We’ve heard of video killing the radio star. But now it seems video is out to kill its own kind.Google’s launch of its VP8 free video software has sparked a major row between major players in the tech industry over formats used for viewing videos online.
MPEG LA, an industry body who manages the rights of video patents is now the focus of an investigation by US antitrust officials who suspect the organisation is blocking tech firms using rival software such as VP8. The body manages the licensing of more than 1,700 patents used in H.264, a high-def video standard.
According to the Wall Street Journal, officials are investigating whether MPEG is acting in an uncompetitive manner against a market rival by scaremongering tech co’s into steering clear of its usage due to the legal uncertainty surrounding patent issues.
MPEG LA on the other hand, is claiming the online giant is violating patents by using the technology, which they hold the rights to. “I can tell you: VP8 is not patent-free,” claim Larry Horn, Chief of the patents body, whose members include Apple, and Microsoft.
VP8 was created by On2 Technologies, which the internet search powerhouse acquired in early last year and released an alternative bitstream format specification under a free patent license at its Google I/O conference in May last year.
Nonetheless, many industry experts still believe H264 still offers better quality than that of its free rival.
The outcome of the case could be significant in that it could decide who owns the rights to HTML 5, the up and coming video format due for release next year.
Google owned YouTube as well as other video streamers like Netflix currently pay the patents organisation royalties for using online video formats.
However, MPEG LA deny they are acting to kill off VP8, which is open source and can be used by software developers freely and without conditions.
Horn insists his company is acting within its rights and simply protecting its members interests.
“We are effectively a convenience store” for licensing patents. We have no dog in that fight,” he said.