Friday, 27 August 2010

h264 is not Free

With news of the sudden royalty free amendment to the h264 license by the MPEG LA sweeping the web, it's easy to forget that this actually changes very little, indeed. You now won't ever be charged for viewing free video on the Internet.

You will still be charged for distributing an h264 encoder or decoder.

This means that if you're someone like the Mozilla group, you can't include h264 support for the HTML5 <video> tag without paying hefty royalties for the privilege. You might wonder what the problem is: surely it's right that one company licenses the right to distribute the technology of another? No. Not when it comes to the Web and the standards that underpin it (such as HTML5). Paying a royalty to take part in the Web defeats the entire point of an open internet, where ideas can be freely exchanged using the promise that the base standards are available to everyone on a royalty-free basis.

There's some sanity on this 'sweeping change' from the MPEG LA at Create Digital Motion.

H264 is not the only codec out there. You can distribute the encoders, decoders and content with WebM/VP8 and Ogg/Theora without restriction.

Use 'em.

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