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MPEG-LA calls for instances of Google's WebM patent

updated 02:15 pm EST, Fri February 11, 2011

MPEG-LA takes steps to find WebM patent violations

Google's WebM video standard came under renewed threat on Thursday with an MPEG-LA request. The video standards group is asking members for any instances in which a company believes one of the VP8 format patents behind WebM might have violated its patents. It hopes to streamline creating a joint license that it could offer for "essential" patents.

Any firm getting involved has to show at least one essential patent and to send in the first wave of claims by March 18.

The call echoed claims by MPEG-LA that it doesn't believe WebM is patent-free and showed it was now collecting evidence to prove that the format, bought up with Google's acquisition of On2, was violating patents it owned. It has previously argued that there are similarities between WebM and H.264 that implied On2 might have copied H.264 in some areas before the Google handover.

Google has tried to argue that VP8 and WebM were designed to avoid patents. Critics have shot back, arguing that Google is making a flawed correlation between open licensing and being royalty-free.

Members of the MPEG-LA group include Apple and Microsoft, both of whom have refused to support WebM unless its patent situation was clear. Google has tried to promote WebM by pulling native H.264 support from its Chrome browser, but its only main allies so far are fellow browser developers Mozilla and Opera. WebM so far hasn't been supported in camcorders or other devices outside of recent Android phones. [via CNET]

By Electronista Staff


  1. Athens

    Addicted to MacNN

    Joined: Jan 2003



    I don't want another format. I like H.264, and all my stuff supports it. My Xbox, iPod, iPhone, AppleTV, Mac, Windows Desktop, my car Deck and my camera.

    Hope they can kill WebM for good.....

  1. Makosuke

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001



    Hear that sound? It's the other shoe dropping.

    It was obvious that this was going to happen--if Google was actually confident that WebM didn't have patent overlap, they'd have indemnified the users in the license, rather than leaving them to fend for themselves.

    Yet I find myself really torn. In concept I vastly prefer fully free, open-source technologies when it comes to the web. I want all video to be available in a format that is safe and free for all.

    On the other hand, I also want the best possible technology to be the most prevalent. And h264 is demonstrably better than WebM. More importantly, and this is HUGE, h264 has widespread hardware decoding support. WebM has none, and if it ever does it won't be for a while yet. As a result, the less-free format is flat-out better than the free one.

    Of course, WebM isn't exactly free in the truest definition--Google owns it, they're just giving it away.

    It was easier with PNG vs. GIF, because PNG was free AND better.

    I suppose in another 12 years, give or take, the patents on h264 will have expired, at which point it will truly be free. It'd just be nice if it was the de facto standard at that time.

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