[rtcweb] ~"I'd love it if patents evaporated...If not now, when"

Mike Linksvayer <ml@gondwanaland.com> Tue, 12 November 2013 21:53 UTC

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Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2013 13:53:04 -0800
From: Mike Linksvayer <ml@gondwanaland.com>
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Subject: [rtcweb] ~"I'd love it if patents evaporated...If not now, when"
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Hi all,

I was one of the remote attendees last Thursday. Long-time
read-list-via-archives lurker. Interest/excitement because seems
to me WebRTC is the most significant addition to the web in terms
of supporting new types of applications since Ajax, at least. And
specifically the video codec MTI debate, as FLOSS being second class is
a huge burden to projects I'm involved in, as well as being terrible
social policy.

I figured I was contributing by not repeating things that have already
been said many times. :) But it was apparent from the meeting that
posting to the list is valued...

I strongly support VP8 for MTI, and oppose H.264. Undecided on which
of both, either, or neither would be second best. My reason is simply
that FLOSS (and any entity for which users downloading a binary from
Cisco next year is unworkable) is second class at best in the H.264
case, while VP8 is demonstrably acceptable.

I think I appreciate the arguments for H.264, which all (including
those about legal risk) boil down to H.264 having a longer history
and greater adoption in other applications. Those don't flip me,
because, again, FLOSS is my baseline requirement. I realize that some
large companies have different baselines. Frankly, I don't care if the
legal risk to large companies is slightly different for either codec:
if trolls come out after mass implementation of WebRTC, the relevant
companies have resources to fight them, and more incentive to fix the
troll situation and/or end software patents in the interim, the better.

Speaking of now, the interim, and longer term, I was struck by two
brief statements in the meeting.

Jonathan Rosenberg, about 22 minutes into
> I would love it if all patents evaporated, if all the stuff was
> open  source in ways that we could  use, and we didn’t have to
> deal with any of this mess.

(In the middle of explaining why he thinks H.264 is the best choice
now, given this patent mess.)

Harald Alvestrand, about 48 minutes into
> Development of codecs has been massively hampered and held back by
> the  fact that it has been done in a fashion that has served to
> maximize the  patent encumbrances on codecs. Sooner or later, we
> should see a way  forward to abandon the dependence on encumbered
> codecs also for video  software. My question, at this juncture,
> is if not now, when?

I didn't hear an answer, but would love to hear one. It is conceivable
I could be convinced of a compromise now, if it were obvious those
individuals and businesses pushing for H.264 were also unambiguously
helping fix the problem in the medium and longer term by helping
next- VP9 and and next-next-generation Daala, and lobbying for the
elimination of software patents.