Audio-video is a domain of computer science plagued by thickets of software patents.
Is all video development blocked?
When explaining why Google were not supporting the patent-free Ogg Theora codec, Chris DiBona replied "here's the challenge: Can theora move forward without infringing on the other video compression patents?"
Patent licensing group MPEG LA have made vague, unsubstantiated claims about that all video formats infringe their patents:
no one in the market should be under the misimpression that other codecs such as Theora are patent-free. Virtually all codecs are based on patented technology, and many of the essential patents may be the same as those that are essential to AVC/H.264. Therefore, users should be aware that a license and payment of applicable royalties is likely required to use these technologies developed by others, too. MPEG LA would consider offering on additional licenses that would make these rights conveniently available to the market under a single license as an alternative to negotiating separate licenses with individual patent holders.
Making innovation commercially disadvantageous
A second alternative would be the reference, as a baseline, of older media compression standards, of which one can be reasonably sure that related patents are expired (or are close to expiration). One example for these codecs is ITU-T Rec. H.261, which (in its first version) was ratified in November 1988. While not competitive with today’s state of the art codecs, it’s in the author’s personal experience not that far in its performance from [...] The disadvantage of this approach is clearly the use of technologies that are two decades old, but that may be at least partly offset by the commercial advantage.
So, due to software patents, Nokia sees a commercial advantage in using technology from 20 years ago.
Related pages on en.swpat.org
- MPEG LA - which blocks use of H.264
- Harm to standards
- Real Media - audio and video formats with patent problems
- Ogg Theora
- WebM and VP8
- List of recordings and transcripts
- Why consumer organisations should be involved
- Video formats from 20 years ago
- Example software patents
- 180 German police perform raid regarding software patents, 7 Mar 2008, The Reg
- gnu.org: Why audio format matters, gnu.org
- HTML5 video and codecs, and Video, Freedom And Mozilla, Jan 2010, Mozilla Foundation
- Let’s Get Video on Wikipedia! - campaign launched by Open Video Alliance
- Rob Savoye, at the end of a Gnash talk, mentions a CodecPatents project (the project has a placeholder website)
- One of the relevant patents: US5,214,678 (relevant to what??)
- Play Ogg!, FSF, a campaign to avoid H.264 by using the Ogg audio and video formats
- No, you can’t do that with H.264, 2 Feb 2010, Ben Schwartz
Difficulty of developing players
- Does FFmpeg infringe patents? We don't know
- Videolan: VideoLAN is seriously threatened by software patents...
- Ubuntu forum discussion about whether and how ffmpeg can be distributed
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