EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

05.26.10

WebM/VP8 is Not Open Source

Posted in Apple, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Patents at 4:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Based on years of conversations, I am convinced that part of the cause of the problem is the tendency to call the system Linux rather than GNU, and describe it as open source rather than free software.”

Richard Stallman

Summary: MPEG-LA/H.264, Apple, and Microsoft appear to be the only prominent opponents of WebM/VP8; The OSI explains why Google needs to refine the licence

PERHAPS we congratulated Google a little prematurely [1, 2]. There are improvements to be made to Google’s unusual licence, but first, let’s look at the good sides of VP8.

Joe Brockmeier is optimistic about Google’s WebM, Adobe added support for VP8 and Moovida’s support of VP8 is mentioned by Martin Kaba, not to mention Opera’s support (Opera was also a major backer of Ogg).

Looking for a media player to playback your videos converted to open WebM with Miro Video Converter, then grab Moovida media player. Open Source Moovida media player formerly known as Elisa is one of the first media players to boast support of the open source VP8 codec.

There is already fairly widespread support for VP8.

A browser that supports WebM content isn’t much use if there’s no WebM content to play, and Google has that covered too. Anyone opting into YouTube’s HTML5 front-end will be able to use WebM for video playback by appending “&webm=1″ to the URL.

The exceptions, as expected, are Apple and Microsoft, not to mention MPEG-LA. IDG puts it like this:

Google faces off against Microsoft, Apple over Web video standard

[...]

“We now have a great format for video,” added Hakon Wium Lie, Opera’s chief technology officer. “We all have video cameras in our pockets. Let’s use them, let’s back WebM.”

“Microsoft tepid in its support for Google’s WebM video plan,” say Microsoft bloggers as Microsoft promotes H.264 and other problematic codecs.

I’ve been using Real Alternative for years. It works well and is 100% transparent, that is, it doesn’t bug you about anything, ever. It just registers itself as a DirectShow filter (Microsoft-speak for a codec) and with your browsers, then decodes virtually any Real Media file ever created. It’s good enough that I haven’t even considered installing RealPlayer in years.

From South Africa we have:

Unsurprisingly, Apple and Microsoft are among the companies licensing the use of H.264, so stand to make money, and lots of it if the format is widely adopted.

The only other competitor to H.264, until a couple of days ago, was Theora, an open source format favoured by Mozilla, Google and Opera. But the chances of Theora succeeding have always seemed very slim, particularly as Jobs has already made it clear that Apple was looking at hitting Theora hard with patent suits.

Apple and Microsoft have also made it very clear that they wouldn’t be supporting Theora in their future browser releases.

Other competitors of VP8 are spreading FUD, some of which is worth attention. There is another new comparison between VP8 and H.264:

VP8 is now free, but if the quality is substandard, who cares? Well, it turns out that the quality isn’t substandard, so that’s not an issue, but neither is it twice the quality of H.264 at half the bandwidth. See for yourself, below.

To set the table, Sorenson Media was kind enough to encode these comparison files for me to both H.264 and VP8 using their Squish encoding tool. They encoded a standard SD encoding test file that I’ve been using for years. I’ll do more testing once I have access to a VP8 encoder, but wanted to share these quick and dirty results.

Diego’s latest rant is actually not much of a rant. He addresses the alleged FUD that’s mentioned above.

Now, Dark Shikari of x264 fame dissected the codec and in part the file format; his words are – not unexpectedly, especially for those who know him – quite harsh, but as Mike put it “This open sourcing event has legs.”

Perhaps the only real disappointment is that VP8/WebM is not Open Source, according to Michael Tiemann (OSI). Was it too good to be true?

This note from Apple was like a rabid dog barking at the pound, for it seemed to set off a flurry of patent-rattling from all corners, with Microsoft quickly claiming that Salesforce.com infringed nine of their patents, Nokia claiming that Apple infringed 5 more of its patents, HTC getting into the fray, etc.

