Re: [rtcweb] A different perspective on the video codec MTI discussion

Basil Mohamed Gohar <> Thu, 14 March 2013 17:18 UTC

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Date: Thu, 14 Mar 2013 13:18:49 -0400
From: Basil Mohamed Gohar <>
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Subject: Re: [rtcweb] A different perspective on the video codec MTI discussion
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On 03/14/2013 12:44 PM, David Singer wrote:
> By the way, open-source and license fees are not in direct conflict;
> it's the principles that are. To pick a directly-relevant example,
> there are open-source implementations of H.264 (AVC).  
This is skirting the issue by using the vague term "open-source" in a
way that illustrates the discrepancy of the argument.  For this purpose,
it is important to outline the main argument against the usage of H.264
(AVC) in terms of the free software definition, which can be found here:
> A program is free software if the program's users have the four
> essential freedoms:
>   * The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
>   * The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it
>     does your computing as you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source
>     code is a precondition for this.
>   * The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor
>     (freedom 2).
>   * The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to
>     others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community
>     a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code
>     is a precondition for this.
*Requiring* a license fee to allow one or more of these points would
directly intervene in that freedom being available without restriction,
and thus, would prevent the implementation from being free software
according to the above definition.  Though I am not as familiar with
OSI's Open Source Definition (, a
cursory reading also indicates that a *requirement* of a license fee
would, by necessity, exclude it from fitting the open source definition
as well.

MPEG-LA's licensing structure for H.264 is strange in that it is a
license for /end-users/, meaning, such as the people that finally use a
product (e.g., the web browser him/herself).  So, the producers of the
software may themselves not require a license, but their users would. 
This is the issue by which a *required* licensing fee (which, due to
encumbrance by patents, is legally binding at this time by choice of the
owners of said patents in many jurisdictions) excludes something from
being free, open source software in this situation.

I talked about this with direct answers from the MPEG-LA here:

The point you make above is, apparently, talking from the perspective of
software producers.  Free software advocates always talk from the
perspective of the *users*, which includes software producers that use
other free software.  The blurring of the meaning of the term
open-source to imply only the software developers/producers is why many
prefer the term free software to this date.

The conclusion of this is that, yes, actually, licensing fee and
open-source (and also free) software are in direct conflict, by
definition.  The fact that some software is released under an
open-source license does not mean all users of that software have access
to it under the conditions of that license.

Libre Video