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Apple Businesses

Apple Delays QuickTime 6 Over Proposed MPEG-4 Licenses 245

Posted by timothy
from the loose-the-chickens-for-free-range-eggs dept.
znu writes: "Apple announced at the QuickTime Live! conference today that there's a public preview of QuickTime 6 with full MPEG-4 support ready to ship, but the terms of the proposed MPEG-4 license are holding it back. For those who haven't been following this, MPEG wants $0.25 per encoder/decoder for MPEG-4, up to $2 million per company per year. Apple is fine with that. But MPEG also wants content distributers to pony up $0.02/hour for any content that's distributed for profit. Apple feels that determining just what is "for profit" will be problematic, and that this pricing will seriously inhibit MPEG-4 adoption. You are encouraged to complain to MPEG LA about this situation."
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Apple Delays QuickTime 6 Over Proposed MPEG-4 Licenses

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  • Will the greed ever end? The 25 cents per encoder/decoder is bad enough, but then charging by the hour as well??? Give me a break
    • by nurightshu (517038) <rightshu@cox.net> on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @02:55AM (#2998976) Homepage Journal

      The 25 cents per encoder/decoder is bad enough, but then charging by the hour as well?

      You know, I don't really have a problem with them charging $.25 per codec. The developers of the MPEG-4 standard deserve to be compensated for their time, and money is a pretty good universally understood medium (popped popcorn is often too bulky to mail in mass quantities, and oral pleasure from each purchaser could be difficult -- and in today's epidemiological climate, hazardous). So more power to 'em, I say.

      The $.02/hour scheme does seem a little tough to enforce, though. I mean, if I'm selling for-profit movies (and really, there's only one type of movie that's truly profitable on the World Wide Pr0n Repository), don't you think it would be in my best interests to lowball the estimate just a teensy bit? "Well, I'm going to sell movies encoded in MPEG-4, but only, um, three hours' worth. Yeah, that's the ticket! Three hours -- here's your six cents. Bye!"

      Seems to me like this is yet another case of greed being foiled by stupidity.

      • You know, I don't really have a problem with them charging $.25 per codec.
        Remember that even 1/100 of cent per codec makes it impossible to implement as free software. If you write a free software encoder and ten milions of people will start using it, will you just pay $2.5M to MPEG-4 guys, begging people to stop using it in more copies?

        I think I'll just wait for Ogg Tarkin [xiph.org].

        • > Remember that even 1/100 of cent per codec makes it impossible to implement as free software

          If free like free beer, you're right.
          If free like free speech, you're not.
          • Remember that even 1/100 of cent per codec makes it impossible to implement as free software. If you write a free software encoder and ten milions of people will start using it, will you just pay $2.5M to MPEG-4 guys, begging people to stop using it in more copies?
            If free like free beer, you're right.
            If free like free speech, you're not.
            When I say free software [gnu.org] I usually mean free software [gnu.org] .

            If the program is gratis (like free beer) but it's not a free software, it can be possible to control how many people are using it, so you can control how much money you have to pay to MPEG people. But if it's a free software, you can't control how many people are using it.

            So I suppose, you wanted to say:

            If free like free speech, you're right.
            If free like free beer, you're not.
            which is exaclty right. We already have proprietary Quicktime [apple.com] or Windows Media [microsoft.com] players to download for free. Apple and Microsoft can pay $2M/year for MPEG-4 but if they don't want to, they can always offer a fixed number of copies to download, forcing you ro gegister [arachnoid.com]. But people making a free software movie player [mplayerhq.hu], can't force such restrictions.
            • Re:Greedy bastards! (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Cadre (11051) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @08:24AM (#2999449) Homepage

              We already have proprietary Quicktime

              If you mean proprietary as in fully documented [apple.com] (you probably want to start in the API section) and open you'd be correct. In fact, there are several projects started that will play Quicktime movies fine under Linux.*

              Perhaps you meant the proprietary and closed Sorenson codec?

              *Of course, they won't be able to play the ones that use the Sorenson codec, which is the most popular codec to use with Quicktime

            • they can always offer a fixed number of copies to download, forcing you ro gegister.
              I can't believe I wrote "ro gegister" instead of "to register" and that I didn't notice that while reading it a couple of times... Strange, very strange... I may need more 3,7-Dihydro-1,3,7-trimethyl-1H-purine-2,6-dione [faqs.org].
  • Another source (Score:5, Informative)

    by clambert (519009) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @02:38AM (#2998941) Homepage
    CNET's had a nice, objective article online [com.com] since early this afternoon.
  • 2 Million per company per year! My god, shows how much big companies like apple can throw around. That's more than the my companies total profit for the year. LOL.
  • Yet another corporation trying to rake in money for informational exchange -- truly a bizarre idea if you think about it, right? Money for information...
    • truly a bizarre idea if you think about it, right? Money for information...

