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Video, Freedom And Mozilla

Jan 25, 2010, 12:03 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Robert O'Callahan)

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"My LCA talk on Friday was about why open video is critically important to free software, and what Mozilla is doing about (plus a discussion of the relationship between Web standards and free software in general). Little did I know that Youtube and Vimeo would pick the day before my talk to cast a glaring spotlight on the issue!

"Youtube and Vimeo have started offering video playback using the HTML5 < video > element. That is good news for free software, since it means you don't need a closed-source Flash player to play the video [1]. However, they only offer video in H.264 format, and that is not good news for free software. A lot of people have noticed that Firefox doesn't support H.264, and apparently many people don't understand why, or know what the problems are with H.264. This is a good time to restate the facts and re-explain why Firefox does not support H.264. I'll be mostly recapitulating the relevant chunks of my talk. (Hopefully a full recording of my talk will become available from the LCA site next week.)

"The basic problem is simple: H.264 is encumbered by patents whose licensing is actively pursued by the MPEG-LA. If you distribute H.264 codecs in a jurisdiction where software patents are enforceable, and you haven't paid the MPEG-LA for a patent license, you are at risk of being sued."

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