Two MPEG-4 Bits
by Chris Adamson
Two interesting pieces of news from the MPEG-4 world...
On Monday, MPEG-LA, the licensing authority that offers a "one-stop shop" for the MPEG patent pool, announced licensing terms for H.264/AVC, the nifty new MPEG-4 video codec.
Generally, the license requires no royalties for the little guy: makers of encoders and decoders don't owe royalties until they move 100,000 units, then they're 20 cents (US) a unit to a US$3.5 million maximum, with no royalties due for products sold before 1/1/05. Those providing services (whether per-title or subscription-based) also aren't charged for the first 100,000, and have a grace period through 1/1/06. Internet broadcasters (those streaming video not on a per-title or subscription basis) get a free ride until at least 1/1/11.
I'm sure someone's already jumped to the talkback textarea and started typing
Pah! Getting paid for ideas is wrong! Everything should be Ogg / Tarkin! Visit my c001 website!. So, fine, go nuts. For my money, or decided lack thereof, these are pretty decent terms, especially where the small guy is involved. If you can move 100,000 units of anything, paying a little bit to the people whose work made it possible is not unreasonable.
Note that this is just for the new video codec. Other MPEG patents may apply, particularly MPEG-4 Systems. Questions about this are still abounding on the MPEG-4 discussion lists.
Also, 3ivx has released its 3ivx QuickTime codec, which provides more advanced MPEG-4 encoding than is possible with Apple's MPEG-4 codec, such as multi-pass encoding and Advanced Simple Profile features. Note that using some of the advanced features will create files that QuickTime users without the 3ivx codec won't be able to play.
Go ahead, type it: "Patents are evil! Everything should be free!"
Software patents are evil.