Google's WebM Project Has Some Patent and License Issues

Monday May 24th 2010 by Developer.com Staff
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Google's effort to create a patent-free open source video format with VP8 is admirable, but there is more work to be done to ensure a free and open source video codec for the future.

The open source community jumped to their feet last week when Google finally open sourced the VP8 codec, but then everybody had to sit back down - there are problems.

This is video, so the usual suspects are front and center - licensing, patents and open standards.

The license Google chose for the WebM project is not an open source license.

"The new license Google is using for the project is one that's not been submitted to the Open Source Initiative for approval," OSI Board Director Simon Phipps wrote today. "As it stands it possibly can't be approved due to Google's ironic inclusion of a 'field of use' restriction in the patent grant."

Phipps said that WebM is not currently open source, but speaking on behalf of the OSI Board, he said, "I'd love to see them submit a templatised version of this license for approval."

The licensing cartel, MPEG-LA, said they are planning to create a patent pool for VP8 and 'taxing' WebM users. Phipps said, "Google should rapidly create a 'WebM-LA' with $0 licensing terms for those willing to commit to digital liberty."

And lastly, Phipps urged Google to embrace open standards.

"We need open standards. They give us an assurance of interoperability that goes beyond the code, balancing the market power of the inventor with the freedom to leave," Phipps, the former Sun Microsystems executive, said.

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