      Dude, get over it. Information is valuable. Otherwise, you wouldn't give a shit about this issue, right? Things which are valuable are, by definition, worth money. Got it?

      BTW I'm curious who provides the food you eat and the roof over your head.

      MPEG can charge whatever they want, and Apple can tell them to shove it. That's what the free market is all about. I'll be happy to buy your fucking one-way ticket to China if you don't like it.
  • hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MathJMendl (144298) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @02:41AM (#2998948) Homepage
    What we really need is a nice, free, high quality and open source standard. Then, anyone can use it without paying the license fees, and it will be able to run on any platform. Whereas music files have converged to mainly MP3 and OGG Vorbis files, videos are heavily divided between MPEG, QuickTime, DiVX & AVI, RM, and ASF. It is really annoying to use so many different players to play simple videos, I use at least four different ones regularly. Plus, I haven't found anything that can play RM except for RealPlayer, which is unfortunate since some of them have not been displaying correctly on my computer.
    • Re:hmm (Score:4, Informative)

      by Scooby Snacks (516469) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @03:01AM (#2998992)
      Well, if you're sick and tired of this, like I am, there's always Ogg Tarkin [xiph.org] that could use an extra hand or two.
      • Tarkin (Score:5, Informative)

        by krmt (91422) <therefrmhere&yahoo,com> on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @03:20AM (#2999031) Homepage
        Tarkin is very very much in the planning phase right now, so if you've got any knowledge of video compression or wavelets in general, now's the time to hop on! If you've got the time to learn wavelet encoding and read a bunch of papers, this will be a great project. I don't have time personally to do much more than follow the mailing list (which has seen a lot of traffic in the last few days) but there's a lot of people on this project who really know their stuff. It's a good chance to learn from them.

        That said, the definitions for the project aren't certain at all right now. No one knows if it's going to be for streaming video or just plain compressed video. There's even been talk of using it as a professional editing standard, but that's not likely to be a focus. Right now, Tarkin is so new it's scary. It's going to be an exciting project to follow, but don't expect anything too soon.
        • Hey krmt,

          Do you have a link to an official site for Tarkin? I haven't checked google yet, 'cause I don't want to end up at an unofficial site for it.

          I'd be very interesting in at least getting acquainted with the project. I do not have any experience in the ideas you have suggested, but I would be interested in learning.

          And as far as streaming/compressed video goes, I think for a solution to really become open and feasible, that the project should go the same route as Vorbis and be for both. (Obviously this is probably the wrong place to express this opinion).

          Thanks
          • Re:Tarkin (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward
            I don't think Tarkin has a web site yet, but you can browse or join the mailing list from the Ogg [xiph.org] site.
    • Can someone explain what the DiVX codec is if its not mpeg4? I was told it was a modified mpeg4 codec?

      or is this just a myth ?
      • by Anonymous Coward
        DivX ;-) version 3 (aka MS MPEG v4) is a modified version of MPEG4 (DivX 3 is a hacked version of a Microsoft codec, modified so it could be used in AVI files instead of just ASF). It's incompatible with MPEG4, but it's close enough that an open-source codec [sf.net] exists for it.

        DivX 4 is based on the MoMuSys MPEG4 implementation. The license for this specifies that derived versions must remain compatible with the MPEG4 specs, so DivX 4 is basically the same as MPEG4 (but DivX uses AVI as a container format instead of QuickTime). FFmpeg has a codec for MPEG4, and it can play most DivX 4 videos.

      • by MiTEG (234467) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @03:46AM (#2999061) Homepage Journal
        The previous release of DiVX was based on a hacked version of the MS MPEG-4 (actually an interesting story, I believe it originated in a beta version of a MS media encoder program that had MPEG-4 encoding support, but was later removed in the final version). The major issue with this was the fact that it was done without any licensing, meaning the entire DiVX format was illegal. That being said, paying the royalties per encoder or hour of commercial video distributed was the least of the developer's concerns. This with was fixed with the new Open DiVX/DiVX 4.0+ which supposedly were completely re-written and NOT based on the original MPEG-4, therefore bypassing the licensing technicalities. Although the original DiVX 3.11 is still much better than the newer versions, OpenDiVX is open source. [projectmayo.com]

        Anyway, divx.com says "DivX is the most widely distributed MPEG-4 compatible", which I take to mean it is similar to MPEG-4 but is a completely different codec.

        I could be wrong, but that's what I've gathered from what I've read on the web. If anyone knows more about this, feel free to correct me.
        • by SpinyNorman (33776) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @09:00AM (#2999557)
          Just a few points:

          1) MPEG-4 is a compression standard just like MPEG-1 and MPEG-2, not a specific CODEC (implementation), so the DivX implementation is just as much MPEG-4 as are Microsoft's, Phillip's or Apple's. It's meaningless to say "it's similar to MPEG-4 but is a completely new CODEC".

