[whatwg] Codec mess with <video> and <audio> tags

Aryeh Gregor Simetrical+w3c at gmail.com
Sun Jun 7 13:12:26 PDT 2009

On Fri, Jun 5, 2009 at 8:24 PM, King InuYasha<ngompa13 at gmail.com> wrote:
> First of all, what is the POINT of supporting any codec if it will cause
> inconveniences to anybody (e.g. patent royalties, high licensing fees,
> etc.)?

Originally Ogg support was required by HTML5, AFAIK.  However, Apple
has stated that it is not willing to ship Ogg support.  Thus the
requirement was removed from the spec, on the basis that there was no
point in specifying behavior as required that wasn't going to be
consistently available anyway.  This is usually how HTML5 operates: if
some browsers say they aren't willing to implement a feature, the spec
is revised.  (Not counting IE, since Microsoft doesn't participate in
the WHATWG.)  This ensures that the spec is an accurate reflection of
reality rather than misleading authors into assuming something will be
universally supported when the spec author knows it won't.

Apple's stated reason for not supporting Ogg was fear of legal
liability from unknown patent-holders.  Now that Google is shipping
Ogg, if it faces no legal challenges despite its deep pockets (2008
revenue: ~$22 billion), we can hope that Apple will be willing to ship
Ogg as well.  Once all the browser vendors involved in the WHATWG are
willing to use Ogg, I'd assume it could be re-added as a requirement.

> The way I see it, there isn't. The HTML 5 specification should definitely
> support a codec that fulfills the following legal criteria:
> * No patent royalties for any purpose. Must by totally royalty free for any
> purpose.

You can't ever be sure that a codec is royalty-free, unless it's so
old that all patents would have expired.  There might be someone
holding a patent that would cover Ogg, which the Ogg developers were
unaware of when they made the standard.  Such a patent-holder could
potentially come out of nowhere to sue a large corporation for a lot
of money as soon as they start using the codec.

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