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<video> in HTML5 and codec patents


I already brought this topic to the developer list, but I have been told
that this would be the better list for "political" things.

My original posting is

To summarize the topic:

The WHATWG ( http://www.whatwg.org - that's mostly Apple, Opera and
Mozilla) is trying to make video a "first class citizen" on the web.
That's why HTML5 may see the introduction of a <video> element.


On the WHATWG mailing list there has been talks about what video format
browsers should support (the idea is to get rid of dependency on plugins
like (and especially) Flash) and it seems Opera and Mozilla are in favor
of adopting Ogg Theora for video and Ogg Vorbis for audio. Those formats
are free (no licensing fees, open spec) are considered to be "good" and
"safe" enough to get the job done.

The current spec (see link above) says that browsers SHOULD support Ogg
Theora and Ogg Vorbis (browsers are free to implement any format they
want, though, to follow codec development). That way the Ogg formas form
a base layer of formats that are safe to use and are to be deployed in
major browsers.

Recently Apple joined the discussion (
) and it seems they don't want to see free formats embraced and they
instead want to opt for MPEG4 (so it seems).

MPEG4 is not only patended, there's also an organization in existance
that only has the job to collect fees for its usage (
http://www.mpegla.com ). Even if you buy a license it does inflict
restrictions on how you can distribute software incorporating "their"

To my knowledge that's the reason why Debian doesn't support decoding
and encoding MPEG formats (MP3 being a very prominent example) in a base
install (and several other distributions have a similiar policy). That
policy isn't in place because MPEG "isn't good technology" or "because
it is evil" but because their licensing terms are unacceptable for truly
free software.

If MPEG technology was to get a recommended technology of HTML5 I'd
think Debian would have to remove the MPEG codecs out of its browsers.
That'd make Debian users second class citizens on the web, as once MPEG
gets recommended for web usage such content may end up being everywhere.

If free formats (like Ogg Theora and Ogg Vorbis) happen to get an
elevated status (that's what the current WHATWG draft currently does)
there's a far bigger chance from my point of view that Debian users can
continue to enjoy the Web as first class citizens.

I think it would make sense if someone from Debian would join the
discussion on the WHATWG list and expresses the needs Debian has
regarding multimedia codecs. I think it's a good idea to try to
encourage Opera and Mozilla to keep supporting free formats and to
convince Apple that the Web needs to be open for everyone.


Maik Merten

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