Google, MPEG LA agree to royalty-free terms for VP8 video codec →

Peter Bright, Ars Technica:

> Soon after Google’s decision to open source VP8, MPEG LA announced that it intended to form a patent pool of companies with patents relevant to VP8. In 2011, it announced that 12 companies had identified patents that covered aspects of the VP8 algorithm. Google, however, maintained that it owned all the relevant patents. Since that 2011 announcement, there has been little word from either company about the patent pool situation. > > This agreement changes that. Google now has rights to any patents from the 11 companies party to the agreement that might cover VP8. Google can sublicense those patents, meaning that hardware and software companies are free to use the technology too.

VP8 and H.264 have ended up in similar places: patented video codecs with open source implementations, whose patent owners are simply playing nice. While both are free for noncommercial use, H.264’s patent holders require a small fee for commercial uses. A lot of VP8’s cheerleaders argued that it was so much better than H.264 because it was “unencumbered” by patents, but it was never patent-free. Even at the start, Google’s argument was simply that they owned all the patents on it, which MPEG LA—apparently correctly—disputed.

The problem for VP8—as us (supposed) cynics suggested—is essentially the same problem that Vorbis has had: while their licensing terms are better than their “closed competitors,” MP3, AAC and H.264 don’t have terms that licensees have found particularly objectionable in practice, nor do Vorbis and VP8 offer significant improvements over the market leaders. The only arguments for adopting VP8 now, like Vorbis before it, are purely ideological—and even by “open is always better” standards, they’re fairly weak ones.

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