New WebM License Group Works to Safeguard Against Lawsuits

Posted by at 12:18 pm on April 25, 2011

The WebM Project took a defensive measure on Monday with the creation of the WebM Community Cross-License. The approach will see 17 companies and groups give licenses to any WebM-related patents they have to other CCL members. Google, Matroska, and Xiph.org form the core but are joined by AMD, Cisco, Huawei, LG, Logitech, MIPS, Mozilla, Opera, Pantech, Quanta, Samsung, STMicro, TI, and Verisilicon.

The aim is superficially to encourage a “diverse range of contributors” and to foster the concept of WebM, which is free, open-source and theoretically universal.

Its emphasis on patent licensing is nonetheless convenient as it came weeks after the MPEG-LA group began hunting for WebM patent violations to use for a possible lawsuit. Both the video standards body and partners like Apple and Microsoft have argued that WebM may violate patents and require a royalty payment in spite of Google’s insistence the format was royalty-free. MPEG-LA has a vested interest in stopping WebM since it stands to lose revenue if companies use WebM and cut out its license revenue.

Critics have pointed out similarities between how H.264 and WebM pack and decode video, but haven’t gone so far as to accuse Google and its acquisition On2 Technologies of directly imitating code.

The CCL would nonetheless complicate any possible lawsuit and could be vital for Google now that YouTube is offering WebM. If vulnerable to a lawsuit, YouTube could be responsible for much larger fines or royalty payouts than most through its scale and ad revenue.

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