[theora] Fwd: VP8

Basil Mohamed Gohar abu_hurayrah at hidayahonline.org
Sun May 23 05:44:32 PDT 2010

On 05/23/2010 08:12 AM, Richard Watts wrote:
> Basil Mohamed Gohar wrote:
>> On 05/22/2010 11:09 PM, Dave Johnson wrote:
>>>> Thank you for writing.  We appreciate hearing from you and the
>>>> opportunity to address your question.
>>>> MPEG LA provides pool licenses for many different video codecs such as
>>>> AVC/H.264, MPEG-2, VC-1 and MPEG-4 Part 2.  We do not advocate for one
>>>> over another; rather, we provide one-stop licenses for the convenience
>>>> of video providers and users who make choices among them.  
>>>> Therefore, our announcement of interest in providing a license for VP8
>>>> is not a matter of protecting our revenue stream from other codecs (many
>>>> of which are used in parallel).  To the extent patent rights held by
>>>> many patent holders are necessary for VP8, they need to be dealt with
>>>> whether or not MPEG LA offers a license.  Our interest is in pooling
>>>> them so they may be made available for the convenience of users on the
>>>> same terms under a single license as an alternative to the present
>>>> fragmented way that necessitates individual negotiations with many
>>>> different patent holders.   If we succeed, what it can mean is that
>>>> there will be a more efficient way for the market to access VP8 patent
>>>> rights, and that translates into broader adoption of VP8 for video
>>>> providers and consumers like you who choose to use it in providing and
>>>> receiving video services.
>>>> If you have additional questions, please let me know.  I will be glad to
>>>> answer them.
>> How helpful of them!
>> But seriously, this is some really messed-up thinking.  The folks over
>> at MPEG-LA really cannot grasp the concept that not everything needs to
>> be held under a software patent.  
>   That's not true at all; Tim is entirely correct and the MPEG-LA in my
> experience do an excellent job of collecting and licencing all the
> patents necessary to implement the codecs they look after on what are,
> frankly, usually extremely reasonable terms.
>   It is not the MPEG-LA's fault that the system is broken. Given that
> the system is broken, they do a good job of making it possible for
> video systems to interoperate and I think it's very reasonable that
> they should look into establishing a patent pool for VP8.
I'm will to agree if your argument is that MPEG-LA is a symptom of a
broken system.  However, I don't sympathize or praise the cough I have
when I have an upper-respiratory infection.  Both the cough and the
infection are bad.  Likewise, both the MPEG-LA AND the broken patent
system are bad.  MPEG-LA's move at this point, and this early in the
game of VP8's public existence, is a major trollish move.  The fact that
their terms are "RAND" is really irrelevant.  It's the fact that they
feel the need to pool patents about VP8 that is messed-up.  Yes, that's
the whole purpose of MPEG-LA's existence, but it's still messed-up.

To put it more clearly and without a metaphor, those that abuse a broken
system are not exonerated for their bad behavior within the rules of
said broken system just because the system itself is broken.
>   Obviously, I'd rather hope that google's due diligence was good
> enough that there were no essential patents required for VP8 per se -
> there obviously will be for VP8's use with things like MPEG-2
> systems - but if it wasn't, I'd much rather have the MPEG-LA's
> non-discriminatory and generally reasonably priced and accessible
> terms than (e.g.) the audio codec peoples' multi-dollar per device
> royalties and 'we'll licence only if you refuse to play any other
> format' terms.
>   Equally obviously, it is in the H.264 patent holders' interests
> to spread FUD about VP8 and that is just what they have been
> doing. I haven't caught the MPEG-LA at it yet.
MPEG-LA did it before VP8 was even announced, when they said that it's
impossible for no modern video codec to exist without being covered by
some of the patents in their pool.  This statement is a complex way of
saying MPEG-LA believes they have a monopoly on video technology.
>   If you want a villain, try Microsoft - who believe they hold
> essential patents on Linux. Unlike the MPEG-LA, they don't have
> non-discriminatory terms. Unlike the MPEG-LA, they licence for
> whatever won't _quite_ drive their victims to bankruptcy. And
> unlike the MPEG-LA, they won't state which patents they hold they
> believe to be essential so people can have the choice of using
> them or not.
Or Stalin (to side-step Godwin's law).  He was a pretty bad guy too.  He
was worse than MPEG-LA, almost certainly, right?  Millions of people
dead because of him.

Of *course* Microsoft has done really lousy things, but MPEG-LA has
taken direct action to mitigate the openness of the VP8 codec, very
early on, and an effect of this is to limit adoption of a free codec. 
They'll be happy to take money for someone to use it, but, going back to
my main point, they hate the idea of someone using something for free. 
Recall that they've said the same thing about Theora, and they have yet
to reveal what patents, exactly, and implementation of Theora is covered
by.  So the claim against Theora, as well as VP8 is FUD, until such a
time as they actually publicly declare which patents are actually
violated by the implementations of said codecs.

If such a time comes to pass, then we can have another discussion about
the viability of such patents and whether or not they are truly
essential.  I'm not putting all my hope on Google that they truly vetted
VP8 exhaustively, but I am willing to hope that, should the cases be
brought publicly, they have a plan for how to deal with it that may
possibly change the game of software patents.  In light of this theory,
I believe MPEG-LA will keep to their FUD and not actually state publicly
what patents they claim are being violated, and will just use their
clout to bully smaller businesses that attempt to implement VP8 and/or
Theora.  If it were to be taken to court, even if said patents really
existed, Google and other players may likely cause the way software
patents are treated to be altered.

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