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H.264 and AAC support for Flash and Open Source Media Server

Setting Orange, 21st Bureaucracy, 3173.

[Tinic Uro][tinic], an engineer at Adobe working on the Flash Player, [blogged][blogentry] about the [announcement][announcement] that Adobe will support H.264 and AAC with the Flash Player.

Reading the [blog post][blogentry], I was very upset reading this part at the end of the article:

I am not in a position able to explain to you why we will not allow 3rd party streaming servers to stream H.264 video or AAC audio into the Flash Player. What I can tell you is that we do not allow this without proper licensing. Refer to Adobe’s friendly Flash Media Server sales staff for more information.

Someone on the OSFlash mailing list came up with the entry in [Wikipedia regarding H.264][wikipedia h264]:

Conversely, shipping a product in the U.S. which includes an LGPL H. 264 decoder/encoder would be in violation of the software license of the codec implementation. In simple terms, the LGPL and GPL licenses
require that any rights held in conjunction with distributing and using the code also apply to anyone receiving the code, and no further restrictions are put on distribution or use. If there is a requirement for a patent license to be sought, this is a clear violation of both the GPL and LGPL terms. Thus, the right to distribute patent-encumbered code under those licenses as part of the product is revoked per the terms of the GPL and LGPL.

But a server isn’t encoding/decoding anything, just streaming. More interesting, there is an [announcement of the MPEG LA][mpegla] back from 2003:

Decoder-Encoder Royalties

  • Royalties to be paid by end product manufacturers for an encoder, a decoder or both (”unit”) begin at US $0.20 per unit after the first 100,000 units each year. There are no royalties on the first 100,000 units each year. Above 5 million units per year, the royalty is US $0.10 per unit.
  • The maximum royalty for these rights payable by an Enterprise (company and greater than 50% owned subsidiaries) is $3.5 million per year in 2005-2006, $4.25 million per year in 2007-08 and $5 million per year in 2009-10.
  • In addition, in recognition of existing distribution channels, under certain circumstances an Enterprise selling decoders or encoders both (i) as end products under its own brand name to end users for use in personal computers and (ii) for incorporation under its brand name into personal computers sold to end users by other licensees, also may pay royalties on behalf of the other licensees for the decoder and encoder products incorporated in (ii) limited to $10.5 million per year in 2005-2006, $11 million per year in 2007-2008 and $11.5 million per year in 2009-2010.
  • The initial term of the license is through December 31, 2010. To encourage early market adoption and start-up, the License will provide a grace period in which no royalties will be payable on decoders and encoders sold before January 1, 2005.

Participation Fees

  • Title-by-Title – For AVC video (either on physical media or ordered and paid for on title-by-title basis, e.g., PPV, VOD, or digital download, where viewer determines titles to be viewed or number of viewable titles are otherwise limited), there are no royalties up to 12 minutes in length. For AVC video greater than 12 minutes in length, royalties are the lower of (a) 2% of the price paid to the licensee from licensee’s first arms length sale or (b) $0.02 per title. Categories of licensees include (i) replicators of physical media, and (ii) service/content providers (e.g., cable, satellite, video DSL, internet and mobile) of VOD, PPV and electronic downloads to end users.
  • Subscription – For AVC video provided on a subscription basis (not ordered title-by-title), no royalties are payable by a system (satellite, internet, local mobile or local cable franchise) consisting of 100,000 or fewer subscribers in a year. For systems with greater than 100,000 AVC video subscribers, the annual participation fee is $25,000 per year up to 250,000 subscribers, $50,000 per year for greater than 250,000 AVC video subscribers up to 500,000 subscribers, $75,000 per year for greater than 500,000 AVC video subscribers up to 1,000,000 subscribers, and $100,000 per year for greater than 1,000,000 AVC video subscribers.
  • Over-the-air free broadcast – There are no royalties for over-the-air free broadcast AVC video to markets of 100,000 or fewer households. For over-the-air free broadcast AVC video to markets of greater than 100,000 households, royalties are $10,000 per year per local market service (by a transmitter or transmitter simultaneously with repeaters, e.g., multiple transmitters serving one station).
  • Internet broadcast (non-subscription, not title-by-title) – Since this market is still developing, no royalties will be payable for internet broadcast services (non-subscription, not title-by-title) during the initial term of the license (which runs through December 31, 2010) and then shall not exceed the over-the-air free broadcast TV encoding fee during the renewal term.
  • The maximum royalty for Participation rights payable by an Enterprise (company and greater than 50% owned subsidiaries) is $3.5 million per year in 2006-2007, $4.25 million in 2008-09 and $5 million in 2010.
  • As noted above, the initial term of the license is through December 31, 2010. To encourage early marketplace adoption and start-up, the License will provide for a grace period in which no Participation Fees will be payable for products or services sold before January 1, 2006.

So I don’t get why Adobe cares about OS media server. Isn’t it the problem of content providers?

The only thing I can think: Patents suck!

[mpegla]: http://www.mpegla.com/news/n_03-11-17_avc.html
[wikipedia h264]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H.264
[tinic]: http://www.blogger.com/profile/02808199252300507088
[announcement]: http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/070821/20070820006124.html?.v=1
[blogentry]: http://www.kaourantin.net/2007/08/what-just-happened-to-video-on-web_20.html

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