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Audio-video patents

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?"[1]

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.[2]

There are three possible solutions: WebM, Ogg Theora, or use software from 20 years ago.

Making innovation commercially disadvantageous

Nokia's 2007 position paper regarding video codecs in the w3c's HTML5 standard suggested using software from 20 years ago:

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.[3]
(emphasis added)

So, due to software patents, Nokia sees a commercial advantage in using technology from 20 years ago.

Related pages on ESP Wiki

External links

Difficulty of developing players

Wikipedia articles