Justice Department Examining Web Video War - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Cloud // Cloud Storage
02:33 PM
Connect Directly

Justice Department Examining Web Video War

Efforts by patent holding organization MPEG-LA to challenge Google's VP8 video technology have drawn the interest of antitrust investigators in Washington.

Google Chrome 9 Advances The 3D Graphical Web
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: Google Chrome 9 Advances The 3D Graphical Web

The U.S. Department of Justice is said to have begun an inquiry into the competitive implications of the video codec standards war, a conflict that pits Google against Apple and Microsoft, among other companies.

The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, says that the Justice Department is conducting an anti-trust probe into MPEG-LA, an intellectual property licensing group that counts Apple and Microsoft as members.

Asked to confirm the report, a spokesperson for the Justice Department declined to comment. MPEG-LA did not respond to a request for comment. And Google declined to comment.

Google last year open sourced the VP8 video codec, software used to encode and decode video for distribution and display, to provide a royalty-free option for Web video. The dominant alternative, H.264, is controlled by MPEG-LA and backed by Apple and Microsoft. H.264 is also supported in Adobe's Flash technology. H.264 is royalty-free to end users, but businesses may be subject to fees, depending on how they're using the technology.

The HTML5 video tag does not specify a single standard for video codecs, and Google would like to see VP8 replace H.264 as the dominant video encoding scheme. In January, Google said that it plans to stop supporting H.264 in its Chrome browser. Ogg Theora is another open source option.

Last month, MPEG-LA published a call for patent holders to submit patents that might be infringed by Google's VP8 codec, the purpose being to lay the groundwork for a potential patent infringement lawsuit against Google or other VP8 users.

The Department of Justice is said to be concerned that MPEG-LA and its backers are stifling competition by threatening VP8. California's Attorney General is said to be pursuing a parallel inquiry.

The Free Software Foundation (FSF), which last year encouraged Google to release VP8 as open source software, denounced MPEG-LA's solicitation last month. The organization has asked that "everyone who values a Web free of restrictions and threats like [those implied by MPEG-LA's attempt to assemble a patent pool]," boycott the products of companies that participate in the patent pool. A spokesperson for the FSF said that so far almost 600 people have signed the organization's boycott pledge.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
The State of Chatbots: Pandemic Edition
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  9/10/2020
Deloitte on Cloud, the Edge, and Enterprise Expectations
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  9/14/2020
Data Science: How the Pandemic Has Affected 10 Popular Jobs
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  9/9/2020
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Current Issue
IT Automation Transforms Network Management
In this special report we will examine the layers of automation and orchestration in IT operations, and how they can provide high availability and greater scale for modern applications and business demands.
Flash Poll