          2) The MPEG-4 patents cover the algorithms not the implementation (in fact the source of a reference implementation is available for free, and was the basis for the rewritten DivX implementation). There's no way around the MPEG-4 licencing - MPEG LA could one day choose to shut down the open source MPEG-4 implementations (or DivX for that matter, if they don't abide by the licencing requirements).

          3) The original poster referred to "Quicktime, MPEG, AVI and DivX" as if they are comparable, but these are all different things:

          - Quicktime is a file/stream container format that can use any CODEC. The most common CODEC used with Quicktime is Sorenson, but it can also use others such as MPEG-4 being discussed here, or the open source VP3.

          - MPEG is a collection of standards which define two different container formats (MPEG-1/2 and MPEG-4 = Quicktime), plus the associated video and audio compresion standards (MPEG-1/2/4 video, MPEG-1/2 layer 3 audio - aka MP3, MPEG-2 AAC audio, etc).

          - AVI is a non-streamable container format that like Quicktime can use any CODEC. Common CODECs used with AVI include the original ones like Cinepak, Intel Indeo, Motion JPEG, and the newer ones like Microsoft's MPEG-4 v3 (aka DivX 3) and DivX's MPEG-4 (aka DivX 4).

          - DivX is nothing more than an MPEG-4 CODEC for the AVI container format, despite the marketing wizards at DivX Networks success in getting people to think of it as something else.

    • Re:hmm (Score:2, Insightful)

      by drik00 (526104)
      What's really interesting to look at is how the commercial companies and individual's handle these things.

      Most music lovers are going to migrate to MP3, some to OGG for their personal use, and if you're talking video, everyone has started using divx for ease of use, and b/c everyone else is using it ;) hell, we're individuals and its easier to use something that everyone else uses, too

      Commercial companies are the problem here. If you go to a commercial site, they could be using any one of the formats for video, depending on what all-knowing management decided would be the best idea.

      If you ask me, there's the rub.

    • Then what we really need is a team of top notch researchers to develop, debug and test a video encoding algorithm.. Oh yeah, and all for free. MPEG (the group, not the standard) invests lots of time and money into developing these standards, and that's why they work so well. OGG is nice and all, but video is significantly more complex than audio and as such, a free (speech and beer) video encoding format that achieves the compression ratios of MPEG-4 is (for now at least) a pipe dream. The MPEG4 encoders now are slow, and they're super-optimized for the processors they run on, imagine if the standard was cross-platform (read: C) and compiled with a non-optimal compiler (read: gcc.) MPEG4 would still be the standard.
  • Sounds like the same accounting nightmare than governs licensing between the record companies and radio stations.
  • The site seems to be all about MPEG-2...

    But you can send them a message here [mpegla.com] explaining that a per-use licence is morally wrong and will stifle early adoption of MPEG-4
  • divx is free:)

    or will they try to charge for the playa too?
    • The "official" version of DivX ;-) (the one that the company that makes the playa owns) is no longer open source, so there's no reason they can't start charging for the encoding tools sometime in the future (almost no one can get away with charging for a decoder). DivX ;-) and the forthcoming Ogg Tarkin may be excellent codecs (more so the latter), but try to face the fact that the big-name content is going to be in big-name codecs, so if we can get a patented standard, it is better than having patented, undocumented formats.
      • Re:Its a good thing (Score:3, Informative)

        by Ogerman (136333)
        "the forthcoming Ogg Tarkin may be excellent codecs, but try to face the fact that the big-name content is going to be in big-name codecs"

        Bullcrap. If all the media playing software supports both patented MPEG-4 codecs AND Tarkin, which one do you think content producers are going to use? The one they have to pay hourly royalties on?! And when Apple and Microsoft release media players that support this finalized MPEG-4 standard, are they going to charge people $0.25 to download them or just absorb the cost for a free download? Or would *most* people actually hastle with going through an online payment system for such a small amount just so they can see the latest gee-wiz streamed content? I highly doubt it. And you don't really have a standard unless everyone's using it.

        There is a very real opportunity here to take over the codec scene. But first we need a completed Tarkin codec and enough content that people will begin clamouring for it to be supported by default in Quicktime and Windows Media Player.
        • And when Apple and Microsoft release media players that support this finalized MPEG-4 standard, are they going to charge people $0.25 to download them or just absorb the cost for a free download?

          They are going to absorb the cost; they mentioned that in the story and the press release. That's why you have to put up with those QuickTime Pro reminders; Apple buy licenses to several codecs that you get in the free download of QuickTime.

          If all the media playing software supports both patented MPEG-4 codecs AND Tarkin, which one do you think content producers are going to use?

          And when is that going to happen? ;) It's not that I don't like Tarkin and the other open codecs; I have half a dozen or so of them on my machine, and often they are a good choice for encoding video for my personal storage, but I don't expect to be able to distribute content with them. OTOH, there's no reason Tarkin can't make a plug-in that lets you use the codec in QuickTime; many other new codec makers have done it, like 3ivx; if they were willing to have Tarkin encoded data in QuickTime format files, they could even set it up so that the QuickTime player would automagiacally download the Tarkin codec if the user tried to play a Tarkin encoded file, but I doubt the people at Ogg would do that. Apple is all for having as many formats supported in QT as possible, but the push will be for everyone to use the standard, since that's where you'll be able to reach the largest audience, and with MPEG-4, it includes many devices other than computers; they had an MPEG-4 streaming to a cell phone at QT Live.

  • Quicktime 6 Links (Score:2, Redundant)

    by Metrollica (552191)
    Apple Press release [apple.com]

    MPEG-4 licensing plan [com.com]

    Plan for fees [mpegla.com]
    • Who moderated this as redundant?

      - The apple press release is information not in the article.

      - The zdnet article covers the licencing scheme in more detail (the link in the story is to another slashdot article)

      - The mpegla page is a more useful link to pertinent information on that site, instead of the link to the homepage provided in the article.

      Is it karma whoring? maybe.
      Is it informative? depends on who you ask.
      Is it thin on true insight? yeah.
      Should it be modded to +5 informative? nah.
      Should it be modded down as Redundant? No.

      None of this information is provided in the article, and no other comment so far posted (about 30) supplies this information.
  • Hotbot search showed 57,000+ sites with Windows Media Files, 109,100 for Real, 251,800 for QuickTime.

    I know this isn't Google but do these numbers sound low to anyone else? Think of all the pron sites that encode using these, yet they only total a little over 400 000.

    On second thought theres that + sign. I spose it's all in the details.

    • Sites with content only available to links from authorized referers is going to stop search engine spiders from getting at a good percentage of porn videos on various websites. The same goes for any content protected in this fashion. Those spiders don't need to be looking at that sort of stuff anyways!
  • by bani (467531) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @02:55AM (#2998973)
    ... and contribute to work on vorbis/tarkin instead ...
    • ... and contribute to work on vorbis/tarkin instead ...

      The "Vorbis" part of "Ogg Vorbis" actually refers specifically to audio. I can't comment on tarkin as I'm not familiar with it. You do bring up an excellent point though... Support the Ogg project [xiph.org]! :-)
      • I guess I'm deserving of a public flogging of some kind for not knowing this, or looking it up before my post, but tarkin is actually the video related Ogg project.

        *bangs head on desk*

        Still, supporting the entire Ogg project is definitely a Good Thing (tm).

        Cheers.
    • by SpinyNorman (33776) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @09:20AM (#2999660)
      Better just use something that actaully exists like VP3. Tarkin is little more than a research project right now, and the direction is just using wavelets rather than the DCT.. the compression they'll achieve will at best be of the same ballpack as MPEG-4.

      Tarkin's goal of an open source licence free CODEC is fine, but something like VP3 (source available, competetive compression, no licencing requirements - just a restriction that derived works still be able to decode VP3) is really good enough. If you look at the audio/video components of high quality A/V files then you'll notice that quality audio takes up at least as much - if not more - space as the video. Using conventional transform (DCT/wavelet) techniques to make video smaller is really a waste of time - the only break through will come from another approach (most likely overcomplete specification methods), and the overall savings in A/V file size are limited by the audio anyway.

      • One detail you left out of your statement is at what video resolution the audio component takes up about half of the filesize.

        We don't want to stick with 320x200 or even 640x480 video streams. That is why further work on video compression is needed to get filesize down.
  • by FrostyWheaton (263146) <mark.frost@NoSpaM.gmail.com> on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @02:58AM (#2998983) Homepage
    If the internet has taught anyone anything over the last 20+ years it is that closed standards, or standards that require licencing do not work . Standards are developed (or at least should be) as means to an end. Packet switching is a means to send data. Data Comression is a means to transfer data more effectively. HTML is a means to simplify and "standardize" web content.

    Companies that have "crate patented standards and get rich off the licencing" as part of their buisiness plan should be shunned by those who are seeking to make money by providing entertainment or information.

    I personally a mystified that things like this MPEG insanity can and have survived. Open standards have reigned supreme on the internet, and nearly everywhere else, but somehow these proprietary video compression algorithms live on.

    I don't pretend to be an expert on video codec's and the like, but I would like to believe that some sane individuals could develop an open video compression system and stop all of this idiocy
    • I don't pretend to be an expert on video codec's and the like, but I would like to believe that some sane individuals could develop an open video compression system and stop all of this idiocy.

