Saturday, March 05, 2011

US Justice Department investigates Web video group

Stephen Shankland at CNET News has reported that the US DOJ is investigating whether the actions of patent licensing group MPEG LA are stifling the Google VP8 video encoding technology. The problem seems to be that MPEG LA is actively seeking businesses with patents related to V8 to see if it can assemble a patent pool like the H264 pool. The complaint is that by publicly doing this, they are scaring businesses away from adopting V8 for fear that they may be faced with excessive royalty charges in the future and using this fear to unfairly force people to licence H.264.

There's a lot of background on the MPEG patents history and some interesting quotes from people who have previously attempted to break the H.264 licensing model

On2 (2002):
"'MPEG-4 is trying to monopolize the substantially software-based interactive video compression industry, plain and simple,' ... 'It is a move by a few very large companies to dominate a market and fix prices. Recent pricing policies by MPEG LA for MPEG-4, and the customer reaction to them are ample evidence of this.'"

Nero (2010):
"'Absolute power has corrupted MPEG LA absolutely,' said Nero, which makes CD- and DVD-burning software, in its complaint. 'Once MPEG LA obtained monopoly power in the relevant technology markets, it used that power to willfully maintain or extend its monopolies for years beyond their natural expiration...and administer its licenses in an unfair, unreasonable, and discriminatory manner that stifles competition and innovation, and harms consumers.'"


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