[theora-dev] Re: [libdv-dev] DV format patent status

Arc Riley arc at xiph.org
Tue Feb 10 17:48:35 PST 2004

On Tue, Feb 10, 2004 at 03:57:17PM -0800, Ralph Giles wrote:
> On Tue, Feb 10, 2004 at 06:32:22PM -0500, Arc Riley wrote:
> > With DV in Ogg, I don't think this is an issue.  Mainly because if such 
> > a case existed for DV they'd go after the big guys.  The megacorps who 
> > are selling videocameras by the millions to everyone under the sun.
> Just like with GIF?

Ah, but with GIF unisys wasn't trying to sell consumer products which 
required that GIF encoders/decoders were compatable.  AFAIR, they 
realised only later that they owned the patent and that everyone was 
using it.  Then they were like, "oh, how can we profit from this?".  

Panasonic, JVC, Sony, etc are not selling software, they're selling 
cameras, and they have a large amount of investment in the technology 
behind these cameras.  If the conclusion of this investigation leads to 
there being one or more patents held by these companies, and they won't 
give us a royalty-free unlimited license to it (basically what On2 did), 
the ripple effect from this will lead to not only their cameras not 
being purchased by Linux users, but very likely a competing standard 
using a more modern set of codecs making it not just technologically 
superior, but free to implement everywhere.  They know this, and I'm 
sure they don't want this.

The DV standard is roughly a decade old now.  If we really had to start 
advocating an alternative it would be worth the change for purely 
technical reasons.  Imagine a VIA C3 processor, the same as used on 
mini-itx boards, being tossed a case with a low-end ($20) CCD and laptop 
HD ($150).  VIA would love this, of course, a new market for their CPUs 
and other chipsets.  Using a modern video codec that HD can store 
several days of video, is less fault-prone than tape, store higher 
quality video (because intraframe codecs suck for compression), and the 
best of all; it'd be non-linear.  So no more sitting and waiting for 
tape to transfer, or seeking through the tape to find the capture point.

... and it'd probobally be less expensive than even the low-end cams JVC 
puts out.  It'd use Ogg + patent-free codecs, so it'd be royalty free 
and easy for anyone to implement in their existing software.  It'd help 
Ogg's adoption in the digital video market and VIA (or whoever) would 
sell more chips so they'd be happy.  And the software on the cameras 
could be Free Software, running Linux and be openly hackable, making the 
video hacker guys happy.  It'd be higher quality so the professional 
video market would buy into it, it could even include stuff like WiFi or 
wired ethernet support so the cameras could stream live over the 'net.

So you see why it's in their best interest to license it freely to 
everyone.  They aren't in the business of selling licenses, they're in 
the business of selling consumer/professional products.  And by not 
licensing it freely they could, in the process, be creating the need 
which brings about an alternative.

After getting inspired by the above, I think I'm going to investigate 
the costs and logistics of this.  It'd be damned cool if VIA (or 
someone) were to partner with Xiph to build a better camera.  If the 
results of this investigation find that patents DO cover DV, and the 
company(ies) who hold them are not interested in freely licensing the 
use of DV, a new market for free cameras would be born.
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