H.264 and The Tunnel of Babel

It’s (almost) free, use it…!!! *)

Every time I read a longer document or blog entry about H.264 licensing (www.engadget.com) my head starts spinning, every article that tries to explain H.264 gets complicated when it comes to the dreaded fine print of what you may or not may do…

And that’s the point, you see!

It’s the same trick as used on your average (mobile) phone/flat rate ad in the streets:

“It’s (almost) free to use, anywhere, anytime. Try it…!!! *)”

*) The fine print: It may cost you dearly.

The MPEG LA says they are “The Standard for Standards”. (How exclusive, almost noble that sounds…!) And to achieve that they have dug both very deep and wide and built something…

At least that’s how I think I dreamed it last night…

The Tunnel Of Babel

Here I was. A dark entrance. There was a sign but I did not have to read it, I knew that this was the entrance to

The Tunnel Of Babel

I hesitated. While being a film maker and looking for a good moving pictures (post) production infrastructure I knew what the deal was… By entering The Tunnel Of Babel you accept a set of rules:

1) Every motion pictures compression algorithm belongs to the Authorities Of The Tunnel Of Babel

2) No other motion pictures compression algorithm may exist outside The Tunnel Of Babel

3) Every time you use one of The Tunnel Of Babel’s Almighty Algorithms (known as TBAAs or ToBAAs), in particular the TBAA know as i.OU (sometimes also spelled i.Ou) you may – or may not – need to pay licensing fees. But no need to worry…! The Authorities Of The Tunnel Of Babel will let you know the moment your fees are due.

4) *New!* For distribution via the Intertubes there is now a special offer: for non-commercial use it’s free!!! *)

*) At least until 2015…!

Before I could decide not to enter The Tunnel Of Babel I woke up and realised that this was only a bad dream…

But then I looked around and saw my new Samsung WB1000 camera next to my bed and started thinking about that footage that I shot in the last couple of weeks, the footage that I now possibly can’t use commercially because it’s H.264 tainted (= possible licensing fees down the road) from the moment I pressed that record button.

Looking at the headlines on news.bbc.co.uk I was reminded of the financial situation in Europe…

What if one day I wake up living in a country that is (no more) an EU member and respects software patents…? Update 21.05.10: The EU is still standing, but software patents may be on the way to Germany

And thinking of my camera:

Could I shoot footage with that camera in a country that respects software patents and still 100% own my H.264 footage…?

Could I use H.264 recorded footage coming from a country that respects software patents…?

What about selling my footage to a country that respects software patents…?

Could I sell my camera on eBay to an American an s/he use it commercially…?! (Or is this where ACTA might come in one day, restrictions like the region code system on DVDs but for all sorts of goods…?!)

What about transcoding to an open format for editing? Where is the free, worldwide legal to use de-coder from the MPEG LA for H.264 to PNG etc. for H.264 camera owners in order to legally escape the lock-in…? Should that not be mandatory, an open-source app for all operating systems, available as a download from the MPEG LA’s site…?!

I realised I was daydreaming already and quickly got up.

And while drinking my coffee I started thinking about all the options I now still have when it comes filmmaking and staying 100% independent.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: