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Cisco Open-Sources H.264 Codec, Pushes WebRTC

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  • #11
    Originally posted by Ericg View Post
    LWN already had the story. What those guys figured was: If you download the source code yourself, and compile it yourself, you are in the same position as compiling x.264 (no patent protection). If you download the binary they provide, you are covered by their patent license and dont need to worry.
    Patent absurdity at its best... But a welcome workaround

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    • #12
      Is Cisco the only holder of H.264 patents? I thought there is a whole cartel of those.

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      • #13
        So now we're going to rely on a binary blob from Cisco for WebRTC? Thanks but no thanks. It's important that WebRTC standarizes on a fully open source and royalty free codec which can be ported and supported everywhere, currently that is vp8/vp9.

        Now if MPEGLA were to make h264 royalty free for everyone then that would be another thing entirely.

        This announcement is simply MPEGLA's attempt to prevent WebRTC to standarize around VP8/VP9, and Cisco is a h264 patent holder and part of the MPEGLA so this is not an altruistic move by any means.

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        • #14
          Originally posted by XorEaxEax View Post
          So now we're going to rely on a binary blob from Cisco for WebRTC? Thanks but no thanks. It's important that WebRTC standarizes on a fully open source and royalty free codec which can be ported and supported everywhere, currently that is vp8/vp9.

          Now if MPEGLA were to make h264 royalty free for everyone then that would be another thing entirely.

          This announcement is simply MPEGLA's attempt to prevent WebRTC to standarize around VP8/VP9, and Cisco is a h264 patent holder and part of the MPEGLA so this is not an altruistic move by any means.
          Indeed! And what a convenient way for NSA to include some backdoors in those binaries. You are downloading binaries instead of source, you can't check whether they correspond to the published source.

          Let's just use VP8/VP9 with Opus for WebRTC.

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          • #15
            On the other hand, this seems to mean that ubuntu and other distros can now include a gratis h264 codec in their non-free repositories, that anyone can install and use.

            Although I'm a fan of VP8/VP9, this seems like a big win, considering most modern video is in h264.

            Edit: Note the extra implied advantage that Firefox will now have h264 in linux, bringing it to feature parity with Firefox on Windows/OSX and with Chrome.

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            • #16
              Originally posted by shmerl View Post
              Is Cisco the only holder of H.264 patents? I thought there is a whole cartel of those.
              From http://xiphmont.livejournal.com/61927.html: "Cisco's license hack is obvious enough if you have the money: There's a yearly cap on total payments for any given licensed H.264 product. This year the cap is $6.5M. Any company that pays the cap each year can distribute as many copies as they want. There are still terms and restrictions on how the distribution gets done, but Cisco will be handling that (and only Cisco will be allowed to build and distribute these copies without a separate license)."

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              • #17
                Originally posted by stikonas View Post
                Indeed! And what a convenient way for NSA to include some backdoors in those binaries. You are downloading binaries instead of source, you can't check whether they correspond to the published source.

                Let's just use VP8/VP9 with Opus for WebRTC.
                Unless Mozilla is really stupid about their implementation... This is a plan C, at best:

                On Windows and Mac, Firefox already supports h.264 because Microsoft and Apple ship a codec for it themselves, and pay the royalty fee themselves.

                On Linux, Firefox is getting support for Gstreamer 1.x (already have 0.10) and can use the h.264 codec from Gstreamer.


                So in order for Firefox to download the codec from Cisco, you are going to have to NOT be on Windows, NOT be on Mac, and be on Linux WITHOUT Gstreamer, THEN it'll have to download from Cisco.

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                • #18
                  Originally posted by shmerl View Post
                  Is Cisco the only holder of H.264 patents? I thought there is a whole cartel of those.
                  There are hundreds/thousands of patents for it and most of them are owned by a handful of companies, including Cisco.

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                  • #19
                    Originally posted by stikonas View Post
                    Indeed! And what a convenient way for NSA to include some backdoors in those binaries. You are downloading binaries instead of source, you can't check whether they correspond to the published source.
                    Yes you can. Download the source, compile it, download the blob, make a checksum of both. Of course, you do need to know what compiler and what flags Cisco is using, but that's not that big of an issue.

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                    • #20
                      GCC is not deterministic: timestamps, build order, and so on. Further, Cisco could compile a static library in (one compiled by them and not distributed), and then you'd never get an exact match.

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