per day).

    David Gerard Reply:

    YouTube are progressively making *everything* available in VP8.

    Greg Maxwell advises caution before going live with it (there’s a possibly-exploitable bug in the released code dump): http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/foundation-l/2010-May/058558.html – but wants people experimenting with the code and kicking the tyres.

    x264 aren’t very impressed: http://x264dev.multimedia.cx/?p=377

    But Greg says VP3 was pretty bad when first code-dumped, and thinks x264 is wrong on their patent concerns: http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikitech-l/2010-May/047795.html

    In any case – interesting times!

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Interestingly, Ogg developers are delighted. I’ll write about this tonight (long post).

    David Gerard Reply:

    Greg is one of those developers. Told you they’d be shouting “WOO HOO!”

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Monty is the one I read about.

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