Ogg, MPEG-LA and Submarine Patents

A few weeks ago, I published an interview with MPEG LA CEO Larry Horn on the patent group's decision not to charge for free content encoded with H.264.

Then I got a note back from a reader who stated:

I'm disappointed. The interview seemed to be pretty powder puff. Why not ask the harder questions, e.g., was your decision in response to Wikipedia's (and potentially Firefox's) decision to support an open source format (Ogg Theora)? Your interview should take the real issues head on.

I checked to make sure the letter wasn't from my high school journalism teacher (it wasn't) and then reflected. At the time, I wasn't hip to the whole Ogg vs. H.264 debate within the parameters of HTML 5, and simply didn't think to ask. But then I read up on the debate, learning that Apple in particular, who is on the MPEG LA committee, has repeatedly stated that they won't adopt Ogg because of the risk of submarine patents. See, for example, Ryan Paul's excellent article in Ars Technica on the subject.

So I created a new set of questions and sent them to MPEG LA. This led to another round of questions, which I then sent to Xiph.org, which oversees the Theora format. I then got a very interesting response from Xiph founder Monty Montgomery.

You can read them both at StreamingMedia.com.


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