And then along comes Google. And instead of piling on to this patent suit scrum, they offer immunity instead. Which is astonishing.

I have to give some props to the FSF for asking for precisely what Google seems to have decided to do. They wrote an open letter asking Google to free VP8 and use it on YouTube. The bigger part of that decision now seems to have been effected. Which, to use the FSF’s own adjective, is amazing. And cause for both gratitude and celebration.

And of course this is not the end of the story, but the beginning. The license Google wrote for VP8 smacks of OSD goodness, but it has not yet been submitted to the OSI for approval. Should the OSI approve yet another license? Should the OSI treat a patent grant attached to a license we’ve already approved as two separate items, a patent grant (which is great) and a license we’ve already approved? Clearly Google is trying to do the right thing. We are trying to do the right thing. What remains to be seen is whether the H.264 are going to do the right thing and offer all their patents as required by the Open Standards Requirements (OSR) or whether Apple will do the right thing and defend, rather than attack, the open source community and its right to enjoy watching a movie on the laptop of their choice.

Simon Phipps (OSI) also has a problem with that licence and in IDG he writes:

The announcement last week at Google IO of the creation of the WebM project and the release of the VP8 codec was a positive and welcome development, finally offering an alternative for online media to the royalty-liable H.264 and to Theora. WebM arises from Google’s purchase of ON2 last year and had been widely anticipated

Google did their homework, securing endorsements from competing browser vendors Opera and Mozilla and even from Adobe (possibly in exchange for Google’s endorsement of Flash on their TV platform) and, weakly, from Microsoft. The parade is now in full swing, and we can expect many more announcements of support like the one from the Miro Project. Only Apple was painfully absent, pushing the Google-Apple tension further into the spotlight

[...]

Despite their claims that WebM was been checked for patent risks when ON2 was acquired, Google has neither made its research available nor does it offer a patent indemnity. Google has expressed extreme confidence in the patent safety of WebM, yet has failed to create a patent pool with its other endorsers and grant free and indemnified licenses to WebM contributors.

That means the path is open for those hostile to digital liberty, such as the MPEG-LA licensing cartel, to ‘tax’ VP8 users – they have already declared an intent to do so. Google should rapidly create “WebM-LA” with $0 licensing terms for those willing to commit to digital liberty.

This was also covered by The H:

According to OSI board member Simon Phipps, the VP8 codec, which Google released last week as part of the WebM project, is “not currently open source”. In a blog posting, Phipps notes that the licence used by Google has not been submitted to the Open Source Initiative (OSI) for approval and that it “possibly can’t be approved”. The problem is that although the licence Google uses for VP8 is based on the Apache licence, it includes a “field of use” restriction in the patent grant section which is limited to “this implementation of VP8″.

Matthew Aslett wrote about the subject and heard back from Bruce Perens, who argued: “It really isn’t an open source license, due to an unfortunate word choice in the patent grant language, which is the main chance from the BSD-style license they started with. If you modify the VP8 implementation, you become a patent infringer.”

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

5 Comments

  1. David Gerard said,

    May 26, 2010 at 6:09 am

    Gravatar

    It’s not OSI certified Open Source(tm) because they haven’t taken run the licence past the OSI (yet?).

    However, the Free Software Foundation happily calls it Free Software:

    http://www.fsf.org/news/free-software-foundation-statement-on-webm-and-vp8

    Trademarks and patents are of course problematic (hence Iceweasel), but don’t make free software into non-free software.

    We do need an organisation something like the OSI. It would help if whatever that organisation was would, e.g., remember its registration paperwork and not spend a large chunk of 2009 with corporate status “suspended” … but anyway.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Yes, I noticed the FSF vs OSI situation and in the summary I wrote: “The OSI explains why Google needs to refine the licence” (we should also take quite seriously the words of Bruce Perens, who actually insisted that OSI should be Microsoft-free).