      You mean like Ogg Tarkin? [xiph.org]

    • by Jace of Fuse! (72042) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @04:26AM (#2999111) Homepage
      Open standards have reigned supreme on the internet, and nearly everywhere else, but somehow these proprietary video compression algorithms live on.

      Sadly, I can think of more contradictions to that statement than examples of it.

      We are still using GIF, after all.

      http://images.slashdot.org/title.gif {- See?

      Oh, and there are a whole lot more more people using MP3 than Ogg.

      Oh, and uh - Isn't Flash a pretty darn closed standard?

      What about that Windows thing? I think it has a pretty wide installed user base. Doesn't it? Not to mention Internet Explorer.

      Sorry, dude. I think your post was a bit off the mark. It's not that I don't agree that it would be nice if stuff was all free and opened and life was good and all, but uh -- well. It's not. Sucks plenty.
      • Isn't Flash a pretty darn closed standard?

        Why are so many Linux people ignorant about the avaliability of the Flash format? Flash is about as Open as PDF: a new version comes out, the new format is documented reasonably soon afterwards and third party players, Open Source or proprietary, go about making their apps work with the new version without paying licensing fees.

      • by stikves (127823) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @07:28AM (#2999333) Homepage
        No, Flash is a very open format. See: http://www.openswf.org/ [openswf.org].
      • by j7953 (457666) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @09:21AM (#2999670)
        We are still using GIF, after all.

        At the time at which GIF became standard, the licensing issues were not known, so it appeared to be an open standard.

        Oh, and there are a whole lot more more people using MP3 than Ogg.

        MP3 might be a closed standard, but at least no license fees are to be paid for distributing players (as far as I know, they're only required for encoders) or content.

        Also note that, similar to GIF, when MP3 took off, encoders were developed without paying license fees as well. The license fees were not requested before MP3 already was popular, and even then, there was a lot of discussion about whether this would stop MP3. But there was no free alternative ready at that time.

        Oh, and uh - Isn't Flash a pretty darn closed standard?

        No, it's not. It's documented similar to PDF. Besides, I wouldn't exactly call Flash an internet standard, it's more a marketing and salespeople standard ;-)

        What about that Windows thing? I think it has a pretty wide installed user base. Doesn't it? Not to mention Internet Explorer.

        The original poster didn't claim that all implementations of the standards were free, but that the standards themselves were. IP, HTTP, HTML etc. are all open standards. The fact that they're implemented by proprietary products like Windows or Internet Explorer doesn't make the standards less open.

  • Apple has to have dumped tons of cash into this project, even if MPEG-4 is based on QuickTime. So, in this economy, how long can Apple keep a leash on a potential money-maker?
    • how long can Apple keep a leash on a potential money-maker?
      I think what you're not getting is that Apple does not view this as a potential money-maker: they're recognizing that the licensing model is sufficiently flawed that to use it would do harm to their business goals.

      So, if you want to know how long Apple can afford not to release the product, the answer is "forever": they can go with some other codec and rework the product. Then they can advertise that *their* system is free for use, unlike everyone else's.
      • I think Apple's beef is that it could really hit their customers hard. Every Mac comes with FireWire and iMovie. If a group of suits starts defining "for-profit" differently, suddenly millions of Mac users would have to be paying royalties.

        By moving the cost to the company, Apple doesn't have to worry about its user base going through licensing hell.
  • by NanoGator (522640) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @03:10AM (#2999008) Homepage Journal
    It seems to me that nickle and diming the customers on a per-stream basis for what they download is a very quick way to kill VoD on the internet. Seems like the Television Network approach would be much better suited. "This content comes from our sponsors."

    Then they can go as far as to order merchandise for that show. "Click here to purchase a Transformers: Robots in Disguise Optimus Prime Toy for your kids." The can reward me for watching commercials. "Click now and we'll give you $1.00 off your next burger." They can even do things like broadcast a show live, just like TV does today for free. But if you want to see earlier episodes, you have to pay for a subscription to access them.

    The idea of saying 'your time on the net is metered' scares me. Using the Internet for entertainment is a luxury, not a need. If the market thinks the price is unfair, then programs like Morpheus will suddenly reign supreme.
    • I see primarily two reasons why you won't see (current) tv quality programming available via the net. A) Video is bandwidth hungry - broadband is a necessity and the numbers of people with broadband at home is not all that high. Not to mention the fact that the internet just couldn't *cope* with vast quanitities of people viewing broadband at once. B) Piracy. If a show is available in a digital form the networks might as well be handing it to pirates. Of course, people can just cap from TV now anyway, but it's not -readily- available. Now, it's *possible* that this could be fixed, perhaps some sort of asymettric encryption with each user getting thier own private key based on CPU ID or something - tricky though. I would like to click to pay a couple bucks to see the episode of Farscape I want to see when I want to see it as much as the next guy - but it ain't happening any time soon.
    • It seems to me that nickle and diming the customers on a per-stream basis for what they download is a very quick way to kill VoD on the internet. Seems like the Television Network approach would be much better suited. "This content comes from our sponsors."

