Moonlight plans video-patent police beater for Linux
Decode this, MPEG LA
The open-source version of Microsoft's Silverlight is adopting hardware-based decoding for video, a move that will boost multimedia on Linux devices.
Moonlight is adding support for Nvidia cards to offload the work of H.264 and VC1 decoding from the software player to the actual hardware. Nvidia features the Video Decode and Presentation API for Unix (VDPAU) so that the video card - not the software player - does the decoding.
It's a small but significant development.
Offloading should help speed overall performance of any device that uses Nvidia's video cards or the g8 series as it'll be the card rather than the CPU that's doing the processing.
The move should also make it ethically palatable for users running GPL'd Linux such as Debian, Ubuntu, or Red Hat on a PC and legally safer for OEMs building consumer gadgets like Blu-ray DVD players on these Linux distros and Moonlight.
Consumers and - more importantly - OEMs would no longer have to license the proprietary H.264 and VC1 codecs from licensing authority MPEG LA.
Some users of GPL'd software will see such codecs as "unfree" and therefore unusable on their systems.
Makers of things like DVD players, though, would no longer need to pay expensive and on-going royalties to the MPEG LA when building devices, potentially cutting their overheads on systems that have already got a relatively low-cost thanks to use of Linux.
Of course, OEMs could choose not to license the codecs in the first place, but this could land them in hot water should the MPEG LA decide to assert its vice-like grip on the codecs market.
For a look at the complexity, risk, and potential exposure of this situation, just look at what Canonical did last year. The Ubuntu sponsor made media playback and DVD player codecs from Fluendo and Cyberlink available from its online store.
Canonical could not ship codecs in Ubuntu, because Canonical had not licensed them, so it couldn't pass on the rights, while the codecs had been licensed by Fluendo and Cyberlink.
What's still unclear is whether those who download the Fluendo and Cyberlink codecs are allowed to use them, and whether Fluendo and Cyberlink can actually pass on their rights. Fluendo has noted on its site that the codecs it sells are licensed from MPEG LA and Microsoft in addition to Via Licensing, Dolby, and Thomson Fraunhofer.
For its part, Moonlight and its users are covered in their use of codecs like H.264 now found in Silverlight because Microsoft has extended the agreements it already had with organizations like MPEG LA for Silverlight and Windows Media Player to Moonlight and its users.
That agreement, though, only applies to Moonlight users who download the player from Novell's site. Coverage becomes grayer for OEMs that pick Moonlight if they begin shipping devices with Moonlight pre-installed. When that happens, the MPEG LA could come-a-knocking with a demand for retrospective royalties.
Turning to the hardware can also help cover Moonlight if at some point in the future Microsoft revokes the coverage it's provided. That could happen, say, once Silverlight becomes broadly established and Microsoft decides it no longer needs Moonlight to seed the market for Silverlight.
There's no date on when Moonlight will get Nvidia decoding, but project leader Miguel de Icaza told us: "Speed is the driver." ®
"a move that will boost multimedia on Linux devices"
It is a move that will boost adoption of another bloody Microsoft proprietary technology that we don't actually need.
No offense, but they can all go bugger each other...
I buy a disk labeled with the DVD/BluRay logo, that means it is playable on any device that also carries the DVD/BluRay logo.
It doesn't matter if it's a Windows / Mac / Linux machine, a portable DVD/BluRay player, the deck in the dashboard of my car, the stand-alone player in the entertainment center with the tv, etc.
I've paid for it, there's nothing they can do to stop me playing it on any device I own capable OF playing it.
So the fact that I run Linux is beside the point, the fact that they are artificially restricting my ability to use something I've already paid for (by claiming I need to buy codecs so the *software* can do what the *physical device* already is intended on doing, namely *playing the disk*) means I get to give them The Finger.
I'll exercise my Fair Use Rights, as well as the DMCA itself, in using any means necessary to bypass your artificial restrictions so that I can play my legally obtained movie.
Don't like it?
It's mine, I paid for it, and I'm trying to play it on my Player.
Oh, wait, I *AM* playing it on my player, because there's not a damned thing you can do to stop me.
Pirate Logo because evidently I am one for exercising my Rights.
Not as bad as people think
There's a common - but false - misconception about the codec licensing which this article perpetuates.
Codec licensing doesn't "only appl[y] to Moonlight users who download the player from Novell's site". Moonlight from Novell's site has no codecs at all. The codec licensing comes as part of a closed-source codec library, silverlight-media-pack-linux-$ARCH-$ABI.so (the "Microsoft Media Pack"), which can only be downloaded from Microsoft. This is the unredistributable part with the "must come from one site" requirement, not Moonlight itself.
Whether Moonlight comes from go-mono.com/moonlight, or packages in the 8 or so distributions which make them available, the MS Media Pack is not included - however, Moonlight will offer to download it for you if & when it deems the install necessary. Some of those distributions compile against FFmpeg, and therefore have (non-patent-licensed) media support WITHOUT the closed-source Microsoft Media Pack (but the MMP can still be added subsequently at user option).
To repeat, in case the above isn't sufficiently clear: Moonlight has no codecs; Moonlight's licensed codecs are unredisributable and available only from microsoft.com; Moonlight will offer to download/install those codecs on demand; and you get full patent coverage on those codecs as long as your Microsoft Media Pack came from microsoft.com, regardless of where you got Moonlight from