The WebM Community Cross-Licence initiative announced

By Kshitij Sobti | Published on 26 Apr 2011
The WebM Community Cross-Licence initiative announced

It goes to show how broken the patent system is when for any innovation to occur people need to create workarounds.

Google released the VP8 codec they got from their acquisition of On2 Technologies as a royalty free and open codec that could be implemented in open source software. They created the WebM format that used the open Matroska container format which contains video encoded in VP8 and audio encodedin Vorbis format by Xiph.Org as a candidate for the default video format to be supported in HTML5.

Unfortunately, despite a good quality video format being essential for the open web, there is bound to be resistance against the format from those who stand to lose in the presence of an open video format.

To strengthen WebM against patent attack, a new initiative called the WebM Community Cross-Licence has been set up. It is a patent pool of sorts for cross-licensing their patents involved in WebM:

"At its core, the CCL is a patent licensing agreement. It is a collaboration of leading technology companies to cross-license their intellectual property, at no charge, to other CCL members. Each CCL member grants to other members a patent license for any of its patents that may be essential to the WebM technologies. In return, each member receives an identical license back from all other members."

This does not bring any change to the way people are currently using WebM, and its open licencing terms continue. Now it merely has the backing of a major organizations that aim to protect the WebM.

Most major organizations that are supportive of open source have been welcoming and supportive of this major new format, and this list of founding members for this initiative is quite impressive as well:

  • AMD
  • Cisco Systems
  • Google Inc.
  • HiSilicon Technologies (for itself and on behalf of its parent, Huawei)
  • LG Electronics
  • Logitech
  • Matroska
  • MIPS Technologies
  • Mozilla Corporation
  • Opera Software
  • Pantech
  • Quanta Computer
  • Samsung
  • STMicroelectronics (for itself and its 50/50 joint venture, ST-Ericsson)
  • Texas Instruments
  • Verisilicon Holdings
  • Xiph.Org Foundation

While Mozilla Firefox and Opera have never supported H.264 and will likely never add support for it to their browser (unless it becomes a royalty free open format), Google did support it in Google Chrome, but recently went as far as to remove support for the format in order to promote WebM as the only video format for the web.

Google had also released royalty-free VP8 hardware encoder and decoder designs that would be useful in bringing VP8 playback support to more devices in the future. What is missing is still an official recommendation of VP8 as a recommended format in the HTML sepcification.

Kshitij Sobti

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