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Why A Royalty-Free MPEG — A Manifesto
December 11, 2011, 12:57 pm
Filed under: globalchange, Hacking, society, Softwarepatents | Tags: , , ,

Why A Royalty-Free MPEG — A Manifesto by rob glidden


Since 1997 when regulatory authorities began approving patent pooling for MPEG standards, core technologies of MPEG have been offered under royalty-based pool licensing regimes now seen by many as one of the defining characteristics of MPEG’s success as the world’s leading media technologies standardizing body, even though the lack of royalty-free, standardized codecs is a sorely missed technology for the World Wide Web.

 

But this view of MPEG as only a royalty-bearing standard is far from universally shared. In 2008, even the head of MPEG said:

“I believe MPEG should enlarge its portfolio of standards by offering some that are expected to be royalty free and typically less performing and with less functionality next to those that are state of the art, more performing and with more functionality….

The problem is of course not in that obligation but in the fact that “fair – reasonable – non discriminatory” used to be meaningful words when standards were designed for the needs of one industry whose members generally shared the business model according to which the standard would be used….

So, the problem is not “how many cents, tens of cent or euros of licensing fee is fair and reasonable” but “how can licensing be fair and reasonable without specifying a business model”. The issue is serious and more than one MPEG standard did not have the acceptance it deserved because the licensing terms, perfectly acceptable and probably “fair and reasonable” for certain business models were rejected by those who had different ideas in mind.”

And H.264 and MPEG-4 AVC were launched in 2001 as a joint project between ITU-T Q.6/SG16 and ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 29/WG11 with the undertaking that the “JVT [Joint Video Team] will define a “baseline” profile. That profile should be royalty-free for all implementations.”

What Went Wrong Last Time

The failed royalty-free baseline

Initially in 2001, the royalty-free baseline undertaken by ISO and ITU in developing the joint h.264 and MPEG-4 AVC standards had apparent consensus support. A specific IPR process was developed, that stated:

The JVT codec should have a simple royalty free “baseline” profile (both on the encoder and decoder) in order to promote the wide implementation and use of the JVT codec. All implementations should have such a common baseline profile core, in order to allow minimal interoperability among all JVT codecs. The above requirement means that all technology applied in the baseline profile shall have no IPR, expired IPR, or valid but royalty-fee-free IPR.

All contributions for the baseline profile were required to make one of the two following assertions:

2.1 The Patent Holder is prepared to grant – on the basis of reciprocity for the above Recommendation | Standard – a free license to an unrestricted number of applicants on a worldwide, non-discriminatory basis to manufacture, use and/or sell implementations of the above Recommendation | Standard. 2.2.1 The same as box 2.2 above, but in addition the Patent Holder is prepared to grant a “royalty-free” license to anyone on condition that all other patent holders do the same.

Enthusiastic defenders publicly challenged sentiments that “[t]here’s a strong anti-free-license movement in MPEG”. For example, in 2002 the head of the MPEG marketing organization publicly countered the above statement, saying:

Sweeping statements like these are very unhelpful. It may indeed be unlikley that full JVT codec is going to be RF (Royalty-Free). There is, however, a strong desire among many parties to try and establish a RF baseline.

The head of the MPEG Requirements group similarly stated:

As the current chairman of MPEG Requirements, I would claim that MPEG is doing everything to support the royalty free approach for the baseline profile of MPEG-4 part 10 (AVC) … and there is a very large support within MPEG members. . Of course there is also people with a (legitimate) different opinion but I would personally claim this is a minority.

But from the beginning, some vendors vocally opposed creating a royalty-free baseline. As early as May, 2002, one prominent vendor filed a proposal to the JVT asserting “It is very unlikely that the applied strategy of JVT to aim for a royalty free baseline player can be achieved … [t]herefore JVT is suggested to abandon this approach….”

 

In March 2003, 31 companies involved in the development process and/or holding essential patents confirmed their support for a royalty-free Baseline Profile. But by late 2003, hopes dimmed as patent pool licensing groups began issuing press releases indicating that patent licenses would cover the baseline profile as well as other profiles:

(1) Does this mean that the goal of a royalty-free Baseline Profile is not going to happen ? …. I’ll answer for what I know and understand today. 1) Via Licensing’s website states that their proposed terms cover “use of Baseline, Main, and Extended Profiles”. MPEG LA’s announcement states “These terms cover the entire AVC Standard regardless of which Profile(s) are used”. I think that gives you the answer.

