03 March 2011

The Battle for Video Standards puts Google as The White Knight - but is that a good thing?

I am never happy with the big guy and usually in favour of the little guy. There is now a battle royal brewing over the standards of video on the web that you and I watch every day.

Frankly I detest the idea of patent hoarders (greenmail is the nicest thing you can say about the process). But also I recognize the importance of Intellectual Property and its protection.

IP is governed by an imperfect set of rules and regulations. Not least of which because IP is so easily transported across jurisdictions and the legal systems do not match that. So to say that the law has not kept up is an understatement.

I wont bore you with the details - the WSJ has done a good enough job of explaining the battle between the current collective standard representing some 1700 Patents that are collectively the high-definition video encoding standard known as H.264. Google is promoting the alternative as VP8 for which it paid $125 million.

The issue is whether anyone should be allowed to control video. Clearly Google didn't buy the standard just for altruistic reasons. So there is no reason to pity the poor little rich boys and girls at the Googleplex. But this has become political with now the politicians stepping into the game to ask the question as to whether there is funny business going on between the collective managed by the MPEG LA group and Google.

Tsk Tsk - I dont think the law should get involved in this fight. This is a no harm crime at the moment. Google can take its knocks. Let them use some of the rest of their cash pile to address the issue. And then leave our politicians alone to do their usual work of stuffing the general populace.


1 comment:

Glenn Gruber said...

TOD, I wouldn't exactly call Google a White Knight here. For one it appears that some of the technology underscoring WebM/VB8 leverage some of the MPEG-LA patents. Google seems to be ignoring the patents as they have with the Android/Java dispute. However, it looks like MPEG-LA...who have said they will never charge for use of the patents...is beginning to challenge Google's use.

Secondly, I think that in many ways they are doing this as a wedge issue, much as they have with Flash on Android, with Apple, who as you know is steadfast behind H.264. Google's parry to Apple is that Flash, a decidedly closed technology, can play WebM video. For a company that waves the "open" banner when it suits them, Google seems to be making quite a number of moves to promote more closed, proprietary systems.