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Jobs: Ogg Theora may violate patents

updated 06:10 pm EDT, Fri April 30, 2010

Jobs warns not to confuse OSS with patent-free

Apple chief Steve Jobs has warned in a reply to an open latter that Ogg Theora wouldn't necessarily be the best choice for HTML5 video. Addressing a call by Free Software Foundation Europe to use the open-source codec for plugin-free video, Jobs warned that it may infringe on patents and could face a lawsuit, though not necessarily from Apple. He suggested that H.264 fit the definition of an open standard and admitted it wasn't necessarily what open-source advocates would expect.

"All video codecs are covered by patents," Jobs wrote from his iPad. "A patent pool is being assembled to go after Theora and other 'open source' codecs now. Unfortunately, just because something is open source, it doesn't mean or guarantee that it doesn't infringe on others patents. An open standard is different from being royalty free or open source."

It's unclear what Jobs would know about the patent pool or whether it included any Apple patents, but the electronics maker doesn't have absolute control over whether or not lawsuits can be filed relating to certain codecs. For H.264, Apple is just one of many members of the associated MPEG-LA licensing pool; Dolby, LG, Microsoft, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony are among the companies invested in developing and supporting the format.

Both Apple and Microsoft have said they prefer H.264 for several technical reasons, including their sheer ubiquitousness on computers and devices as well as the ease of adding hardware acceleration. Ogg Theora, while currently free and open-source, is rarely used in the industry and on the web is mostly supported by Mozilla's Firefox.


By Electronista Staff


  1. JBytes

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: May 2000



    "Apple chief Steve Jobs has warned in a reply to an open latter..."

    Don't bloggers have to check their grammar too?

  1. DeepDish

    Forum Regular

    Joined: May 2001



    Steve sure is talkative lately.

    I don't like him making ideal threats though.

    Maybe he is planning something.

  1. jpellino

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 1999


    Standards exist for a reason...

    H.264 is just dandy. The licensing is apparently not breaking anyone. Why go to an open-source model when open source has not been able to break into anything so far with any reasonable / popular success? I think open source is a great tool for innovation and development, but aside from a chunk of the server market, where is it every day? We're awash in audio and it holds no visible part of the market. We're up to our knees in video and it's not their either. I know open source people are passionate and opinionated, but let's see the results.

  1. MyRightEye

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2008



    So you're new to MacNN then.

  1. chas_m



    Its a pity

    Steve didn't open with, "We're open to the idea of taking a look at it, but" and then the rest of his letter as-is.

    We'll see what he means by a "patent pool," and whether they have any legit claims. I assume the other open-source stuff Apple has used or written themselves is patent-claim free, and so (through the magic of interpretive dance) I do see where he's left a window open to adopt other open-source "standards" (I use the term in quotes because so far, the list of open-source software that is actually a mainstream standard is painfully thin, despite decades of development).

    Comment buried. Show
  1. Jonathan-Tanya

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 2004


    Steve is being very chatty

    Steve, that old apphole, is being very chatty recently. Combative, offensive.

    He must be riled.

  1. JBytes

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: May 2000


    Re:Steve is being very chatty

    I think Steve's shiny new iPad makes it easier for him to be so chatty.

  1. MorituriMax

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jan 2010


    . . . erm

    Steve Jobs may not be the... ideal.... spokesman for anything open source, considering the way his own company is run.

  1. ZinkDifferent

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jan 2005



    Read between the lines, kids. C'mon, you can do it.

  1. coffeetime

    Senior User

    Joined: Nov 2006



    Do we really need another format to confuse all of us. Ogg Theora, what the heck is that? Sounds like something from video games or sci fi movies.

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