H.264 video codec stays royalty-free for HTML5 testers

Patent granted 5-year amnesty, Mozilla still no-likey

Freetards stand down - MPEG LA has decided to slash royalties to zero for anyone wishing to use the H.264 codec for free streaming of internet video until the end of 2016.

The MPEG licensing outfit confirmed earlier this week that its AVC patent portfolio licence won’t charge royalties for internet video that is free to end users.

From 1 January 2011 to 31 December 2016 MPEG LA individuals will be able to use the H.264 codec, which Mozilla recently bitched about, on a royalty-free basis as long as the video being streamed doesn’t reel in any cash for the user.

“Products and services other than Internet Broadcast AVC Video continue to be royalty-bearing, and royalties to apply during the next term will be announced before the end of 2010,” added MPEG LA in a statement.

Some quarters of the developer community have grumbled about H.264 codecs because the built-in decoding system for HTML5 is proprietary tech.

The logical conclusion for Mozilla and others is that the rug could be pulled from under them at any time, with MPEG LA demanding payment, or else threatening patent infringement.

To date, H.264 usage has been without charges for anyone encoding and decoding the standard for the explicit intention of delivering free video streams over the internet. Google’s YouTube is a high-profile H.264 case in point.

Mountain View, of course, is in the process of acquiring video compression tech company On2 Technologies, which suggests Google may be planning to open source its own video codec.

Meanwhile, Mozilla endorses the open and licence-free Ogg Theora codec and has no intention of folding H.264 into its Firefox browser anytime soon, despite MPEG LA’s appeasing five-year agreement to keep its patent royalty-free.

“Regarding that MPEG-LA announce: it's good they did it, but they sort of had to. But it's like five more years of free to lock you in 4ever,” claimed Mozilla CEO John Lilly yesterday. ®

Sponsored: 10 ways wire data helps conquer IT complexity