H.264 licensing explained: it’s like “Schwarzer Peter” (“Old Maid”)

H.264 = last one pays (= gets the looser card)

As explained on engadget:

“…the person who sells the encoder and the person who sells the content are the ones who have to pay.”

So this here (also quoted from engadget) is *not* good:

“Yes, but it’s not as bad as it seems. First off, we’ve directly asked MPEG-LA whether or not using an H.264 camera simply to shoot video for a commercial purpose requires a license, and the answer is no.”

They are lawyers! R-e-f-r-a-s-e your question…!!!

“We’ve also asked whether an end user watching H.264 videos would ever have to pay or be licensed, and the answer to that question is also no. Yes, the license terms are worded poorly, but those are the answers straight from the patent horse’s mouth. Everyone can breathe again, ‘kay?”

Someone down the line will have to pay: “…the person who sells the content are the ones who have to pay”.

And what do you think will hold up in court? The written agreement you bought with the camera or what a clever lawyer says who obviously was sent to this H.264 PR event…? Those a l-a-w-y-e-r-s!!! Make them sign their own statements and be very careful with your wording…!!!

H.264 based video business = lock-in as soon as you push that record button

So if you are having a video business licensing fees for your H.264 recorded footage will be due down the line!

Basically your business will be *disadvantaged* over the business that avoids the H.264 lock-in!

H.264 licensing = the last one in the distribution chain pays, he gets the “Schwarzer Peter” (= the looser card – an old children’s card game here in Europe).

So what are my clients going to say when I sell them footage that they will need to pay licensing fees for…?! My guess is the bill will land on my table, at least it will weaken my position when it comes to selling/licensing my own video clip/3D footage!

I’m not so stupid and will build my business upon that model, pass on the “Schwarzer Peter” card (= looser card) to my clients!

As a film and video maker I like to 100% own my work.

What a lock-in business model it is that Apple, MS, the MPEG LA and all those companies that hold H.264 patents have built!

H.264 is the appropriation of your work from the moment you press that record button on your H.264 camera.

Why on earth is this legal? I can see the word m-o-n-o-p-o-l-y written all over this, specially when thinking of Steve Jobs/Apple (quoted from Open Letter to Steve Jobs): “All video codecs are covered by patents. A patent pool is being assembled to go after Theora and other “open source” codecs now.”

I guess it comes down to this:

All video codecs are equal, but some codecs are more equal than others.

Hello FCC…, hello EU commission…, hello consumer rights advocates…, hello film and video makers of this world:

This is our wake-up call…!!!

6 Responses to H.264 licensing explained: it’s like “Schwarzer Peter” (“Old Maid”)

  1. Eugenia says:

    Exactly, well said! The Engadget editor should have been more persistent in the way he asked the question about the cameras that record in h.264. I mean, they said that the user needs no extra licensing, but what about royalties — even if the user exported the final video in a non-h.264 format? Also, why didn’t they want to put an actual name behind their interview with Engadget? Very fishy stuff.

  2. vsworks says:

    Of course the end user will have to pay: if e.g. Google pays for H.264 (last one in the distribution chain looses/pays), they will do what they can to let the end user pay the bill. E.g. (more) ads..! (We must not have H.264 as a “web standard”, this reminds me more and more of the MS OOXML story/corruption of the ISO standard.)

    It’s just a clever salesperson’s trick they are using, give you the “Old Maid” (“Schwarzer Peter”) card that you will deliver for them to your customer, … last one looses/pays!

    You know how I’d feel if I was using my new camera now and shooting stuff…? I’d feel being like a freaking Monsanto farmer, *not owning* the fruits of *my own labour* – only I *never signed* away my life and soul to the MPEG LA, it’s enough for them to hold those *H.264 patents*…!!!

    What the f*** happened?!! Did I wake up in some weird “Brave New 1984″…?!!

    Uh…, sorry, this still upsets me a lot.

    But many thanks for reading and commenting!

    It’s so good to know that there are other people out there who won’t shut up or just go back to business as usual! Because it’s not “as usual” anymore – it’s business as your new MPEG LA overlords would like to see it.

    F*** them I say, they wasted my time and money (me shooting footage) and now they still want another cut of my work.

    F*** you MPEG LA.

  3. tomislav says:

    So what do we do now? For someone who knows not a lot about codecs and formats… What do I have to look for when getting a camera? When editing? When compressing final edited work?

    Like you said before, this all makes my head spin!

    Also, I can’t find cheap cameras that use miniDV anymore! They now all use flash memory. I have 100s miniDV tapes! What to do?!

  4. vsworks says:

    Personally I am waiting for the first VP8 or Theora camera to come out!

    For DV I’d try to get a good second hand model from somewhere (online?). I also had no chance finding a fitting new DV one, nor a cam that does not have one of the the MPEG-LA’s dirty codecs (h.264 and MPEG-2) in it. Talk about monopoly!

    One option might be to shoot with a camera that does at least something like 12 single frames/second (in an ok codec!), this should be an option for e.g. visuals/music videos when using slower paced images (like landscapes, nature in general) and then using Blender for retiming the footage and editing. Finding a (new) fitting camera that does not also include one of the dirty MPEG-LA’s codecs may be a bit more difficult…

    If (one day) you have the budget I’d recommend looking into the Red offerings, of course they have their own codec, but I think I’ve read about a Red/Blender VSE workflow somewhere, at least it should be possible to get this done.

    I, for now, (re-)focus on 3D filmmaking, I refuse to ever work with one of the MPEG-LA’s codecs again, and if I have to shoot my next movie (again!) on 16mm or find a cool Super-8 look that fits my story, I’ll go with that any time…!

    In the long run we will win this, don’t give up hope just yet! Blender (Beta) 2.5.5 is just around the corner and the next Blender Foundation open movie (2010/2011) could bring open-source compositing/video post to a whole new level…

    I say that within about a year from now we’ll have VP8/Theora etc. cams and a faster and faster growing open-source video post scene (Blender, Lightworks (!), …).

    Here another link that gives me hope, maybe one could try to build something like this…?!




  5. alex says:

    I have released the theora video browser plug-in v2 it supported on all modern browsers, works on Linux and is pretty good, there is alternative to adobe flash and h264

    check my blog and see what i have to say
    Alexander A.
    33t labs

  6. […] Apple is of course also on the list of patent trolls that steal your and mine (not any more since I got rid of that camera) H.264 footage. […]

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