Anne van Kesteren

386: H264 still not free

This is a start of a new series of posts where I will attempt to correct the interwebs. You know, duty calls!

On August 26 MPEG LA announced in a rather cryptic message that usage of H264 that was already “free” until 2015 would now be “free forever.” Widespread misunderstanding ensued. Selected quotes below to get everyone back on track.

From Apple-Centric Observers Get the Facts Wrong: H.264 Still Ain’t Free:

Here’s the deal: today’s “free forever” MPEG LA announcement was mostly a PR coup. It changes very little: critics of the use of the patent-encumbered, royalty-bearing format in HTML5 video were aware that the free end user license might be extended.

But, boy was it a PR coup, because the words “forever free” starting spreading around the Web, and some people got the wrong idea. You’re not free to use MPEG LA’s technology as a content publisher if you want to use H.264 as your distribution format for on-demand or for-sale video. More importantly, you’re not free to ship H.264 encoders or decoders.

From free as in smokescreen: What MPEG-LA announced is that their current moratorium on charging fees for the transmission of H.264 content, previously extended through 2015 for uses that don’t charge users, is now permanent. You still have to pay for a license for H.264 if you want to make things that create it, consume it, or your business model for distributing it is direct rather than indirect.