      You're paying for your content, one way or the other. One is with your time (watching commercials), the other is with your money.

      People are used to paying for content by putting up with commercials, and after you get used to it, it hardly seems like it costs you much at all. But once you make it easy enough for people to ditch the commercials entirely, you can bet many will do that. Putting content on the internet makes it that much easier for people to ditch the commercials, thereby devaluing the amount the networks get paid for each ad.

      There are at least two different ways to respond to this problem: 1) pay-per-view, or 2) make sure it's not easier to ditch the commercials. Which method do you think will cost the networks more to implement and enforce?

      Until they can come up with a streaming protocol that makes you sit through the ads (either through ingenious new technology, or more likely though a half-baked, legally enforced "can't break this or else" protocol), you will probably see more of these pay-per-view strategies, since they are otherwise at a loss for how to keep making the same kind of profit off their content in this new medium.

      • You're paying for your content, one way or the other. One is with your time (watching commercials), the other is with your money.

        Even worse, watching commercials also costs you because of higher prices. All costs, including those of commercials, are paid for, in the end by the consumer buying the product.

        Thus, commercials are a horrible thing that put a general tax on all product prices, an utter waste of resources. It would be way more efficient to pay directly for content, instead of through commercials.

        The only use for commercials is giving product information, but I think it is better to pay for objective non-sponsored product information (e.g. tests from impartial consumer organizations).


      • There are at least two different ways to respond to this problem: 1) pay-per-view, or 2) make sure it's not easier to ditch the commercials.
        What's wrong with the HBO model? Pay a flat fee for all you can watch. Why does it have to be Pay Per View? You'd think the MPAA and RIAA would look at the number of cable subscribers who pay for basic or extended -vs- the number who pay for a premium package with HBO/Showtime/etc. -vs- the number who consistantly buy PPV. Discounting the occasional one-off PPV (Mike Tyson vs. Godzilla for 15 rounds -- exactly what PPV was made for), I'll bet PPV is way down on the list. If you watch many movies, HBO/Showtime is a much better deal.

        Personally I don't bother with the premium channels -- I rent videos because the selection is so much better, and it's truely on demand, when I want. If they'd offer on-demand selection (which is what the Internet promises) at a flat rate, then I'm interested; otherwise, keep your god-damned DRM crap away from me -- I ain't buying it (literally).

    • The proposed licensing is more like it works for CD's now. Philips (and sony) get a (very) small amount for every cd pressed.

      You are talking about content. that is more like "The RIAA get a % of every song made"

      Or am i wrong?
  • The Irony (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Saint Fnordius (456567) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @03:13AM (#2999017) Homepage Journal
    Isn't it interesting that Apple was touting how MPEG-4 was going to be based off of QuickTime technologies, and now they've hit a snag based on licensing from the MPEG Group?

    Personally, I find Apple's position extremely sensible. Charging per-use is the sort of accounting nightmare that a lot of webcasters want to avoid. Add to that the fact that, as Apple says, it is hard to draw the line in the grey area between for-profit and non-profit/for fun usage. This is especially irritating for Apple, as they want their technologies to be adapted by hobbyists.

    If the MPEG Group wins, it would only be a matter of time before some smart-ass lawyer then starts collecting data on amateur webcasters, and claims that they are costing the MPEG Group revenue...
    • Re:The Irony (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @07:55AM (#2999378)
      It's a real problem for someone like Apple. Think of all the free content they offer on their site, and thigns like MacWorld that they stream. All free right? Well, yes in that it doesn't cost the person viewing anything but it's not necessiarly non-profit. Apple is for profit, like all companies and these things are bussiness related. The trailers and so on are made to encourage people to download and perhaps buy ther player. The reason for increasing player downloads is to attempt to encourage more content producers to use QT format, and so in a way IS a profit related activity. Same with MacWorld. They are pimping all their new products for the world to see, trying to generate intrest. Again, somewhat profit related.

      A grey area, for certian, but one you can see why they'd want to avoid. I'm sure given how greedy many people seem to be getting these days that the MPEG group would try to slap them with a bill for all that content and they'd have to waste money fighting and perhaps paying it.
    • As far as I can see, that isn't ironic. It's annoying. Maybe a standard business problem, but no more ironic than the examples in a certain Alanis Morisette song.
    • Re:The Irony (Score:3, Informative)

      by Auckerman (223266)
      "Charging per-use is the sort of accounting nightmare that a lot of webcasters want to avoid."

      Especially when Apple released an open source MPEG 4 streaming server [apple.com] yesterday. There by, eternally making it impossible to ever collect any streaming revenue. Nice trick if you ask me.
  • My utopia (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Rev (18253) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @03:16AM (#2999028) Homepage Journal
    I just wrote this letter to Baryn Futa [mailto] the Chief Executive Office of MPAG LA [mpegla.com].

    Dear Sirs,

    I hear today that Apple is withholding it's beta release of Quicktime version 6 because of an issue that they see with your licensing of MPEG-4 technology.

    I am personally extremely keen to see MPEG-4 make it into the mainstream.

    I own a digital camcorder and with enough public support for MPEG-4 I look forward to the day when MPEG-4 codecs make it into domestic DVD players. Then I can send my friends & family MPEG-4 copies of my home videos on CD's (not DVDs though; well, not yet at any rate) that they can view in their own DVD players from the comfort of their couches. :-)

    I also happen to be a software engineer who has worked with Philips on and using MPEG-1 technology (quite a while ago I admit) and I am continually impressed with the progress and quality of video compression technologies people such as yourselves are developing.

    Apple appears (to me at least) to be the most public proponent of MPEG-4 and Microsoft have managed to get their codecs into some domestic DVD players. A situation that can only improve. Bringing MPEG-4 to the domestic DVD player market would open up an entirely new revenue stream for your licenses and I think that assisting Apple in sorting out their licensing issues will further your journey toward a utopia where MPEG-4 playback is installed on all domestic video playback hardware.

    Now I suggest that we all write nice letters to Mr. Futa and press our individual opinions.

    • Mr. Futa,

      I am writing to you regarding the licensing of your MPEG-4 technology.

      While it is entirely your right to set the terms under which you will license this technology, I hope you will reconsider your plans (as I've heard them described) to charge profitable content providers an hourly rate for delivering content. This is a disincentive to deliver content.

      Instead, I urge you to consider eliminating the $2 million annual cap on per company unit charges.

      There should be no disincentive to broadcast if it is desired that MPEG-4 acquire proper market share. And profits on the number of units deployed should not be self-limited, unless you truly believe that it will incent more rapid and wide-spread adoption, and thereby maximize long-term profits.

      I am in perpetual awe of the technology being developed for internet video. And I salute you and your group for your great accomplishments. I look forward with glee at being able to use and appreciate QuickTime 6 and its first-class MPEG-4 support.

      -B...
  • Who should pay (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @03:48AM (#2999067)
    How about charging only members of the MPAA? If you are part of the MPAA you pay the per unit fee. It would serve them right - they all ultimately want pay-per-play of their IP, seems fair that they should have to pay the same way when they use other people's IP.
  • by 2b|!2b (140353) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @03:51AM (#2999070)
    Apple doesn't have a problem with paying $0.25 per decoder that they ship. It's not much to pay considering the enormous amount of cash that's been sunk into developing the technologies in MPEG4.

    Apple has invested a large amount of money in the MPEG4 format [apple.com]. They're not named in the license [apple.com] that we're all talking about, so I assume that they're not receiving any royalties. This would piss me off, but it's not what's annoying them.

    The problem that they have is that the $0.02 (I know... an ironic amount...) per hour that the user of an encoder has to pay is a barrier to the acceptance of their product.

    Apple want to be the (consumer) media platform of choice. They have no illusions of making money from producers [apple.com].
  • A step... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by dasspunk (173846)
    Although I too would prefer an open and free standard video compression, MPEG4 could still be very interesting even with the cost "per spin". The interesting thing is that we will have a format available across multiple players. This to me is headed in the right direction towards VoD (read ease of content creation/availible to more users) and may at least allow the user to choose the player they like the best. I personally will not watch anything requiring REAL player mostly because I don't like the adds in the player nor the way it confiscates (putting it mildly) mime types. If MPEG4 allows me to watch a few more movies via QuickTime, that would be lovely.

    As for pay-per-play, this is just another thing that a content provider will have to add into a sponser's bill. If I have to sit through their adds anyway, let 'em pay more...
  • by sakusha (441986) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @04:43AM (#2999132)
    The licensing per minute on streamed media is the real problem here. Apple has Quicktime Streaming Server all ready to be the killer app for streaming (even live video streaming) they pride themselves on the "no server tax, no stream tax" and it's even open source. But if you have to put an odometer on the stream, and set up a backchannel for royalties to the developer, it's another barrier to entry. If they can get past this barrier, QTSS is ready to kick ass. Nobody's going to gripe about adding 25 cents (or even a buck) to the cost of a serious MacOS X Server platform with QTSS. But the stream tax is a dealbreaker.
  • by profi (29705) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @05:04AM (#2999155)
    I just finished watching the conference keynote [apple.com] where Apple announced QT 6. QuickTime seems to have matured tremendously over the past decade, and it looks like they're set to bring do-it-yourself video streaming to the masses.

