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video codec patents

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proanim    455

I came across small app that lets you play video files, but due to copyright some of the codecs are disabled by default. And the user should recompile the program to use them. Now from what I saw on Wikipedia about those codecs is that some of them are GPL, LGPL, (and GNU variations), MIT (and variations). All codecs use some sort of patent and the user (in this case developer) is required to pay for the patent to use the codec. Is this true? Does x264 also requires this? It's not like someone will binge through multi-gigabyte sized game to see if someone used certain codec. Are there any video codecs that provide something close to x264 quality/compression without need to pay for patent?

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Cornstalks    7030
H.264 is absolutely patented. That is the name of the codec that x264 uses.

Never mind the software licenses. Software and codecs are not the same thing. Just because a library is released under the MIT/GPL/any other license, it doesn't mean the actual codec being used isn't protected and patented.

The WebM project uses VP8 as their video codec, and it's all patent free. I suggest you check it out. It's competitive in quality and size to H.264 but patent free.

For the record, it's not an H.264 video that will get you in trouble. It's an H.264 encoder or decoder that will get you in trouble if you don't have a license from the MPEGLA group. If you distribute a program that can encode or decode H.264 then there can be a problem. If your program itself (or the binaries you ship with it) can't encode or decode H.264, but instead you rely on a encoder/decoder that you aren't distributing yourself (say, one that comes with the OS), then you should be Ok.

Note that some codecs prevent you from distributing an encoded file (in addition to an encoder or decoder). One example of this is MP3.

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