W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > ietf-discuss@w3.org > April 2001

RE: MP4 Player Available for Download

From: Rob Lanphier <robla@real.com>
Date: Sun, 1 Apr 2001 20:57:43 -0700 (PDT)
To: Chiariglione Leonardo <Leonardo.Chiariglione@TILAB.COM>
cc: <discuss@apps.ietf.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.33.0104011623440.7193-100000@mmmm.robla.org>
On Sun, 1 Apr 2001, Chiariglione Leonardo wrote:
> >Absolutely.  You've opened up a huge door for me to give a long sales
> >pitch, but out of courtesy to the people on this list, I'll try to keep it
> >brief.
> Let's see if the same words mean the same thing for both of us.
> With MPEG-4 anybody is allowed to take the standard or the reference
> software (source code) and make an implementation that conforms to the
> standard for commercial purposes.

Anyone is free to use it, so long as they don't mind getting sued for
patent infringment.  Moreover, that should be qualified to say "any ISO
member", because it's not exactly freely downloadable as I understand it.
Is there a publically available URL to the source code?

Don't get me wrong...we're not against paying patent royalties.
RealPlayer is a fully licensed MP3 implementation.  But that's because
it's clear that one can go to Thomson and get that license, and we were
able to negotiate a deal that is consistent with our business model.

Even if RealNetworks manages to negotiate a license that would let us ship
an MPEG-4 solution, it's unclear who we'll be interoperating with.
Furthermore, it seems pretty clear that any open source implementation
that someone would actually want to use will exist.

> And this not just e.g. for the "player"
> but for the pieces of the player as well.
> Can I do the same with RealNetworks products? I mean, I take the source code
> of your RealProducer or RealServer or RealPlayer, modify it (still keeping
> conformity with the original product) and make a product of mine that
> competes with RealNetworks'?

Well, we have made our source code available under certain terms in some
business deals.  However, we're not a standards body; we're a company
which makes its living selling software (among other things).  "Open
standards"  and "open source" are two completely different things.  Since
we were having a standards argument, I was focusing on the "open
standards" use of the word "open".

Anyone is free to use the specifications we support (and in some cases,
helped create), and create an implementation that competes with ours.

On the source code side, we have done plenty of work on reference
software.  We recently put our open source RTSP proxy reference up on
SourceForge, which is under a very BSD-ish license:


The primary purpose of this software is to provide a firewall reference,
but its modularized in such a way that client or server software could be

We're interested in working with and interoperating with anyone working on
open source reference software in streaming media.  I've had many
conversations with people in the open source community already on this
subject, and hope to have many more.

> >Stated by the people working on it.
> You mean, this has been stated by those who have an interest in a certain
> business model, but not by _all_ people who have a variety of different
> business models.

Why did you even bother quoting that sentence, when you weren't going to
quote the context?  Let me repeat my assertion...reconstructed with my
clarification and dolled up a little bit:

I'm saying that there doesn't exist a complete multimedia standard with
the stated goal of available on a royalty-free basis, as stated by the
people working on the standard.  I think it's possible...but it doesn't
exist yet.

> >When the chair of the working group
> >working on a standard says that he doesn't know the IPR situation with the
> >spec he's working on,
> The chair is prevented from this by the rules of the organisation he works
> in
> >that should raise big red flags in the minds of
> >those who are actually concerned with licensability.
> It seems that several kilobytes of mail have passed in vain.

It depends on what your goals are.  I think this thread has probably been
very educational for those who previously thought that MPEG-4 was a truly
open standard.  I understand that the rules of ISO seem to prohibit the
development of a truly open standard, but ISO isn't the only game in town.

I've personally given up on ISO, which is why I was sending my email to
the IETF.  I mistakenly also sent it to the ISO/MPEG working group.  I
think your participation in this discussion has been incredibly valuable
in helping others understand the issues involved.  However, I'm pretty
sure we're no longer at the point where we don't understand the facts of
the matter, but rather, I think we just plain disagree on what constitutes
an acceptable outcome.

> So, for the
> last time:
> 1. MPEG has developed a standard (MPEG-4) but is prevented from addressing
> licensing issues by the rules of the organisation (ISO) MPEG works in
> 2. an independent organisation (MPEG-4 Industry Forum - M4IF) has been set
> up by some individuals (I was one of them, even though I am no longer active
> in it because the organisation is up and running) to promote the standard
> 3. A major activity of M4IF has been to start discussions about MPEG-4
> licensing
> 4. For Systems, Visual and Audio these discussions have led to a process
> that will likely lead to the creation of patent pool(s).
> 5. Note that patent pools will be strictly outside of M4IF
> 6. For Video the discussions are well advanced, but the discussions are held
> by IPR holders only
> 7. The MP3 and MPEG-2 cases have been mentioned to illustrate how licensing
> of standardised technologies that have a complex IPR situation (say, the 100
> patents of MPEG-2) is possible and can give rise to businesses worth several
> tens of billion dollars (e.g. DVD is the fastest growing CE product in
> history).
> 8. It is not MPEG's fault if IPR licensing is made complex by legislation.

I'm not trying to assign blame, but rather, assess the acceptability of
the outcome.  I realize that you were prohibited from asking the questions
you needed to in order to understand the IPR situation.  However, I was
pointing out the fact that you don't know the IPR situation as a symptom
of a problem, not necessarily a cause.

> Of course people will believe what they want to believe, particularly when
> the coming true of one belief suits one's agenda better than another.

Leonardo, you keep repeating this, and this thinly-veiled aspersions on my
motivations is becoming offensive.  Either come out with a real criticism
so I can defend myself, or knock it off with this indirect questioning of
my agenda.

I'll put my cards on the table.  I work for RealNetworks, who, as you
pointed out, has a duty to its stockholders to look out for its corporate
interests just like any other publically-traded company.  We have
proprietary elements to our software (RealAudio, RealVideo, RDT,
SureStream), but we also recognize that practical standards fuel the
growth of the industry as a whole.  Where practical standards exist, we
support them, and we partcipate in the creation of new ones (RTSP and SMIL
are two we've been heavily involved in).  This whole thread began with the
exploration of where we can have more practical standards.

MPEG-4 doesn't seem like a practical standard.  It seems like a way for a
lot of patent holders to lock up the industry for the next 10-20 years,
provided they can even agree on how to do it.


> Hi Leonardo,
> More answers inline:
> On Sat, 31 Mar 2001, Chiariglione Leonardo wrote:
> > [Rob Lanphier wrote:]
> > >MPEG-4 is a very different technology than MPEG-2, and "licensable" is v=
> ery
> > >different than openly available.
> >
> > Is RealNetworks technology licensable or openly available?
> Absolutely.  You've opened up a huge door for me to give a long sales
> pitch, but out of courtesy to the people on this list, I'll try to keep it
> brief.  We give away versions of RealPlayer, RealServer and RealProducer,
> and license our technology to many companies.  It's also an open,
> extensible architecture which anyone can write new datatypes
> (standards-based or otherwise):
> About our ubiquity (and hence availability):
> http://www.realnetworks.com/company/pressroom/pr/2001/metrics.html
> About our extensibility:
> http://www.realnetworks.com/company/pressroom/pr/2001/autoupdate.html
> As to the standards we support, there's RTP, RTSP, SDP, SMIL, H.261,
> G.711, PNG, and countless others I'm forgetting, all of which have
> specifications available for interoperability with our system -- and all
> of which are available for royalty-free implementation to the best of my
> knowledge.  Additionally, we support many of the MPEG family of standards
> (MP3 audio natively, and MPEG-1/MPEG-2 video via third party support
> through our plugin architecture).  We even have partners working on MPEG-4
> support.
> > >I'm saying that there doesn't
> > >exist  multimedia standard with the stated goal of being royalty-free.
> >
> > Stated by whom?
> Stated by the people working on it.  When the chair of the working group
> working on a standard says that he doesn't know the IPR situation with the
> spec he's working on, that should raise big red flags in the minds of
> those who are actually concerned with licensability.
> Rob
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Rob Lanphier [mailto:robla@real.com]
> Sent: 2001 marzo sabato 21:37
> To: Chiariglione Leonardo
> Cc: discuss@apps.ietf.org
> Subject: RE: MP4 Player Available for Download
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Received on Monday, 2 April 2001 01:48:01 UTC

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