    If you've got an hour to spare you might want to watch this too.
  • Changing a few words and a whole new world of hypocrisy is opened up and a whole new meaning to expression corporation tax.

    "The marketplace recognizes the role that intellectual property rights play in the development of these technologies, and the good news is that the market understands the need for it to be respected and paid for."

    "The citizens recognizes the role that taxation play in the development of these public services, and the good news is that the populous understands the need for it to be respected and paid for."

    Or

    "The serfs recognizes the role that levies play in the development of my kingdom, and the good news is that they understand the need for me to be respected and paid for."
  • Is there a company named MPEG? What am I thinking, critizising articles here on slashdot?! Oh well, "Greed is good".
    • MPEG-4 is covered by literally dozens of patents owned by a bunch of different companies. To avoid the nightmare of having to individually negotiate licencing terms with all the companies involved, the MPEG-4 licencing company was set up so that you have a simple company to work with.

  • A Microsoft Ploy ? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mbone (558574) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @07:54AM (#2999374)
    Apple is not in this alone. Apple is a founding member in the Internet Streaming Media Alliance, or ISMA [isma.tv], which is standardizing MPEG-4 for streaming. At the Fourth ISMA forum last week, the move by MPEG-LA to apply a per stream license fee was seen as pretty brain-dead.

    MPEG-4 is being rolled out for set-top boxes for Cable Companies. The MPEG-LA license fee would add a charge of almost $ 15.00 per box per month to your cable bill. This would just about double my cable bill. This will kill MPEG-4 if it is not changed.

    The speculation is that this is Microsoft (a member of the license pool) trying to squelch competition, without leaving any fingerprints.
  • You are encouraged to complain

    Complain? Why? The longer these greedy thieves continue there scratching and in-fighting the better. Let MPEG4 die a slow expensive death for all involved.

    This will give time for competitors (Ogg Video [xiph.org]) to prove themselves, without the "Intellectual Property" bull$hit.

  • by Aapje (237149) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @10:06AM (#2999932) Journal
    The free Quicktime Streaming Server 4 [apple.com] has been released today and its open source companion the Darwin Streaming Server [apple.com] (has the same features, but it does run on Linux, BSD and Windows). It already supports Mpeg-4:

    "MPEG-4 Support: now you can serve ISO-compliant hinted MPEG-4 files to any ISO-compliant MPEG-4 client, including any MPEG-4 enabled device that supports playback of MPEG-4 streams over IP. You can serve on-demand or live MPEG-4 streams, and reflect playlists of MPEG-4 files."

    I'll bet they tried to mention MPEG-4 as many times as possible.

    You can now also stream MP3's with it, set up your own radio station! The streaming uses the standard Icecast streaming format so any MP3-player that supports streaming should work.
  • Apple: Go open... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by supabeast! (84658) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @10:18AM (#3000008)
    So I'm wondering... why doesn't Apple just dump mpeg4 and spend less money support vorbis/tarkin? Developing a free, open-sourced video format would only be good for Apple, probably save Apple money, and hell, Apple is already doing Open Source work with OS X.
    • If they were going to do something like that, then it would be for Quicktime 7 at least. This is happening right now, and Tarkin is more in the planning than writing stage. Mpeg 4 is all planned out and is an option for right now.
  • Executive Summary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sfgoth (102423) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @07:10PM (#3004087) Homepage Journal
    Wow, people are all over the map on this one.

    Simply put:

    MPEG-LA is a company that represents the patent holders of technolgy used by all the parts of a multimedia standard known as MPEG-4.

    MPEG-LA says that if you want to sell a codec that infringes on any of their _extensive_ patents, you need to pay $0.25 per copy sold, up to $1M per year.

    MPEG-LA says that if you want to USE a codec covered by their patents, you have to pay $0.02/hr per stream.

    Apple refuses to make QuickTime 6 available until the usage fee is removed.

    IMHO:
    This is awesome, Apple is standing up for the rights of the individual to create multimedia content and publish it royalty free. Sure, they're saving themselves some $ since they stream video too. But consumers will be the ones paying that $0.02/hr if it sticks, via their Digital Cable subscription, their DirectTV subscription, watching streaming movies on the net, etc...

    The $0.25 per codec sold is fair. Many of you might not think the underlying patents are fair, but that's a different issue. If the patents are fair, then it seems fair to charge $0.25 a copy for any other products sold that infringe on the patents.

    -pmb

You see but you do not observe. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in "The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes"

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