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08.26.10

MPEG-LA Offers ‘Free’ Drugs (Read the Fine Print)

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Google, Patents at 7:33 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Dutch weed

Summary: A new trap from MPEG-LA is intended to lure people into its patents treadmill which never stops and perpetually helps MPEG-LA harm Free software like Mozilla Firefox

MPEG-LA is essentially a patent troll and a taxman, for reasons we explained in posts such as:

Having come under competitive pressure from Google et al. (some new benchmarks show H.264 to be inferior to WebM), the troll responds with what seems promising unless one thinks of the long-term implications: [via]

The MPEG Licensing Association—the group responsible for handling the necessary patent licensing for use of MPEG video codec standards—has announced that it will not charge royalties for AVC/H.264 encoded video that is made available to view via the Internet for free. The group earlier this year had extended its limited moratorium on licensing fees for free Internet video until the end of 2015.

This does not apply to all uses and it is not permanent, either. MPEG-LA wants people to stay stuck on the H.26x treadmill and upgrade to the next version every now and then, thus losing privileges and falling prey to new software patents which take even longer to expire (while data is held hostage through codecs). We liken it to drugs because although people know they are bad for one’s health, some people might be tempted to use them once legalised. Do not be tempted by the offer from MPEG-LA, whose CEO is also a patent troll. This is a very malicious and aggressive group. Here is what The H has to add as background:

A previous plan to impose licensing fees for free web services streaming video content, following the end of H.264′s first licensing period on the 1st of January 2011, had been shelved. In February of this year patent holders represented by MPEG LA had extended this period to the 31st of December 2015.

However, in May, Google purchased codec specialist On2 Technologies and published the VP8 video codec under an irrevocable, license fee-free open source licence and founded the WebM project in conjunction with Mozilla, Opera, Adobe and 40 other companies, with the aim of creating a license and patent fee-free web video standard.

The only good thing about this news from MPEG-LA is that it shows MPEG-LA got scared. WebM must really be a promising project, at least for use on the Web over the next few years.

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