In December 2008, a well-known US Federal Circuit case,Qualcomm Inc. v. Broadcom Corp, vindicated and upheld the JVT royalty-free IPR process and decisively denounced the efforts to undermine it:

In sum, we conclude that Qualcomm, as a participant in the JVT prior to the release of the H.264 standard, did have IPR disclosure obligations, as discussed above, under the written policies of both the JVT and its parent organizations”

And also in 2007, SC29, the oversight group of the MPEG part of the JVT, revised its patent policy and reemphasized its preference for royalty-free standards whenever possible:

“Although royalty-bearing patented technologies may be included in SC 29 standards, SC 29 suggests to its WGs to promote, whenever possible, the inclusion of technologies that either do not require a patent license, or that only require a RAND license without a royalty or license fee.”

The Way Forward

Learning lessons, improving process, moving forward

So now it is time for ISO/MPEG and ITU to complete the royalty free undertaking begun in 2001. On November 4, 2009, ITU announced a “preliminary official call” for proposals with the headline “signals work start for H.264/MPEG-4 AVC successor”.

 

However, this call does not identify a royalty-free track like in the 2001 JVT Terms of Reference that similarly launched h.264/MPEG-4 AVC.

 

Neither did the “Draft requirements for “EPVC” enhanced performance video coding project” issued in July 2009. Instead, the call only states that it “is being made subject to the common patent policy of ITU-T/ITU-R/ISO/IEC … and the other established policies of the standardization organization.” The common patent policy itself refers to contributions either RAND (royalty bearing) or royalty-free.

 

At the same time, MPEG is also considering launching new royalty bearing activities for transport streams — MMT (Multimedia Transport), even though the very widely used MPEG transport stream patent pool is moving into a 20-year patent-expiration event horizon.

 

The ITU/MPEG final call for proposals is scheduled for Jan. 22, 2010. By then, ITU and ISO should add back in an explicit call-out for a royalty free track, at least as specific as the 2001 Terms of Reference that launched h.264/MPEG-4 AVC in the first place.

 

And this time, with an even more proactive IPR analysis process. As a recent WIPO document (Standards and Patents, SCP/13/2, Feb. 18, 2009, available here) suggests:

“The most straightforward way could be to conduct a patent search either individually or collectively by the members of a technical body and share the search results among the members. If the patent search is made collectively, the cost may be shared by the participating members.”

Historically, there was a concern that prior art searching might inadvertently raise a potential of treble damages in the case of willful infringement in the US, to either the SDO or participants. However, as the WIPO report notes, a recent US Federal Circuit case (In re Seagate Tech., LLC, 497 F.3d 1360 (Fed. Cir. 2007)) overturned precedent and held that proving willful infringement required at least a showing of objective recklessness.

 

Moreover, in 2007 IEC, ISO and ITU adopted a harmonized common patent policy that clearly encourages and empowers disclosure as early as possible by participants and third parties of any known patents or applications:

“[A]ny party participating in the work of the Organizations should, from the outset, draw their attention to any known patent or to any known pending patent application, either their own or of other organizations. In this context, the words “from the outset” imply that such information should be disclosed as early as possible during the development of the Recommendation | Deliverable…. In addition to the above, any party not participating in Technical Bodies may draw the attention of the Organizations to any known Patent, either their own and/or of any third-party.

So the need is clear, the time is right, lessons have been learned, and the path is defined. It is time for ISO/MPEG and ITU to deliver on its 2001 royalty-free undertaking and complete royalty-free media standards, and any new work should be expressly pre-conditioned on delivering a royalty-free result.

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Who invented the embedded Linux based wireless router?

Today i  found an interesting blogpost from David Täht and understand the effords on creating cerowrt a bit better 🙂

[…]

In December, 1998, Greg Retkowski and I published the Arlan Wireless Howto. The wireless router we started building in March of that year, and later documented so extensively, is now considered by CISCO’s lawyers to be prior art to the Linux based wireless access point, in the court case Optimum Path vs Cisco/Belkin/SMC/Netgear.

I was deposed in August, 2010 to talk about it.

Optimum Path is now suing basically everybody making an embedded Linux based wireless router for infringing on patent #7035281, filed September 13, 2000. This patent covers many features of the WRT-54G series (first shipped in Dec, 2002), and related products, from multiple other manufacturers, features that were built into the Linux mainline code, long before the patent was filed. Optimum Path now also holds a second patent – filed in 2005 – granted in July 2010 – which covers not only the ground covered by the first patent but includes content filtering (!?). I’m told this latter patent is not currently the subject of litigation, but it bothers me as much as the first – we were doing content filtering in Linux in 1999, also… Everybody was doing it.

[…]

Linux did routing almost from its inception. The firewalling code and the ip masquerading code were in version 2.0, maybe earlier than that. The first “Linux wireless routers” came from the authors of the wavelan and arlan drivers. The first “embedded Linux router” came from the Linux Router Project – and the truly heavy lifting came from the math guys that came up with the signal processing software/hardware that ran on a small board that could send and receive the data signals over the air, reliably.

