updated 11:15 am EDT, Fri May 21, 2010
MPEG-LA making patent pool to fee WebM
The primarily Google-led WebM group will likely still have to pay royalties, the MPEG-LA group's CEO Larry Horn said late Thursday. In spite of Google insisting WebM was patent- and royalty-free, the video standards group is assembling a patent pool that would let it ask for royalties for WebM and other standards. The costs would leave little reason to adopt the standard for HTML5 movies over H.264 and could result in lawsuits against Google, Mozilla, Opera or others who don't pay.
Horn didn't commit to a strategy when speaking to AllThingsD but did say MPEG-LA was "looking into the prospects" of the plan, which was intended partly to simplify the process of licensing for those fully aware of any patent issues.
The statements mirror those of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who said through indirect methods that WebM's VP8 codec might be subject to the same patent issues as Ogg Theora. He has mentioned that the backing of a large company or open-sourcing a format doesn't exempt it from patent royalties, even when organizations like Google or the Free Software Foundation insist otherwise.
Google product manager Mike Jazayeri has so far rejected the claims and said it had conducted a "pretty thorough analysis" of the patents. The WebM group wouldn't have open-sourced the format otherwise, he said.