    David Gerard Reply:

    It would be good if Google considered OSI was worth running the licence past. I’m entirely unconvinced Simon Phipps’ piece (shouting at them with a misleading headline then complaining the patent grant isn’t sufficiently extensive) is going to help this happen.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    What about Michael’s piece? Or Perens?

    David Gerard Reply:

    I suppose we’ll see if they inspire Google to bother talking to OSI.

What Else is New


  1. Links 26/4/2017: SMPlayer 17.4.2, Libreboot Wants to Rejoin GNU

    Links for the day



  2. PatentShield is Not the Solution and It Won't Protect Google/Android From Patent Trolls Like Microsoft's

    A new initiative called "PatentShield" is launched, but it's yet another one of those many initiatives (Peer-to-Patent and the likes of it, LOT Network, OIN, PAX etc.) that serve to distract from the real and much simpler solutions



  3. Patent Quality Crisis and Unprecedented Trouble at the European Patent Office (EPO) Negatively Affect Legitimate Companies in the US As Well

    The granting en masse of questionable patents by the EPO (patent maximalism) is becoming a liability and growing risk to companies which operate not only in Europe but also elsewhere



  4. Blog 'Takeovers' by Bristows and Then Censorship: Now This Firm Lies About the Unitary Patent (UPC) and Then Deletes Comments That Point Out the Errors

    Not only are Bristows employees grabbing the mic in various high-profile IP blogs for the purpose of UPC promotion (by distortion of facts); they also actively suppress critics of the UPC



  5. Links 25/4/2017: Kali Linux 2017.1 Released, NSA Back Doors in Windows Cause Chaos

    Links for the day



  6. Astoundingly, IP Kat Has Become a Leading Source of UPC and Battistelli Propaganda

    The pro-UPC outlets, which enjoy EPO budget (i.e. stakeholders' money), are becoming mere amplifiers of Benoît Battistelli and his right-hand UPC woman Margot Fröhlinger, irrespective of actual facts



  7. EPO Fiasco to be Discussed in German Local Authority (Bavarian Parliament) Some Time Today as the Institution Continues Its Avoidable Collapse

    Conflict between management and staff -- a result of truly destructive strategies and violations of the law by Benoît Battistelli -- continues to escalate and threatens to altogether dismantle the European Patent Office (EPO)



  8. In the US and Elsewhere, Qualcomm's Software Patents Are a Significant Tax Everyone Must Pay

    The state of the mobile market when companies such as Qualcomm, which don't really produce anything, take a large piece of the revenue pie



  9. In South Asia, Old Myths to Promote Patent Maximalism, Courtesy of the Patent Microcosm

    The latest example of software patents advocacy and patent 'parades' in India, as well as something from IPOS in Singapore



  10. Links 24/4/2017: Linux 4.11 RC8, MPV 0.25

    Links for the day



  11. Why Authorities in the Netherlands Need to Strip the EPO of Immunity and Investigate Fire Safety Violations

    How intimidation and crackdown on the staff representatives at the EPO may have led to lack of awareness (and action) about lack of compliance with fire safety standards



  12. Insensitivity at the EPO’s Management – Part IX: Testament to the Fear of an Autocratic Regime

    A return to the crucial observation and a reminder of the fact that at the EPO it takes great courage to say the truth nowadays



  13. For the Fordham Echo Chamber (Patent Maximalism), Judges From the EPO Boards of Appeal Are Not Worth Entertaining

    In an event steered if not stuffed by patent radicals such as Bristows and Microsoft (abusive, serial litigators) there are no balanced panels or even reasonable discussions



  14. EPO Staff Representatives Fired Using “Disciplinary Committee That Was Improperly Composed” as Per ILO's Decision

    The Board of the Administrative Council at European Patent Organisation is being informed of the union-busting activities of Battistelli -- activities that are both illegal (as per national and international standards) and are detrimental to the Organisation



  15. Links 23/4/2017: End of arkOS, Collabora Office 5.3 Released

    Links for the day



  16. Intellectual Discovery and Microsoft Feed Patent Trolls Like Intellectual Ventures Which Then Strategically Attack Rivals

