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Summary:

Good news for HTML5 proponents: MPEG LA has announced that it will extend its royalty-free license of the H.264 video streaming format for an additional five years. In doing so, the license holder has agreed not to charge for use of the near-ubiquitous H.264 encoding format […]

Good news for HTML5 proponents: MPEG LA has announced that it will extend its royalty-free license of the H.264 video streaming format for an additional five years. In doing so, the license holder has agreed not to charge for use of the near-ubiquitous H.264 encoding format through 2016.

The move comes after YouTube and Vimeo rolled out implementations of HTML5 video last month, both of which took advantage of H.264.

Using HTML5, those companies can serve video directly into certain modern browsers without an external plugin like Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silverlight. The only problem is that many of the newest browsers don’t support H.264. Users can access HTML5 video encoded in H.264 with Chrome, Safari or Internet Explorer with Google’s ChromeFrame installed, but the format isn’t yet supported by Firefox and Opera. That means that only about 25 percent of users can actually watch HTML5 video encoded in H.264, according to Vimeo.

Mozilla, which makes the Firefox web browser, had shied away from supporting H.264 for fear that MPEG LA might begin charging for streaming once the current license expires at the end of this year. Mozilla chose instead to support video through the Ogg Vorbis encoding format, which isn’t encumbered by licenses. Opera also supports Ogg, while Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has yet to throw its weight behind either format.

Despite the continuation of MPEG LA’s royalty-free licensing plan, don’t expect Firefox to get behind H.264 anytime soon. In response to the news, Mozilla CEO John Lilly tweeted yesterday, “…Regarding that MPEG-LA announce: it’s good they did it, but they sort of had to. But it’s like 5 more years of free to lock you in 4ever.”

  1. I believe this refers to the content license to stream in the format, pretty sure the decoder itself still has a royalty.

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    1. And encoders as well as far as I know – which means you can neither necessarily create nor watch h.264 video unless you or someone else has bribed MPEG-LA for permission to do so.

      As you point out, their stance of not charging royalties until 2016 is merely a promise not to ALSO charge you a THIRD license fee for actually transferring the data you paid to be allowed to encode to someone who paid to be allowed to decode it.

      The patents and dangling threat of a patent lawsiege[1] still makes it difficult for individuals to participate in web video if h.264 is the codec used.

      [1]I like to call it “lawsiege” since the idea is a wealthy corporation can afford to bottle up an opponent with hostile lawyers until their opponent runs out of money to fight and has to give in without getting through the trial.

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  2. Let’s get everyone addicted with free samples, and then take the price to $50 a stream five years from now after everyone is hooked. That’s pretty much what happened with the mp3 patents.

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  3. [...] Good <b>News</b> for HTML5: H.264 Streaming Will Remain Free [...]

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  4. [...] Good <b>News</b> for HTML5: H.264 Streaming Will Remain Free [...]

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  5. [...] Good <b>News</b> for HTML5: H.264 Streaming Will Remain Free [...]

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  6. [...] Good <b>News</b> for HTML5: H.264 Streaming Will Remain Free [...]

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  7. [...] Good <b>News</b> for HTML5: H.264 Streaming Will Remain Free [...]

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  8. [...] Good <b>News</b> for HTML5: H.264 Streaming Will Remain Free [...]

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  9. [...] Good <b>News</b> for HTML5: H.264 Streaming Will Remain Free [...]

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  10. [...] Good <b>News</b> for HTML5: H.264 Streaming Will Remain Free [...]

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