After a lively debate, the IETF appears to be moving forward with a royalty-free audio codec standardization activity.  Here’s to its successful launch and positive outcome.

I’ve put a brief summary at the mpegrf.com site, and there is a good summary here.

The group’s email discussion alias is here — and my view, expressed there (echoing this), is pretty straightforward:

[codec] Royalty Free codec standards — don’t settle for less”

Here is my view, perhaps you share it, perhaps you don’t.

What the world needs now is royalty-free, standardized codecs. This is critical to the future of the Web, and the progress the Internet has brought to the world, and will bring to the world.

Video, audio, transport, the whole thing. Evaluated, vetted for patents. Under an appropriate, responsible and complete royalty free process. No less.

IETF, ITU, and ISO/MPEG should all get going on this important activity — after all why shouldn’t all of these organizations include this as core to their mission.

I have, and no doubt you have too, seen countless explanations why this should not, could not, will not, rather not, might not, or can not happen. Some well meaning and sincere, some from vested interests.

There are too many “powerful” interests against it. “Important” commercial interests are ambivalent. It is too hard “legally” or “politically” or “technically”. It is just too confusing to think through. There is no longer a critical mass that cares enough about keeping the future of the Open Internet open and royalty free. The well meaning are ignorant, or naive. Etc.

Don’t settle. Take the issue of royalty free, standardized codecs all the way to the top of these organizations. Do what it takes. If it requires new organizations, start them. It it requires revised processes, revise them. This is the spirit that built the Web and the Internet, this is the spirit that is its lifeblood, and this is the spirit that needs to be at the heart of its future.

Don’t settle. Don’t let those who have tried hard already, or have only half-heartedly tried, justify the status quo or their half-heartedness. Encourage them to focus on how to take the next steps.

Don’t let convenient “interpretations” of standards processes be an excuse for never starting, never finishing, or never setting up processes that will work. Need more legal background? Find it. More technical information? Get it.

Don’t settle. The world has plenty of patent-encumbered media standards, plenty of proprietary solutions, and plenty of standards in other domains that have figured out how to deliver royalty free.

But the world does not have enough royalty-free codec standards, so this is the task that needs to be addressed.

Rob

Here is my view, perhaps you share it, perhaps you don't.

What the world needs now is royalty-free, standardized codecs. This is critical to the future of the Web, and the progress the Internet has brought to the world, and will bring to the world. Video, audio, transport, the whole thing. Evaluated, vetted for patents. Under an appropriate, responsible and complete royalty free process. No less. IETF, ITU, and ISO/MPEG should all get going on this important activity -- after all why shouldn't all of these organizations include this as core to their mission. I have, and no doubt you have too, seen countless explanations why this should not, could not, will not, rather not, might not, or can not happen. Some well meaning and sincere, some from vested interests. There are too many "powerful" interests against it. "Important" commercial interests are ambivalent. It is too hard "legally" or "politically" or "technically". It is just too confusing to think through. There is no longer a critical mass that cares enough about keeping the future of the Open Internet open and royalty free. The well meaning are ignorant, or naive. Etc. Don't settle. Take the issue of royalty free, standardized codecs all the way to the top of these organizations. Do what it takes. If it requires new organizations, start them. It it requires revised processes, revise them. This is the spirit that built the Web and the Internet, this is the spirit that is its lifeblood, and this is the spirit that needs to be at the heart of its future. Don't settle. Don't let those who have tried hard already, or have only half-heartedly tried, justify the status quo or their half-heartedness. Encourage them to focus on how to take the next steps. Don't let convenient "interpretations" of standards processes be an excuse for never starting, never finishing, or never setting up processes that will work. Need more legal background? Find it. More technical information? Get it. Don't settle. The world has plenty of patent-encumbered media standards, plenty of proprietary solutions, and plenty of standards in other domains that have figured out how to deliver royalty free. But the world does not have enough royalty-free codec standards, so this is the task that needs to be addressed.

Rob

http://openvideoconference.org/The crying need for Open Video continues to break out from under the radar, as evidenced by the blue-ribbon sponsors and diverse community of the just-announced inaugural Open Video Conference to be held June 12.

Organizers include Yale Law School’s Information Society Project and partners include the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard — an indication that  the need for a comprehensive open, royalty-free video technology solution strategy is not just about the nuisance of proprietary add-ons in the open Web, there is an important societal and policy dimension.

An excerpt from the announcement web site captures the idea:

“YouTube and other online video applications are rightly celebrated for empowering end-users; however, online video lacks some of the essential qualities that make text and images on the web such powerful tools for free speech and technical innovation. Email, blogs, and other staples of the open web rely on ubiquitous and interoperable technologies that have low barriers to entry; they are massively decentralized and resistant to censorship or regulation. Video, meanwhile, relies on centralized distribution and proprietary technologies which can threaten cultural discourse and innovation.”

The dot to connect here is the policy framework that begat “Digital TV as we know it” and the “Internet as we want it” to an actionable direction forward.

Sun’s OMS Video codec work was mentioned in Matt Raible’s notes from the “The State of the Web 2009” session at this week’s Web Directions North conference:

“Very specifically, there’s no royalty-free codec for video. This is nothing that standards bodies can solve. The most promising is that Sun Microsystems is developing an open codec and spending money to make sure they’re not infringing on patents.”

omsvideo

Also, “open video codec” topped the panelists’ biggest-thing lists:

“After each panelist talked, John asked them questions about what’s the biggest thing they’d like to see implemented by everyone (open video codec, geo location api were the winners).”

(emphasis added)

The whole write-up is worth reading here.

Updating market information in this post on the release of the royalty-free OMS Video draft specification, here are data points about MPEG released at the MPEG 20th Year Anniversary Commemoration in Tokyo in November 2008.

Importantly, Lawrence A. Horn, CEO of the license administration company, affirmed the:

“Freedom of Licensors and Licensees to develop competing products and standards”

(Note: the US Department of Justice required as much in its 1997 antitrust review of proposed MPEG patent licensing:

”We understand this to mean that licensees are free also to develop technological alternatives to the MPEG-2 compression standard.’)

Specific market info:

  • “~ 3.5 Billion MPEG-2 Devices
  • More than 1 million people working 40 hrs/week, 52 wks/year for 15 yrs (1994-2008)
  • ~ 40 Billion MPEG-2 Video (DVD) Discs
  • $2.5 Trillion in MPEG-2 Product Sales
  • In 2008 each of the world’s ~ 6.7 billion people will spend an average of $66.46 on MPEG-2 product”

Some interesting observations were made by Leonardo Chiariglione, the convenor of the MPEG committee:

  • “the MPEG-4 Visual licensing killed half of the standard
  • The “use fee” licensing model facilitated the widespread use of proprietary codecs
  • In the second half of the 1990s MPEG repeatedly invited ITU-T to collaborate on MPEG-4 Visual. The lack of collaboration produced the alternative H.263 Recommendation, similar – but not quite – to MPEG-4
  • 20 years after MPEG was born There are just too many video codecs…
    Compression technology has advanced
    The entry level to make video codecs is getting lower
    Many devices have to support many different codecs”

All the presentations of the commemoration are located here.

“Patent and legal issues” topped, at least numerically, the community goals developed at the recently-held Foundations of Open Media 2009 workshop, a write-up of which was just posted here.

Also noted in “Patents and the bright future of open media codecs”, the FOMS group has set aside 15% of its budget to support patent analysis.

For those who haven’t seen it, check the interesting article “Patent Status of MPEG-1, H.261 and MPEG-2” and associated wiki here.  Comments on calculating expiration dates can be found in the responses to article here.

Open video — specifically open, royalty-free video and media formats — got a boost when Mozilla Foundation announced yesterday it is providing $100K to support development of improved Theora encoders and more powerful playback libraries.

That’s great news, hugely deserved, and even TechCrunch took note. Congratulations!

Now venture capitalists, enterprises, governments, education & research facilities and others should take note, too — Mozilla is onto an important unmet need and critical missing link, made even more important by these economic times.

Check out  BBC’s Dirac and Sun’s OMS Video, too — there’s a lot more than $100K of work to do!