[whatwg] On the use of MPEG-4 as baseline codec

Asbjørn Ulsberg asbjorn at ulsberg.no
Sat Mar 31 19:12:19 PDT 2007

I've investigated a bit on the use of MPEG-4 as a baseline codec in the  
proposed <video> element, and my conclusion is that it can't be used with  
the current licensing terms. From the AVC/H.264 Agreement[1]:

# For branded encoder and decoder products sold both to end users
# and on an OEM basis for incorporation into personal computers
# but not part of an operating system [...], royalties (beginning
# January 1, 2005) per legal entity are 0 - 100,000 units per
# year = no royalty [...] US $0.20 per unit after first 100,000
# units each year; above 5 million units per year, royalty =
# US $0.10 per unit.

I'm no lawyer, but I think this provides the necessary information to  
conclude that MPEG-4 is unsuited as a baseline codec for the <video>  
element, unless browser vendors (A) find the licensing terms reasonable or  
(B) manage to restrict downloads of their application to 100.000 units per  
year. I doubt both, but I'd love to be proven wrong, of course.

I find it quite disappointing that the MPEG Licensing Authority doesn't  
distinguish between royalty and royalty-free distributions of the codec,  
of which most web browsers would fit in the latter group.

I've contacted the MPEG LA about this issue, and they didn't seem very  
interested in changing their licensing terms, nor discussing them in  

[1] <http://www.mpegla.com/avc/avc-agreement.cfm>

Asbjørn Ulsberg           -=|=-        asbjorn at ulsberg.no
«He's a loathsome offensive brute, yet I can't look away»

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