    Like a swarm of blood-sucking bats, patent trolls prey on affluent companies that derive their wealth from GNU/Linux and freedom-respecting software (Free/libre software)



  17. The European Patent Office Has Just Killed a Cat (or Skinned a 'Kat')

    The EPO’s attack on the media, including us, resulted in a stream of misinformation and puff pieces about the EPO and UPC, putting at risk not just European democracy but also corrupting the European press



  18. Yann Ménière Resorts to Buzzwords to Recklessly Promote Floods of Patents, Dooming the EPO Amid Decline in Patent Applications

    Battistelli's French Chief Economist is not much of an economist but a patent maximalist toeing the party line of Monsieur Battistelli (lots of easy grants and litigation galore, for UPC hopefuls)



  19. Even Patent Bullies Like Microsoft and Facebook Find the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) Useful

    Not just companies accused of patent infringement need the PTAB but also frequent accusers with deep pockets need the PTAB, based on some new figures and new developments



  20. Links 21/4/2017: Qt Creator 4.2.2, ROSA Desktop Fresh R9

    Links for the day



  21. At the EPO, Seeding of Puff Piece in the Press/Academia Sometimes Transparent Enough to View

    The EPO‘s PR team likes to 'spam' journalists and others (for PR) and sometimes does this publicly, as the tweets below show — a desperate recruitment and reputation laundering drive



  22. Affordable and Sophisticated Mobile Devices Are Kept Away by Patent Trolls and Aggressors That Tax Everything

    The war against commoditisation of mobile computing has turned a potentially thriving market with fast innovation rates into a war zone full of patent trolls (sometimes suing at the behest of large companies that hand them patents for this purpose)



  23. In Spite of Lobbying and Endless Attempts by the Patent Microcosm, US Supreme Court Won't Consider Any Software Patent Cases Anymore (in the Foreseeable Future)

    Lobbyists of software patents, i.e. proponents of endless litigation and patent trolls, are attempting to convince the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) to have another look at abstract patents and reconsider its position on cases like Alice Corp. v CLS Bank International



  24. Expect Team UPC to Remain in Deep Denial About the Unitary Patent/Unified Court (UPC) Having No Prospects

    The prevailing denial that the UPC is effectively dead, courtesy of sites and blogs whose writers stood to profit from the UPC



  25. EPO in 2017: Erroneously Grant a Lot of Patents in Bulk or Get Sacked

    Quality of patent examination is being abandoned at the EPO and those who disobey or refuse to play along are being fired (or asked to resign to avoid forced resignations which would stain their record)



  26. Links 21/4/2017: System76 Entering Phase Three, KDE Applications 17.04, Elive 2.9.0 Beta

    Links for the day



  27. Bristows-Run IP Kat Continues to Spread Lies to Promote the Unitary Patent (UPC) and Advance the EPO Management's Agenda

    An eclectic response to some of the misleading if not villainous responses to the UPC's death knell in the UK, as well as other noteworthy observations about think tanks and misinformation whose purpose is to warp the patent system so that it serves law firms, for the most part at the expense of science and technology



  28. Links 20/4/2017: Tor Browser 6.5.2, PacketFence 7.0, New Firefox and Chrome

    Links for the day



  29. Patents on Business Methods and Software Are Collapsing, But the Patent Microcosm is Working Hard to Change That

    The never-ending battle over patent law, where those who are in the business of patents push for endless patenting, is still ongoing and resistance/opposition is needed from those who actually produce things (other than litigation) or else they will be perpetually taxed by parasites



  30. IAM, the Patent Trolls' Voice, is Trying to Deny There is a Growing Trolling Problem in Europe

    IAM Media (the EPO's and trolls' mouthpiece) continues a rather disturbing pattern of propaganda dressed up as "news", promoting the agenda of parasites who drain the economy by extortion of legitimate (producing) companies


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts