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Steve Jobs Hints At Theora Lawsuit 686

netcrawler writes "Steve Jobs' open letter on Flash has prompted someone at the Free Software Foundation Europe to ask him about his support of proprietary format H.264 over Theora. Jobs' pithy answer (email with headers) suggests Theora might infringe on existing patents and that 'a patent pool is being assembled to go after Theora and other "open source" codecs now.' Does he know something we don't?" Update: 05/01 00:38 GMT by T : Monty Montgomery of Xiph (the group behind Theora, as well as Ogg Vorbis, and more) provides a pointed, skeptical response to the implicit legal threat, below.
Monty writes: "Thomson Multimedia made their first veiled patent threats against Vorbis almost ten years ago. MPEG-LA has been rumbling for the past few years. Maybe this time it will actually come to something, but it hasn't yet. I'll get worried when the lawyers advise me to; i.e., not yet.

The MPEG-LA has insinuated for some time that it is impossible to build any video codec without infringing on at least some of their patents. That is, they assert they have a monopoly on all digital video compression technology, period, and it is illegal to even attempt to compete with them. Of course, they've been careful not to say quite exactly that.

If Jobs's email is genuine, this is a powerful public gaffe ('All video codecs are covered by patents.') He'd be confirming MPEG's assertion in plain language anyone can understand. It would only strengthen the pushback against software patents and add to Apple's increasing PR mess. Macbooks and iPads may be pretty sweet, but creative individuals don't really like to give their business to jackbooted thugs."
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Steve Jobs Hints At Theora Lawsuit

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  • Well (Score:3, Insightful)

    by buchner.johannes ( 1139593 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @07:45PM (#32051598) Homepage Journal

    Luckily, there are no software patents :-)

  • by Uzik2 ( 679490 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @07:49PM (#32051646)
    for their legal expenses. Bugger Steve Jobs and the other patent trolls.
  • by Raffaello ( 230287 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @07:56PM (#32051724)

    And now Apple drops all pretense of being the underdog and joins the ranks of the FUD purveyors.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 30, 2010 @07:57PM (#32051742)
    well, you are not the only one. I have stopped using Apple product for last 2-3 years. Apple has overtaken MS when it comes to being just assholes.
  • by javilon ( 99157 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:01PM (#32051790) Homepage

    They need to move fast, clean VP8 up and push it into Chrome, Android and youtube. Firefox and Opera will follow quickly and the attempt to lock web multimedia into propietary formats from Apple and Microsoft will fail.

    This move from Apple and the Microsoft's statement about only supporting H.264 are a reaction to Google's purchase of VP8. Both Apple and Microsoft are terrified of Google. They are willing to give up quicktime and wmv as long as Google doesn't succeed in pushing an open source, patent free solution to web video.

  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:02PM (#32051804)

    Unlike other community things, it actually works and people will defend it, because they are using what they write themselves. Go after Open Source and you are basically dead, even when it may take you a long time dying. The time to play games of greed and power with software are over. This stuff is critical infrastructure, everybody needs it and it has to be both good quality and readily available. Open Source can do that. No other approach can. And this becomes harder and harder to ignore.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:02PM (#32051808)

    I disagree, we've just come to accept that MS will be evil, I think the main reason Apple acting evil upsets a lot of geeks is because we hoped they wouldn't act evil...

  • by TrancePhreak ( 576593 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:03PM (#32051812)
    I thought they did that long ago with their "I'm a Mac" ads.
  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:03PM (#32051818)

    Now now, they haven't sued anybody about this yet...

    Just like Microsoft hasn't sued anybody over the supposed patent violations in Linux.

    Possibly for similar reasons. FUD is cheaper and easier to generate than a lawsuit that won't get thrown out of court, and maybe even get you sanctioned.

  • by FF8Jake ( 929704 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:06PM (#32051852)
    Don't worry Korey, you'd be hilarious even if an Apple Fanboy didn't donate his liver to Steve Jobs.
  • by Omnifarious ( 11933 ) * <> on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:07PM (#32051862) Homepage Journal

    I agree. I think Apple hasn't had the opportunity to be nearly as evil as Microsoft yet. But the ways things are going, I have no doubt they'll take the opportunity as soon as it presents itself.

    And, while I half expected this, I'm still angry about it.

  • by karl.auerbach ( 157250 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:07PM (#32051868) Homepage

    Jobs is partly correct and part incorrect.

    When he says "All video codecs are covered by patents" he is incorrect. Patents are limited by their claims and it is completely possible that there is a codec that does not fall under any patents. One such codec, the null codec that simply turns every input bit into itself, is probably free of any patents. Of course that would be a silly codec.

    Just because something is open source does not mean that it does not infringe on one or more patents. A lot of folks confuse "copyright", which protects expression, with patent, which protects ideas. Under patent even an independent expression (an implementation), even an open source one, might impinge on a patented idea.

    I suspect that pretty much everybody here, including myself, is of the belief that patents have been granted that are overbroad, that live too long, and that are simply reflective of prior or obvious practice that existed at or prior to the time of the patent filing. There is much that is broken in the patent system.

    I can readily believe that ogg/theora might impinge on some patent in some country. Then again it might not. And whether that patent is itself valid is a question that would have to be answered once we knew what those putative patents were.

    Since proving that something like ogg/theora doesn't infringe is like proving a negative, it is pretty hard to ever say that something is provably and undeniably free of patents.

    But it would, in my opinion, be a good thing to have the matter fully debated in the context of a lawsuit. It would create a forum where the H.264 people (and other patent-codec people) could duke it out with the open source codec community in a place where we could get some definitive answers that ratchet and lock into place and thus give guidance to us in the future.

    If Ogg/theora (or Google's VP8) violates a patent it is better to know it now so that we can work around the patent or obtain blanket community licenses.

    My own guess is that if the Apple or the MPEG people engage in something more than sabre rattling that they will find the open source community a resourceful and dedicated opponent. Most particularly, the open source community is probably a very formidable opponent on the question of whether that patent on which the claim of infringement is based is itself valid.

    Apple and the MPEG people could find that at the end of the battle that their own patents have fallen.

  • by mkiwi ( 585287 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:08PM (#32051870)

    You raise a valid point, except for as alluded to in my post, Steve Jobs/Apple does not own the patents in question. Your analogy would be correct if Apple owned the patents.

  • by Jackie_Chan_Fan ( 730745 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:08PM (#32051874)

    ... Apple makes Microsoft look like saints.

  • by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:09PM (#32051882)

    Ya know... Ubuntu Lucid Lynx is looking better all the time. I wonder if it'll run on my MacBookPro before I put it onto Craigslist....

    Jobs has become the new Gates and Ballmer. What a wonderful guy.

    There's a point where his 'it just works' changes to 'he's just a jerk'. I think that point is getting really, really close.

    Too bad. What nice toys he makes. Darwin to MacOS X was so smooth. Now the Snow Leopard release has about the same bugs as a Windows release. Once the viruses start, I'll be long gone. Pity. You wanted to like the guy for his bravery and his David/Goliath thing. Now he's desperately trying to hang on to his novel franchises.... at the cost of what seems to be his honor. Shrug. History repeats itself.

  • by melted ( 227442 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:09PM (#32051884) Homepage

    I don't think it's Apple who's assembling this set of patents. The lawsuit WILL happen sooner or later, inevitably. If Apple started distributing Theora, this lawsuit would happen within a month, even though they're in MPEG LA. Who knows what their contract with MPEG LA says, too. They might lose the right to distribute h264 as a consequence.

    I understand SJ on this one, even if I think his "thoughts on flash" are utter and complete bullshit for the most part.

  • by Jackie_Chan_Fan ( 730745 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:10PM (#32051904)

    and MKV is better than MOV, AVI, and WMV...

    Open formats and technology scare the crap out of them.

    Granted MKV is just a container... it is still a far better container.

  • by Omnifarious ( 11933 ) * <> on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:12PM (#32051920) Homepage Journal

    This move from Apple and the Microsoft's statement about only supporting H.264 are a reaction to Google's purchase of VP8. Both Apple and Microsoft are terrified of Google. They are willing to give up quicktime and wmv as long as Google doesn't succeed in pushing an open source, patent free solution to web video.

    I think you're absolutely correct in this. I wonder if that's the biggest reason Steve Jobs does not want Flash on the iOwnYou products, to try to decrease YouTube's market share.

  • Rubbish (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Macka ( 9388 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:13PM (#32051924)

    This makes no sense to me. Lets run with your thought experiment for a moment. Google release a blinding implementation of VP8 support in Chrome next week, then FF and Opera pick it up and release browser updates the week after. Somehow, content providers decide this is a great idea and they all jump on the VP8 band wagon. How does this hurt Apple? What's to stop Apple from adding it to OS X and the iPhone OS along side H.264 and supporting both. How does this give google some kind of competitive edge over Apple that would make Apple "terrified"? They both have full access to H.264 and related tools today, so nothing would change with adoption of VP8: the status quo is maintained. You're just trying to blind people with FUD.

  • Re:Okay, prove it (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:18PM (#32051984)

    You'd have to be such an amazing arse to even come up with this idea. The patents themselves have obviously contributed nothing, as the creators of the open codecs certainly haven't been looking at them.
    If all these open codecs independently indeed have indeed independently and accidentally infringed on a patent, just maybe the idea is obvious and the patent isn't worth the paper it is printed on, have contributed nothing to the advancement of the arts and instead is being used abusively to retard the progress of society for personal monetary gain? Not to say that Steve is a cock-sucking psychopathic troll, of course.

  • by starseeker ( 141897 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:21PM (#32052012) Homepage

    I know it sucks by modern standards, but the claim that "all video codecs are covered by patents" is a bold one to make - surely MPEG 1 is either at or close to the end of its patent life (at least in the US)? []

  • Re:Rubbish (Score:5, Insightful)

    by node 3 ( 115640 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:23PM (#32052034)

    Somehow, content providers decide this is a great idea and they all jump on the VP8 band wagon. How does this hurt Apple?

    It doesn't. But it does hurt the theory that Steve Jobs is out to control eveyone's minds and only Google can stop him, and as such, he is perpetually afraid of Google and is out to destroy them at all costs.

    Facts and reality need not apply.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:24PM (#32052040)
    your post is a prime example of why software patents need to be abolished. All they've done is create a monopoly on encoding/decoding video and hold back open video on the web.
  • by wealthychef ( 584778 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:26PM (#32052054)

    Am I being manipulated into this anger, or have they just put their heel on the back of my neck long enough that their propaganda has stopped working?

    Are those your only choices? You're not being manipulated into anger. The fact that you are angry at "the rich" when an article about Steve Jobs' opinion on one piece of open source software comes along strikes me as a bit over-furious. LOL

  • by santax ( 1541065 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:27PM (#32052066)
    Well that might have been the case with betamax over video2000, but Sony chose blue-ray... When they brought out the PS3. And that's why blue-ray is the format these days. And no, there was no porn on it... Then again, I only know people with a ps3 that actually use blue-ray. Dvd is fine. Back in the old days, there was no internet where you could get your porn. Big difference there.
  • by starseeker ( 141897 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:31PM (#32052096) Homepage

    How does that help? Is VP8 acknowledged by other major players to not infringe on any other patents? Would Google agree to shield all users of VP8 from any legal attacks by patent holders?

    I rather expect that the holders of these patents feel that any possible implementation of video on a computer infringes on SOME patent they hold, and if there exists some hypothetical codec that does not infringe I'd guess some team of lawyers didn't do their job right. Sort of like how SCO was claiming that no possible modern operating system could exist without violating SCO intellectual property rights, except using the patent system for the fence-building process. Even if there are codes that are completely free and clear, can you imaging how long it would take a the legal system to sort out such a lawsuit? SCO has dragged their action on for YEARS, and that's without thousands of patents to use as clubs.

    If they pick on the developers of Ogg Theora, what happens? Do they stand any chance of carrying on such a lawsuit, as an open source effort? Would various interested companies back them and support them in a fight to the finish? The most frightening interpretation of that email suggests we may actually find out.

  • Re:Sensationalism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:32PM (#32052098) Journal
    Open source codecs hurt the Apple MPEG LA connection.
    Everybody loves the manual prices, codec prices, lock in cash flow feel and Theora "like" lock out.
    Apple, Real, MS ect all seem to want a codec to lock in developers and milk them at some workflow level eg. color correction, production software ect.
    The idea that some free blog could set you up with a "good enough" Linux/Mac/Win guide to shoot 720/1080 HD media, edit, encode it and give/broadcast/sell to the world is just wrong to Apple, MS ect.
    You should be buying Apple or MS low end software, learning via student discounts and then walking in and buying $1000 to 10000+ worth of software to start and then think about itunes ect to sell your art.
    Theora is the main threat to this. People have the creativity, low end HD cams, friends, a codec and the web.
    Nothing is stopping them from bypassing Apple, Hollywood, MS ect. and going to the consumer except a good free codec for real world web "sharing".
    You still need a CC system for payments ;)
  • by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:40PM (#32052180)

    Granted MKV is just a container... it is still a far better container.

    ... that doesn't work with most devices or software on the market.

  • Re:Rubbish (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:45PM (#32052216)

    what he did say, and that it you made no attempt to refute, is that it would hurt apple's and microsoft's attempts to push proprietary codecs as standard.

    I don't think that Apple and Microsoft have any particular interest in "pushing" H.264 simply because it is proprietary. Rather, it is a CODEC that is widely supported, and in particular has many mobile devices that include hardware decoding support. It also benefits from being pretty clear from a legal perspective with respect to patents. Neither Apple or Microsoft gain anything from it being proprietary.

  • Apple is evil (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:50PM (#32052250)

    I've often made the argument that Apple is far more evil than Microsoft in terms of pursuing vendor lock-in and coercively leveraging one product in order to drive sales of others to the detriment of real competition; the only thing that held Apple back was that it blew the marketing battle against Wintel a long time ago. Now that their fortunes are on the rise again, we can reasonably expect to see Apple flex its muscles in ways that are just as insidious as Microsoft during its rise to dominance. This being one of those occasions, I'll say it again: Apple was innocuous for so long because they simply didn't have the market share to abuse their customers (much).

    Now, for the other half of this endless loop, I'll yield the floor and let the usual crowd of Mac fanboys explain to us how Apple's predatory stance towards Open Source is really insanely great. (And really, this should be a great occasion for nostalgia, since the release of the iPad gives Apple fans the first chance they've had in several years to argue that preemptive multitasking -- or, in this case, any multitasking -- is actually a good thing.)

  • Re:Rubbish (Score:3, Insightful)

    by westlake ( 615356 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @09:01PM (#32052322)

    Lets run with your thought experiment for a moment. Google release a blinding implementation of VP8 support in Chrome next week, then FF and Opera pick it up and release browser updates the week after.

    When does VP8 hardware support reach consumers?

    In mobile devices? Camcorders? PCs? HDTVs and the set-top box? Not next week. Quite probably not even next year.

    Where are the editing tools for both the pro and the amateur?

    Meanwhile the installed base for H.264 grows exponentially.

  • Nope. Porn went for VHS: it was more prosaic economics that did it for Betamax. Porn hasn't created the One Streaming Format yet, either. The porn industry went for HD-DVD over Bluray, an expensive mistake. The one thing they've done right is accepting and working with piracy to increase the size of the market.
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @09:10PM (#32052374)

    They need to move fast, clean VP8 up and push it into Chrome, Android and youtube

    And then Android battery life starts horribly suffering due to lack of hardware support. Sounds like a winning idea!

  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @09:10PM (#32052380) Journal

    Yes but the H.264 implementation only infringes on the patents of the holders of the H.264 patents.

    How do you know?

  • by sabernet ( 751826 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @09:15PM (#32052414) Homepage

    I'll feed the troll....sorry.

    Get over it guys he can have opinions just like you and me.

    You don't quite understand the difference between "opinion" and "veiled threat"? Really? He's producing FUD while possibly trying to launch an abusive lawsuit based on software patents(which are patently evil themselves) on Theora basically because he sits on the license board for H.264.

    This isn't an opinion. It's an open declaration of war on an NGO. If your brain weren't so apparently dependent on Apple's marketing trolls, I wouldn't understand how you could possibly be fine with that.

  • by segedunum ( 883035 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @09:20PM (#32052442)

    Microsoft conspicuously said today that IE9 will only support H.264 for HTML5 video. Add in Apple and you have the two largest consumer OS vendors backing the same codec.

    Unfortunately for Microsoft and Apple they actually believe that they control something. Currently there is no h.264 content out there for HTML5 video and Microsoft and Apple have no means to create it.

    Theora will just end up becoming collateral damage in the coming war all of the large vendors are about to wage with Google.

    Unfortunately, Google controls YouTube and what YouTube chooses to use is what matters. Like it or lump it, they are the standard for internet video which is why Steve Jobs has had to answer some uncomfortable questions about why Apple is incompatible with YouTube, and not the other way around. Google have rather steered away from h.264 in recent weeks towards VP8 (the successor to Theora), largely because they know they'll be steering a car that could take any direction it likes in the coming years and it will be used by Apple at some point to try and shoot YouTube and Google down. Microsoft and Apple in particular have no content to be able to dictate what format people will use, so they have to resort to threats.

  • by sabernet ( 751826 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @09:28PM (#32052498) Homepage

    There is no difference if the threat is expressed as an opinion.

    Those are two different things. An opinion is something like "I think they may get sued." A threat is "I will probably sue you."

    An opinion is based on what your personal feelings at the time are. A threat is when you factually confront someone with the aim of informing them you will or may do bad things to them.

    For example, me saying "I think you will get killed if you keep running into traffic like that." is my opinion. Me saying, "I will kill you." is a threat and is, in fact, illegal.

    Stop me if I'm going to fast for you.

    Dealing with your competitors FUD is the price of doing business

    Excuse me, Glen Beck, but at what point is Theora trying to make money?

    There used to be a course given at business schools called "business ethics". At some point, yes, they appear to have gone to the wayside more and more lately. They did that in the past too. Interesting you used the word "firing line".

  • by sabernet ( 751826 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @09:33PM (#32052532) Homepage

    Producing something for free as a service has never been a "business". Ever.

    Apparently, the only thing you hold dear is your stock portfolio, up on your own personal "high horse"(you did start with "Linux dweebies and Microsoft apologists"). So any further discussion involving anything other then dollar signs would be as fruitless as describing Pythagorean theory to a gnat.

    So, while I still have karma to burn, I feel absolutely entitled and justified in saying that people like you are everything that is wrong with humanity. Get off my fucking lawn.

  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @09:36PM (#32052558) Journal

    It seems clear to me that Mr. Jobs has adopted Microsoft tactics. If someone threatens the profitability of your product - exterminate them. Jobs is planning to attack Theora with what amounts to a frivolous lawsuit. Even if he loses, it won't matter, because Theora will be driven into bankruptcy by the attack. It sounds just like 90s-era Microsoft.

    And even if Theora survives, the battle will have left them so depleted that they'll longer be a competitor. However you look at it, Jobs accomplishes his goal.

  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @09:55PM (#32052690)

    Every since they were the "Jobs" Apple. Initially, Apple was the "Woz" Apple. Products centered around what he, as a geek, liked. Jobs just marketed them (and marketed them well I might add). However that lasted only until around the mid 80s. Then the "Jobs" Apple took over.

    Well that Apple has always been about control, about lock in. They want to tell you what you are going to do on your computer. When you want more power, they want you to throw it away and buy a new one. They will tell you what technologies to use and when the decide one is obsolete (like ADB) they'll just drop it and leave you to struggle or purchase new equipment. It is their way or no way.

    I don't see any change in Apple behavior now that they are popular again, they've nearly always acted this way. It is just more people are noticing, and people who aren't so accustomed to it. The hard core Mac heads are used to what Apple does, since that's how they've always done it. They either accept it, or rationalize it. The thing is, now we have people buying Apple gadgets because they are shiny and trendy. However they are not so used to this "We are going to tell you what it is," idea.

    Personally, I say if you don't like it, don't shop Apple. You don't lack for choices in the tech market. If you disagree with their strategies, go elsewhere. I do not at all care for the way they do things, so I own no Apple products. This is no great loss to me, I'm not excluding myself from anything I want. I love my computer, I love my Blackberry, I've got the devices I want that do what I want. I can live with the fact that they aren't trendy.

  • Re:Okay, prove it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sabriel ( 134364 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @09:57PM (#32052710)

    Perhaps if they looked and avoided them they wouldn't have anything to worry about?

    As noted in the summary, the patent holders seem keen to insinuate that you simply can't do video codecs without infringing on their patents, without actually saying so plainly.

    As noted in the summary, Jobs says 'a patent pool is being assembled to go after Theora and other "open source" codecs now' - and I read "go after" as "attack", because that's what it is.

    Perhaps if we didn't allow asshats to decide they can control the use of mathematics, to decide they can use patents as weapons, we wouldn't have this sort of crap to worry about.

  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @10:08PM (#32052778)

    Dude you forgot to include the joke as well.

    I disagree. I thought it captured the essence of both Jobs and his followers rather well. Now, if you happen to be one of those followers, you probably found the post much less entertaining.

  • Re:Sensationalism (Score:3, Insightful)

    by node 3 ( 115640 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @10:11PM (#32052794)

    This isn't about Xiph ... this is about Google.

    Apple is in a very similar position as Microsoft was a while ago, and they are using the EXACT same playbook ... FUD.

    Attacking Theora is an attack on Google how exactly?

  • Re:Rubbish (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cajun Hell ( 725246 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @10:48PM (#32053048) Homepage Journal

    It's the likes of Mozille, Xiph and the FSF that are putting the breaks on HTML5, to the great benefit of Adobe's Flash... Others have offered their support for HTML5 with H.264 video, and without the attempts to frustrate it's use, it would be a widely accepted standard by now.

    Emphasis mine. Uh, was that a typo? You probably meant to say "US Congress" because it sure as hell isn't Mozilla, Xiph, or FSF who insists that nobody in US is allowed to implement H.264 without first asking for permission. That's the nature of patent law, and in US, Congress is who is responsible for that.

    The FSF prefers to be anti-pragmatic

    Software patents are anti-pragmatic, and again, that's not FSF's fault. You've got one of the most powerful governments in the world telling programmers what they're allowed and not allowed to implement. That's an outrage, especially in the so-called "land of the free," so maybe focus your anger where's it's deserved.

  • Re:Rubbish (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Draek ( 916851 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @10:56PM (#32053108)

    I don't think that Apple and Microsoft have any particular interest in "pushing" H.264 simply because it is proprietary.

    Yes, they do. The higher they raise the barrier to entry of the particular market, the lower the chances of having a new Google leaving them hanging as it happened with the web market.

    It also benefits from being pretty clear from a legal perspective with respect to patents.

    Not really. That Apple et al own patents over h.264 doesn't mean there's nobody *else* owning patents over it, as so many Microsoft and Apple products have shown these past couple decades.

  • Re:Rubbish (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @11:01PM (#32053120)

    Yes, they do. The higher they raise the barrier to entry of the particular market, the lower the chances of having a new Google leaving them hanging as it happened with the web market.

    How would Google "leave them hanging" by releasing a video CODEC as Open Source? Apple and Microsoft could just use that, seeing as it is Open Source.

    Not really. That Apple et al own patents over h.264 doesn't mean there's nobody *else* owning patents over it, as so many Microsoft and Apple products have shown these past couple decades.

    But being a "patent pool" composed of the major players in the industry means that you'd have to be pretty wealthy or ballsy to go up against them.

  • by ChipMonk ( 711367 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @11:04PM (#32053136) Journal
    Not all monopolies are illegal. The patents need to be challenged, on the basis that their use doesn't create a new machine, they simply carry out different algorithms on glorified calculators. An old Commodore 64, with enough extra storage, can carry out the same calculations, albeit a lot slower.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 30, 2010 @11:22PM (#32053238)

    yeah, its an opinion, just like when The Godfather says, "i think something unfortunate may happen to you" while his thugs tap their palms with baseball bats behind him.

  • by Kristoph ( 242780 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @11:44PM (#32053386)

    There are hundreds of simple games for free on the AppStore. This is not about paying. This is about platform control. Whomever controls the dominant development platform is in a better position to compete.

  • by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@gmail.BOHRcom minus physicist> on Saturday May 01, 2010 @12:01AM (#32053500) Homepage Journal
    We don't know for sure, but H.264 is in such wide use that any patent holder would either have asserted its patents or risk having its claims estopped by laches. (Laches is legalese for "you snooze, you lose.") Theora doesn't have this advantage.
  • by Kristoph ( 242780 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @12:20AM (#32053602)

    I hate to burst your bubble ..

    - Apple has no significant H. 264 license and has no grounds to sue anyone related to Theora. Apple is saying they know litigation is pending by a 3rd party.

    - Apple permits writers and publishers the ability to set their own eBook prices. The market defines the prices.

    - The Apple engineer who lost the iPhone remains employed by Apple.

    - Flash sucks right, we all agree to that, we all think it should die? Apple starts 'battling it' and it's evil?


  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @12:21AM (#32053620) Journal

    1. All patents cease to have proprietary ownership 20 years after their filing date. Thus some will easily go out of date in the next 5-10 years.

    Would work if the patent office was competent. They're not; they're happy to accept multiple patents on the same thing (there were at least two LZW patents, and run length encoding has been patented many times).

    3. ANY patent may be challenged by showing prior art that is demonstrable from a date prior to the patent filing and paying a small nominal fee for reexamination. This is the "silent patent killer" that every patent holder fears. This can come from a published piece of information from ANYWHERE in the world. It can come from privately developed and non-public sources, too, if it can be substantiated, if I remember right (such as in an invenstion documentation book).

    When a prior art claim is evaluated, the standards are ridiculously stringent. Any small difference between the prior art and the patent means the patent stands. On the other hand, when a device is evaluated for infringement, the standards are quite broad; little differences don't count.

    6. Any open source creator for something like a video codec better have one heck of a good patent attorney firm that can give real world advice on patents from day one.

    The only advice the attorney would give is "don't". There's no point in consulting a lawyer unless you _want_ to kill the deal.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 01, 2010 @12:35AM (#32053720)

    You're legally prohibited from implementing H.264 except with permission of the people who own it. That's about as proprietary as something can possibly get.

    If there was a codec with no documentation whatsoever, just binary-only implementations - that could still be more open than H.264, because the only obstacle to implementing it would be one's ability to reverse engineer the binaries, rather than one's ability to fight off the police.

  • Re:Apple is evil (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bm_luethke ( 253362 ) <luethkeb@SLACKWA ... net minus distro> on Saturday May 01, 2010 @12:39AM (#32053746)

    It's not the first time this scenario has happened - frankly it feels a great deal like the days of the early Macs.

    I recall the first Mac I ever saw - I was in high school and a friend had just purchased one (upgrading his Apple IIe), I do not recall which Mac it was but was the top of the line at the time. All of us oohed an ahhed over it. Indeed, it was one of the slickest things I had ever seen. I wanted one so bad I couldn't stand it but I (even with my parents help) just could not afford one so I settled for a PC (the 486's had just come out and I got one of those - over 3500 for it but the mac topped 5k). The friend with Mac talked about how great it was, look how stylish, how great the graphics were, how responsive the GUI (Whats a GUI says I? I have dos 4 something!) and it was all true.

    But then slowly reality set in, though it did take a couple of years. His emulator would play nearly anything he wanted but my hardware progressed in ways Apple didn't see fit with their "vision" so emulation didn't really work. As we both started learning about these things called computers I started being able to do loads of things he couldn't. Prices for my devices quickly fell, his didn't. Access to new devices were quick on mine, not on his. My hardware adapted to my vision, his required him to adapt to Apples.

    Apple came along with both the iPod and iPhone and made something people could brag about from all points of the road. They could often say "I can go do this - can you?" and all but the Blackberry users would slink off (and those users didn't care and still more often than not do not - the blackberry is a tool, not an entertainment device). They found the perfect time for their vision to be the best out there. Now time has moved on, heck even in the time since I purchased my Moto Droid it has drastically changed. From an anecdotal point of view my boss with his iPhone has gone from jokingly pointing out all he can do that I can't to seeing a thing or two I regularly do that he can't (along with most of those things I couldn't my phone now does). From a somewhat less anecdotal point if view (but still more anecdotal than not) I simply watch when I sit in a busy terminal in an airport and note what phones people are playing with. A few months back and I was the only Android device - now not so much. Last trip I counted 10 iPhone devices (or rather iPhone like ones - I noticed two that got downgraded to iPod touches when they brought out their blackberrys - I do not know them well enough to tell them apart) and 6 Android ones.

    Apple has always self imploded when the market place exceeds their vision. They have almost always been good about filling voids and making niche markets mainstream - they have been bad about fulfilling those needs over a long term period. For those whose wants coincide with their visions Apple is the perfect company - nothing wrong with that. Even today the Mac is the preferred tool for many graphic professionals for this reason (though some of their arguments are a holdover from the past, many are not). But for normal everyday people having the person next to you do something wanted with their device that you can not do makes them want it. Microsoft and the PC won out back then from that and slowly moved away from it due to market dominance. Even then Microsoft can't take the truly draconian stance Apple does (see Vista and few purchasing it).

    They (Jobs in particular) have never understood that the stronger they try and control a thing the less control they have over it (yea, I know I'm mostly quoting Star Wars here and comparing him to Vader - yet in this case rightfully so). A company that understands they have to be flexible yet still have their vision will win over them in the long run. Will Google win over them? Hard to say, they are in a similar position to Microsoft in the early 90's. No one phone is going to be the iPhone killer any more than we can point to the Mac killer. It will not be the Motorola Droid, HTC Incredible, or the yet to be announced DFC

  • Re:Rubbish (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Arker ( 91948 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @12:46AM (#32053780) Homepage

    Because Apple and Microsoft are pushing patented, unfree "standards" as a way of raising the barrier to entry to the market. You see, in a free market, the price of goods approaches the cost of their production, which means profit margins tend towards the minimum. Both companies seek to avoid this by raising the barrier to entry to exclude competition. Since the main competition they fear is from free software, they dont even need to raise it very high in monetary terms to lock out their competition and wallow in monopoly rents. Even nominal royalties lock out the competition, which is why they are indeed desperate to get patented technologies adopted as standards in every field possible.

  • Re:Rubbish (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @01:05AM (#32053866)

    Because Apple and Microsoft are pushing patented, unfree "standards" as a way of raising the barrier to entry to the market. You see, in a free market, the price of goods approaches the cost of their production, which means profit margins tend towards the minimum. Both companies seek to avoid this by raising the barrier to entry to exclude competition.

    But neither Microsoft or Apple owns H.264, and the cost of licensing is close to zero (and is actually zero in many cases) so this argument makes no sense. How is H.264 a barrier to entering the market?

  • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @01:27AM (#32054020)

    How we feel is based on the information we get.

    What I see Jobs doing is not so much enforcing a valid patent, but using a huge warchest to bankrupt other people without resources.

    I've seen an increasing amount of information about how unequal wealth distribution is, how the wealthy are shipping jobs over seas while taking huge bonuses for themselves. Why not ship the CEO job overseas as well- the savings would be tremendous-- it's about the SHAREHOLDERS right-- no, it's about the executive class which has gotten control of the corporate system. Shareholders can take hind teat.

    Either the rich and the wealthy are engaged in some kind of power struggle or they've lost control of the message or things have gotten so extreme (1% of the population controlling 43% of the wealth, huge portions of the income, state taxes structured to hit the wealthy at .3% vs 12% of the poors income, executive pay increasing to 350 (to 502x) workers pay (from 52x in 1978 and 30x in 1960) while they lay off thousands.

    Are the wealthy completely out of control so they can't hide it any more?

    Or am I being manipulated with a news feed of this type of information.

    I'm not anti capitalism- but what we have is not capitalism-- I pay 20x the price for drugs, movies, and other goods as are paid by the chinese, indians, and other people competing with me. These are not different products- they are the SAME products-- and we are even legally banned from buying the drugs, movies and other goods over there for 2x and selling it back here for 3x.

    It's absurd. How much longer is this going to go on?

  • by Eskarel ( 565631 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @01:28AM (#32054022)

    No. The GP's post is an example of why software patents(and all patents) need to be sane.

    New ideas provide value for society, new ways of doing things, new things to do, all help to enhance everyone's quality of life. Without some form of protection, the only way to make any money off good ideas(and therefor the only way to encourage people to spend time coming up with good ideas) is by keeping them secret which doesn't really benefit anyone.

    You do not have some sort of right to implement someone else's idea without compensation simply because implementing an idea in software once someone has thought of it is easy. Easy to implement is not the same thing as obvious.

    The problem with patents, both software and otherwise is that patent offices all over the world are really bad at determining what is non trivial and non obvious. "Do the same thing everyone has been doing for centuries ON THE INTERNET", should not be patentable. "Solve a problem which no one else has ever been able to find an answer for" should be, whether you're solving that problem with metal or with code.

  • by Korey Kaczor ( 1345661 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @01:52AM (#32054140)


    Jobs is worse than Bill Gates.... granted, both are pretty much assholes, but Jobs, I feel, is even worse. He's just lucky to be the underdog so he can look like he's fighting the bad guy.

    I don't even think (correct me if I'm wrong) that even Bill Gates stole from his #2.... Wozniak was the mind behind the Apple II and yet Steve Jobs cheats Wozniak out of money because he, Woz, was in the hospital at the time (if I have the story straight). What a great man to run a company. Hell, maybe he can be an "innovative" CEO by asking potential employees if they're virgins or not! Think Different!

    Apple's R&D, marketing, and innovation is far better than Microsofts, and that's undoubtedly true. But the way they act, their soviet style secrecy, suing fans of theirs who leak material simply because they love Apple's hardware and software, disgusts me. They're worse than Microsoft and as bad as MS is, I'm almost glad they were the monopoly we got in the 80s and 90s and not Apple Computers.

    Plus Apple gets it a bit easier, with them taking the backbone of their O/S from FreeBSD.

  • by linhares ( 1241614 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @02:03AM (#32054178)
    I think the line "don't go all Howard Hughes on us" [] qualifies for the meme of the year.
  • by h00manist ( 800926 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @02:23AM (#32054258) Journal
    Microsoft was the "modern, young, alternative" to IBM. Then Apple, then Next, Google, and so many others. It's pointless - companies are run for profit, and letting opportunities for profit pass is not what they do. Morality or legality of actions is an issue, but the profit is quite the issue. The alternative would be for us to give our money to open source programmers, but we keep shooting our feet and not doing that.
  • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @03:00AM (#32054372)

    Unfortunately for Microsoft and Apple they actually believe that they control something. Currently there is no h.264 content out there for HTML5 video and Microsoft and Apple have no means to create it.

    Tens of millions, hundreds of millions, of cell phones, web cams and camcorders generating H.264 video every minute of every day.

    Two fantastically rich corporations with deep penetration into the consumer market space. Partnerships with global content providers and distribution networks.

    Out of the game the both of them.

    This is what On2 had to say before the merger:

    What capabilities does H.264 add to the Adobe Flash Player?

    Support of H.264 allows choice for consumers and enterprises, and gives users access to a broader range of content for the Flash Player. Many in the broadcast industry, including content providers for HD DVD/Blue Ray DVD, already encode in H.264. To enable the most efficient consumption of this content on the PC using the Flash Player, supporting H.264 makes sense, and allows users of the new player to avoid delays or other artifacts associated with a transcoding step for a better viewing experience. The already ubiquitous Flash Player has now extended its reach to play back H.264 content across all PC platforms, i.e., Windows, Mac and Linux. Support Center H.264 FAQ []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 01, 2010 @03:28AM (#32054462)

    Stop feeding this troll already. By buying Apple products you essentially finance a war against your freedom.

  • Re:The bottom line (Score:4, Insightful)

    by impaledsunset ( 1337701 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @04:42AM (#32054658)

    Yeah, I heard about that and I got an iPad. But for some reason I can't get this stupid Linux to work. No wonder nobody uses Linux when it is so hard to use.

  • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @06:34AM (#32055020)

    They need to move fast, clean VP8 up and push it into Chrome, Android and youtube. Firefox and Opera will follow quickly

    And release plugins for IE 7, 8 and 9 as well as Safari then dust their hands off with the satisfaction of a job well done.

    Once YouTube (Google) pushes VP8 or Theora over H.264 it's over. It doesn't matter what codec the browsers use, its what the content publishers use that matters. You already grab a third party browser plug in to view YouTube, heck Adobe would probably set flash up as a VP8 decoder as well as H.264 and SWF (they will if they wish to remain relevant). If google can seduce the likes of Netflix and Hulu with license free codec's then all the better.

    Apple and Microsoft are attempting to control the stick from the wrong end, the consumers end point doesn't matter, its the publishers that does.

  • Right back at ya... []. Although I think it is funny that everyone screamed MSFT users were locked in and couldn't do squat, now it looks like Steve has old Bill beat in that regard. Don't like IE? A dozen other choices easily. Don't like WMP? More choices than you can count. Office? Ditto. Hell from what I understand you don't even have to jailbreak a Windows smartphone to run unauthorized apps!

    I think Jon Stewart said it best [] when he went off on Steve and Apple for the Gizmondo incident. What I will never understand though, is that you have this rabid fanbase that brags they pick up devices with a nearly 100% markup [], is more locked down than anything the Ballmer monkey ever even dreamed of, yet the act like it somehow gives them this cool vibe to pay beyond top dollar for total lock in. Sorry, but I just don't get it. But then again I was always the type that liked having slots on his PCs and using any hardware I want, so what do I know.

    BTW I'm betting that Apple will end up going AMD since Intel has basically crippled performance on their mobile devices by locking out Nvidia. It'll be hilarious to see the same guys that talked about how superior Intel was do another PPC>>>Intel flip flop if it happens. Gotta love that RDF!

  • by wealthychef ( 584778 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @09:19AM (#32055592)

    How we feel is based on the information we get.

    Well, that's one way of thinking about it. Of course, the "information" we get has to pass through our perceptual filters first. So when two people hear or see the same thing they may feel very differently. You might see every news story through the filter of "the rich have too much power, how is this going to screw the little guy?" Then you'd spend a lot of your time angry, I'm guessing. Since your point of view looks like "the truth" or "information" to you, you are stuck with your anger.

    Why am I saying all this? You started out asking, essentially, "why am I angry?" Just to point out you have a choice about your feelings, when you understand that your point of view is just a point of view and not "the truth." I'm not saying it's false, BTW. But are you 100% sure it's absolutely accurate?

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Saturday May 01, 2010 @10:46AM (#32056036) Homepage Journal

    They need to move fast, clean VP8 up and push it into Chrome, Android and youtube

    And then Android battery life starts horribly suffering due to lack of hardware support. Sounds like a winning idea!

    Do you know enough about VP8 to tell us whether it's possible to accelerate it with hardware found in OMAP3, or perhaps, OMAP4? If so, please elucidate. If not, please stop "sharing" your snark or my boojum will eat him.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 01, 2010 @12:36PM (#32056812)

    You do realize that Google is the owner of the, by far, largest video website on the planet? The best case would be if they opensource VP8 and start delivering VP8 encoded Youtube videos. Firefox and all other open source browsers would adopt it. Even better, a lot of other video websites would start doing the very same thing, due to the license fees of h264 kicking in in some years.

  • by Concern ( 819622 ) * on Saturday May 01, 2010 @12:51PM (#32056918) Journal

    Oh yes, H264 is well loved by many. Bluray does use it, and that claim about broadcasters is true; beyond original MPEG streams, I have seen several preparing their "digital archives" with high-bitrate h264 - by which I mean 8, 12 or even higher Mb/sec - far beyond what is used on the internet. This is the corporate equivalent of a 1024Kb/sec mp3. :) It's also approved as part of the new HDTV broadcast standards, though not actually used in practice - and this too would be at far lower bitrates.

    It's just not used much for distributing video on the web. By volume this job is done by Flash, and as you know, Flash has historically used Sorenson Spark and then an On2 protocol called VP6. H264 support was added to flash several years ago (2007 I believe?) but bulk transcoding video is resource intensive, expensive, and difficult. And of course, tool development and pricing has a lag time. So, most video on the web remains in the two predecessor codecs.

    Amusingly, the same proprietary, patented codec hell that Microsoft and Apple love so much makes it far more difficult than it already should be to switch to h264. The marketplace for workable transcoding solutions is highly limited as a result of the IP thicket, and (historically, if not still today) you basically have no alternative other than buying Anystream and building a cranky army of Windows servers to do it, while by the way paying a stunning fortune in license fees.

    Compare to what happens when you target an open codec, and all the world's developers then collaborate and compete on tight implementations across a variety of hardware architectures. That's when you have wicked time to market on things that run in CUDA, or eke out every last operation in every clock cycle of your highly-core-dense blade racks. And work without leaking memory and crashing. And cost nothing. Nice little luxuries like that.

    Just to reiterate, It really doesn't matter what codec broadcasters use internally, or on Blurays, or anywhere else. To target the web, they must transcode regardless, to get a delivery format that balances bandwidth (and costs) with quality. If there is a good free codec available, it starts to look very attractive - lower costs and far fewer headaches. The only reason this hasn't already happened is "codec blackmail:" you have to support the proprietary mess, because vendor X or Y has your audience hostage and you have no alternative. With HTML5 and a free codec, we can finally end this disaster, but not if Apple and MS and Adobe can help it...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 01, 2010 @08:34PM (#32060088)

    Over the last 6-8 years, I have started to view fox news, and the conservative talk radio as propaganda for the rich.

    How about Soros, the Clintons etc. Hardly right wing but definitely rich.

    The poor people say, "We can't raise taxes on the wealthy!" and actually vote against their own self interest.

    Most people are overly fixated on who is paying the tax. The reality is that the general population pays the tax regardless of the collection point used. If taxes are too low you can't pay for critical infrastructure and services (Justice system etc.) if taxes are too high you slow the economy. Neither the Democrats or Republicans (or their associated shills in the media) are interested slowing the growth of government spending. That's not to say that tax structures aren't important but having the best most equitable tax structure is of very little benefit if you strangle the economy with the rate of taxation. Ben Bernanke admitted that inflation is a form of tax []. Whatever tax is levied on the rich will result in either them operating under a more favourable foreign corporate structure (all without moving overseas) or taxing you through banking and inflation.

    If you just choose a preference for "left" or "right" propaganda then you're just choosing your manipulators. You're unlikely to be significantly better off under either in the long term.

    I've come to the conclusion that it is very important that we stop this runaway before we end up in a facist / corporatist society unable to break free from the company store.

    We've had the Magna Carta, the English civil wars, the French revolution, the American revolution. What increase in freedom ever was brought about by the government defending the poor from the rich? The rich on both "sides" favour powerful government, it makes it easier for them to get their way. If you want protection from the rich, reintroducing some checks on government power is a necessity. If (in the US) the rich have to bribe 51 state governments to get their way it's a lot harder than bribing one congress. Even more so if they need to corrupt thousands of local governments.

    Strong centralised government has not made wealth distribution more equitable (decentralised), neither will it. Otherwise absolute monarchy would have a better reputation.

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford