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You are here: Home Licensing Information about the H.264 patent license

Information about the H.264 patent license

by brett Contributions Published on Apr 30, 2010 02:40 PM

H.264, despite claims by Steve Jobs and others, is not a free standard—patents necessary to implement it are held by a group who requires all users to agree to a license with restrictive terms. Those terms have previously even been unavailable for examination online. We are publishing them on fsf.org today in order to comment on their unethical restrictions (plain text). The fact that H.264 is a commonly used standard does not make it a free standard—the terms of its use are what matter, and they require all licensed software to include the following notice:

THIS PRODUCT IS LICENSED UNDER THE AVC PATENT PORTFOLIO LICENSE FOR THE PERSONAL AND NON-COMMERCIAL USE OF A CONSUMER TO (I) ENCODE VIDEO IN COMPLIANCE WITH THE AVC STANDARD ("AVC VIDEO") AND/OR (II) DECODE AVC VIDEO THAT WAS ENCODED BY A CONSUMER ENGAGED IN A PERSONAL AND NON-COMMERCIAL ACTIVITY AND/OR WAS OBTAINED FROM A VIDEO PROVIDER LICENSED TO PROVIDE AVC VIDEO. NO LICENSE IS GRANTED OR SHALL BE IMPLIED FOR ANY OTHER USE. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED FROM MPEG LA, L.L.C. SEE HTTP://WWW.MPEGLA.COM

You'll find similar language in the license agreements of Final Cut Studio, Google Chrome, Mac OS X, and Windows 7.

Any web that can be engaged only after agreeing to such terms, whether for software or a standard, is not "free" or "open". Read the H.264 patent license terms.

Update (January 2011): The FSF encourages all web sites with video to use the WebM codec. Read our statement of support for the WebM Project.

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