WebM, VP8 and VP9
WebM, VP8 and VP9 are components of an audio-visual format which aims to require no patent royalties, by avoiding some patented ideas and by getting royalty-free licences for others. WebM, VP8 and VP9 are primarily developed by Google and have the backing of organisations such as Mozilla, FSF, and Wikipedia.
WebM aims to replace H.264 as the most used video format for Internet video.
Background and technical details
WebM is the "container format", or the "wrapper". It's what the users sees: a
.webm file. Inside this file is an audio stream, which could be Ogg Vorbis or Opus, and a video stream which could be VP8 or VP9. The container format provides information to keep the audio stream and the video stream in sync. The WebM container format is based on the existing Matroska format.
VP9 is an improved version, was released in 2013.
The Ogg Vorbis and Opus audio formats are developed by the Xiph Foundation. Since 2000, audio patents have been becoming less contentious and video patents more contentious, so most patent discussions about WebM focus on VP8 and VP9.
Before WebM, the highest quality video codec aiming to be patent-free was Xiph's Ogg Theora video format. With the release of WebM, the Xiph Foundation announced their support for it. WebM thus replaces Ogg Theora in many ways, rather than being in competition with it.
Using and advocating WebM
- Play Ogg campaign by FSF (possible future campaign: PlayFreedom.org)
- How to upload a video to YouTube and ensure it is made available as WebM
Google's patent deals with MPEG LA
The CEO of MPEG-LA, Larry Horn, claims to be preparing a patent pool to be used against VP8, and thus WebM. The threat may not be credible since similar claims were made against Ogg Theora but never materialised.
Google countered with a WebM Community Cross-License (CCL) initiative (25. April 2011).
The March 2013 announcement
In March 2013, Google announced a deal with MPEG LA offering some protection. For details see: Monty of Xiph.org's blog post, and the comments, and also the links and comments in this LWN.net article, and the links in OSNews' article.
The May 2013 announcement
In May 2013, Google published a draft VP8 Patent Cross-license Agreement.
- VP8 cross-license draft compatible with FOSS licensing, 29 May 2013, Software Freedom Law Center
- and Groklaw's commentary
- And a reaction from Florian Mueller (currently working for Microsoft): effectively blesses Microsoft's Android and Linux patent license deals
- Google releases a draft VP8 patent cross-license, 21 May 2013, LWN.net
- Google's VP8 codec license is OK after all, 31 May 2013, Simon Phipps
Related court cases
- Nokia v. HTC (2012, Germany) - Mannheim regional court rules VP8 does not infringe Nokia's patent
Related pages on ESP Wiki
- Harm to standards
- MPEG video formats
- HTML5 and video patents
- Use software from 20 years ago - the only other possibility for avoiding video patents
- Ogg Theora - another audio-video format, free from patent royalties
- WebM Project home page
- On2 VP8 home page
- WebM, Wikipedia
- The first in-depth technical analysis of VP8 – a review by a programmer who develops ffmpeg's 3rd party VP8 decoder and x264
- Google’s “Royalty-Free” WebM Video May Not Be Royalty-Free For Long, 20 May 2010 All Things Digital – reports a threat from MPEG-LA
- MPEG LA says that 12 patent holders have stepped forward with patents they believe are essential to the VP8 standard. A patent pool license could be next. 26. July 2011
- The WebM Community Cross-License (CCL) initiative
- Google backs open codec against patent trolls, 20 May 2010, The Register - Google replies
- Google open video codec may face patent clash, 21 May 2010, The Register
- An analysis of WebM and its patent risk, 25 May 2010, Carlo Daffara
- German court: VP8 does not infringe on Nokia patent, 6 Aug 2013, OSNews
- "Xiph.Org announces support for the WebM open media project". http://www.xiph.org/press/2010/webm/. "The Xiph.Org Foundation is pleased to announce its support of the WebM open media project as a project launch partner. As announced earlier today at the Google I/O Developer Conference, the WebM format combines the VP8 video codec, the Matroska container, and the Vorbis audio codec developed by Xiph into a high-quality, open, unencumbered format for video delivery on the Web. Xiph will continue to contribute to WebM as a whole and collaborate in its further development and deployment."