The H.264 codec that makes a good deal of digital video possible has actually been free to use (under certain conditions) for many years, but following recent controversies over the future of web video, rightholders have agreed to extend that freedom in perpetuity. Whereas originally standards organization MPEG-LA had said it wouldn't collect royalties from those freely distributing AVC/H.264 video until 2016, the limitless new timeframe may mean that content providers banking on WebM and HTML5 video won't have an expensive surprise in the years to come. Then again, patent licensing is complicated stuff and we'd hate to get your hopes up -- just know that if you're an end-user uploading H.264 content you own and intend to freely share with the world, you shouldn't expect a collection agency to come knocking on your door. PR after the break.
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MPEG LA's AVC License Will Not Charge Royalties for Internet Video that is Free to End Users through Life of License

(DENVER, CO, US – 26 August 2010) – MPEG LA announced today that its AVC Patent Portfolio License will continue not to charge royalties for Internet Video that is free to end users (known as "Internet Broadcast AVC Video") during the entire life of this License. MPEG LA previously announced it would not charge royalties for such video through December 31, 2015 (see http://www.mpegla.com/Lists/MPEG%20LA%20News%20List/Attachments/226/n-10-02-02.pdf), and today's announcement makes clear that royalties will continue not to be charged for such video beyond that time. Products and services other than Internet Broadcast AVC Video continue to be royalty-bearing.

MPEG LA's AVC Patent Portfolio License provides access to essential patent rights for the AVC/H.264 (MPEG-4 Part 10) digital video coding standard. In addition to Internet Broadcast AVC Video, MPEG LA's AVC Patent Portfolio License provides coverage for devices that decode and encode AVC video, AVC video sold to end users for a fee on a title or subscription basis and free television video services. AVC video is used in set-top boxes, media player and other personal computer software, mobile devices including telephones and mobile television receivers, Blu-ray Disc™ players and recorders, Blu-ray video optical discs, game machines, personal media player devices and still and video cameras.

For more information about MPEG LA's AVC License or to request a copy of the License, please visit http://www.mpegla.com/main/programs/AVC/Pages/Intro.aspx .

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MPEG-LA makes H.264 video royalty-free forever, as long as it's freely distributed