The H.264 Free Myth

Original author: shaver
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The Internet is replete with headlines today "MPEG LA said the H.264 standard will be free." (Recently this news was also discussed on Habré). It would be great if they corresponded to the truth, but, unfortunately, very much is not quite so.

What MPEG-LA announced is that their existing moratorium on charging users for the transfer of content encoded using H.264, previously extended until 2015, has now become permanent. At the same time, you still have to pay for the H.264 license if you want to create content or products based on it, or your business distribution model is directly related to the use of the standard.

They made the distribution of content constantly free, which will require a license to encode and decode. It’s like if Nikon announced that they would not require a fee for posting your photographs taken with the firm’s cameras on Flickr, or HP would declare that you would not have to pay for a photocopy what you printed on their printers. (Nikon and HP were used as an example without their consent, and as far as I know, they never required users to license products obtained using their technologies).

Thus, H.264 has not become more free recently. The promises made by MPEG-LA are still valid until 2015, do not affect the consumption or production of content created using their standard, and are based on the fact that they only need to control its distribution. Unfortunately, H.264 was no longer suited as the underlying technology for the open web than last year. Perhaps it will become so in the future - Mozilla would very much welcome the prospect of the H.264 standard, become really free, but only MPEG-LA can make it that way.

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