MPEG LA: free H.264 videos streams royalty-free forever

By on August 27, 2010, 7:30 AM
Folks questioning the future of H.264 can rest easy. MPEG LA announced today that it has no plans to charge royalties for videos shared freely online -- ever. The codec has been free to use for years under certain conditions, and MPEG LA's agreed not to charge free videos until December 31, 2015, after which it was unclear what the situation would be.

Naturally, with services like YouTube using the format, many wondered whether they'd eventually have to shell out massive royalties to MPEG LA, a consortium of 26 industry titans, including Apple, Microsoft, LG, Sony and others. Mozilla CEO John Lilly was among the skeptics, saying the previous terms were "like 5 more years of free to lock you in [forever]."

Given those concerns -- and the growing support for Google's open alternative, WebM -- MPEG LA has permitted the royalty-free distribution of non-paid streams using H.264 for eternity. Or so they say.




User Comments: 8

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Staff
Jesse Jesse said:

This article is confusing.When you write ..."MPEG LA's agreed not to charge free videos until December 31, 2015, after which it was unclear what the situation would be. " it doesn't sound like its going to be free forever, as the title suggests.

Do you mean to say that they used to state it would be free until 12/31/15 but now they have dropped that date and will never charge?

Regenweald said:

I still think they should stick to, and continue to develop WebM, because with this one, we know for sure.

Staff
Rick Rick, TechSpot Staff, said:

This article is confusing.When you write ..."MPEG LA's agreed not to charge free videos until December 31, 2015, after which it was unclear what the situation would be. " it doesn't sound like its going to be free forever, as the title suggests.

I interpreted this as a past agreement, one which has been replaced by a new, 'free forever' agreement.

unrealmp3 unrealmp3 said:

It will be royalty-free until they say otherwise later.

MrAnderson said:

This does seem like a trick to lock people in.

If the open option is to gain the market share, browsers and popular plugins need to distribute the codec and keep it simple as possible to download and use. So I guess Firefox, Chrome, possibly Opera will include the codec if Apple and Microsoft will just support it but stipulate that the codec must be present (I only recall MS making that statement).

Guest said:

Apple has a vested interest in H.264 and already uses it extensively. They have not given any indication that they will adopt WebM.

Microsoft, on the other hand, has stated that IE9 will support both H.264 and WebM.

Google Chrome will support H.264, but it mainly champions WebM (for obvious reasons).

Opera and Mozilla Firefox only support WebM, though it was understandable in Firefox's case; since H.264 was proprietary and definitely not free, it simply couldn't afford the licensing costs for its user base. With H.264 now being royalty-free, Mozilla has only two main concerns: whether H.264 will still be relevant several years down the line, and whether its proprietary (if free) nature is an asset to their browser as well as its philosophy.

Also, if I'm reading things in-between the lines correctly, non-free H.264 video licensing is essentially going to be handled by the content provider's themselves, with the costs absorbed by them? (E.G. I have a subscription-based video archive of all the porn in the world, so burden of licensing is going to fall on me and essentially be a calculated part of my user's subscription fees.)

Staff
Matthew Matthew, TechSpot Staff, said:

That's my understanding too, Guest -- but I'm far from an expert. The way I understand it, only people/companies distributing videos to users are to pay. I believe creators/sellers of encoders are also subject to fees. If anyone else has a more educated explanation, feel free to chime in.

tengeta tengeta said:

Ok thats nice, any chance they will standardize the format instead of having 6 different versions?

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