Monday, May 17, 2010

Video Codec War: H.264 Fork For Firefox

I'd love for fifteen or twenty minutes to go by without my Google Reader barfing out yet another piece of software patent or "HTML5 video codec war" news, but that's how it is. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if the video tag didn't become standardized until HTML6 or 7.
One serious downside to the lack of consensus is the fact that your browser may very well not have built-in support for some video files embedded with the tag. Firefox, for example, is running with Ogg Theora and won't be bolting on H.264 support. Apart from patent issues, there's a $5 million price tag to be paid to MPEG-LA if Mozilla did want to support the codec, and they still wouldn't be able to include that code in their open source.
But developers love to spin remixes of the Fox, and it only makes sense that someone would take matters into his or her own hands. Enter Maya Posch, who has launched the Wild Fox project on SourceForge. The plan: add H.264 support to Firefox's stable branch using
libavcodec or GStreamer.
Posch feels "that decisions have been made due to patents which do not apply in most parts of the world." He continues, "The Wild Fox project aims to rectify this by releasing builds with these features included, builds which will of course only be available to those not in software patent-encumbered countries."
That sounds useful, right? A nice, pre-packaged Firefox build with H.264 support? Sure it does, but there's a potential pitfall.
While you would probably be able to download and install Wild Fox even in the U.S. and Korea (two of the patent-encumbered countries),
Thomas Holwerda of OSNews warns that you'd be doing so at your own risk, saying "MPEG-LA has clearly stated that it will sue unlicensed users (and is clearly not afraid to do so)." Their director of Global Licensing, Allen Harkness, has said "where a royalty has not been paid, such a product remains unlicensed and any downstream users/distributors would have liability."
Yes, that means MPEG-LA could come after you if you choose to browse with Wild Fox. However, it's infinitely more likely that they'd target Posch and Wild Fox.

via Download Squad


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