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03.04.11

US Justice Department Takes on the MPEG Cartel as IBM Distances Itself From Cartel Defenders

Posted in Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Patents, Standard at 10:13 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

MPEG LA logo

Summary: The perils of cartels orbiting around multimedia formats are recognised by the federal government and an IBM senior slams the BSA

The MPEG cartel is a subject we wrote about extensively, especially last year, e.g. in:

According to Murdoch’s press, there is federal action against this cartel, which also includes Microsoft and Apple. An “interesting development” British journalist Glyn Moody calls it and his colleague says that the “US Justice Department [is] reportedly investigating MPEG LA over VP8 threats”:

The US Justice Department is reportedly studying whether attempts by owners of the H.264 video patent pool to find out whether Google’s free and open-source VP8 codec infringes their patents are unfair.

It has opened an antitrust probe to find out whether the MPEG LA group or its members are trying to stifle the alternative format, which Google is pushing as a cost-free alternative for video on the web, according to the Wall Street Journal.

As a reminder, the BSA too is currently lobbying in favour of the likes of MPEG-LA in the UK [1, 2] and IBM’s Rob Weir says he’s proud IBM is not associated with the BSA (it was dumped by IBM recently). To quote Weir:

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) is at it again. They are claiming that new UK Cabinet Office policy in favor of open standards — the kind of standards that the web is built on and which has created billions in new economy jobs – is actually a bad thing, since it would (according to the BSA), “reduce choice, hinder innovation and increase the costs of e-government”.

Really? Are they serious?

Those with a penchant for the history of economic thought may recall the 19th century French liberal economist Claude Frédéric Bastiat, and his satirical economic parables, which attacked prevalent economic errors of his time. We have need of Bastiat at this hour, especially his skewering of an entrenched industry’s rent-seeking tendency to push for government protection from lower cost competitors. His attack on protectionism was called “The Candlemaker’s Petition“…

See the rest of the details in Weir’s blog. It’s like OOXML all over again (with Candlemaker rather than broken windows, bridges, or light bulbs this time around).

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