But… as best as I can tell, from looking back on the emails, mailing list postings, and archive.org, the first “embedded Linux Wireless Router” came from the minds of Greg Retkowskimyself, and Everett Basham.

Our wireless howto, my wireless diary, and the June 2003 retrospective I wrote about the project are now part of the court case.

I’m bemused. My diary – and blog – and our internal emails over that period – jokes, misspellings, foul language, personal conflicts and all – are now in the public record!!?? Over a patent suit?

 

[…]



Who is Suing Who In the Mobile Patent Wars?
August 19, 2011, 7:04 pm
Filed under: globalchange, infografic, socialweb, society, Softwarepatents | Tags: ,

Interesting infografic via reuters

 

 



Digital Signal Compression & Video Encoding Research

Interesting everybody who was involved in a publicly funded and therefore “opensourceconferencing or de-encoding project during his university time in  the 90th , founded a comercial company and the sources are gone with the wind.

CU30/qVix  source  turns out to sightspeed

Tim Dorchey´s cuseeme turns into ivisit

Peter Parnes “mWeb Presentation Framework” turned into maratech, whitch was aquired from google. What did Jason Katz in the 90th except buying  HearMe and Firetalk and camfrog ? 😉
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Open Letter to Steve Jobs
May 3, 2010, 8:01 pm
Filed under: Softwarepatents | Tags: , , , ,

update 16:00: Steve Jobs answers to my open letter, see below.

Dear Steve Jobs,

Having read your Thoughts on Flash, I could not agree with you more. Flash is not the Web, and I am glad Apple seizes the opportunity of open standards to build better products for their customers.

But I am not so sure about your definition of the word Open in general. I will not argue here that it is ironic you find the Apple Store more open than Flash. I will not complain either that you like Openness so much that when you use “Open Source” Software to build your Mac operating system, you keep all the openness for yourself and don’t give it to your customers, nor to the developers whose works have been very useful to you.

I figured that writing an open letter was an appropriate way to remind you of a couple of things that you may have forgotten — maybe in good faith — about open standards.

It is true that HTML5 is an emerging open standard, and I am glad that you adopted it (well, did you really have the choice anyway?). However I have to say I am impressed in the way you succeed in saying how Apple has been doing great with open standards against Flash… while explaining Flash videos is not a problem, because Apple has implemented another video codec: H.264.

May I remind you that H.264 is not an open standard? This video codec is covered by patents, and “vendors and commercial users of products which make use of H.264/AVC are expected to pay patent licensing royalties for the patented technology” (ref). This is why Mozilla Firefox and Opera have not adopted this video codec for their HTML5 implementation, and decided to chose Theora as a sustainable and open alternative.

Free Software Foundation Europe have been raising consensus and awareness on Open Standards for some years already. I am sure we would be happy to help Apple make the good decision. So, to begin with, here is the definition:

An Open Standard refers to a format or protocol that is

subject to full public assessment and use without constraints in a manner equally available to all parties;
without any components or extensions that have dependencies on formats or protocols that do not meet the definition of an Open Standard themselves;
free from legal or technical clauses that limit its utilisation by any party or in any business model;
managed and further developed independently of any single vendor in a process open to the equal participation of competitors and third parties;
available in multiple complete implementations by competing vendors, or as a complete implementation equally available to all parties.
Hugo Roy
April 2010

http://blogs.fsfe.org/hugo/2010/04/open-letter-to-steve-jobs/

Another interresting article:

Why Our Civilization’s Video Art and Culture is Threatened by the MPEG-LA



Open letter to Google: free VP8, and use it on YouTube
March 18, 2010, 10:20 am
Filed under: streaming | Tags: , , , , , ,

Debunking Some Myths Of The Google/On2 Deal, Questioning VP8’s Quality

Following up on my earlier post today entitled “Google’s Acquisition Of On2 Not A Big Deal, Here’s Why“, here’s some more thoughts on the subject. While clearly no one, including me, truly knows what Google plans to do with On2, a lot of potential scenarios being discussed on the web revolve around facts that just aren’t accurate. I’m all for having a discussion on what Google may or may not do with the On2 assets, but a lot of folks are using bad info to come up with their logic behind what Google may or may not do. Here are some of the “myths” I keep hearing or reading about:

http://blog.streamingmedia.com/the_business_of_online_vi/2009/08/debunking-some-more-myths-of-the-googleon2-deal.html

Is Google spending $106.5m to open source a codec?

There was some speculation in a few list and blogs about Googles ON2 aquisition and the Free Software foundation released an Openletter to Google:

With its purchase of the On2 video compression technology company having been completed on Wednesday February 16, 2010, Google now has the opportunity to make free video formats the standard, freeing the web from both Flash and the proprietary H.264 codec.

http://www.fsf.org/blogs/community/google-free-on2-vp8-for-youtube