RE: MP4 Player Available for Download

I've hesitated from joining this conversation because it was pointed out 
that it's "off-topic".  Since everyone has been dying to get the last word 
in on this thread, and since I do think this is an important discussion to 
have, I'm requesting that we move it to the Apps area discussion list 
rather than end the thread altogether (hence the addition of 
"" to the cc line...please send followups to this 
alias instead of rem-conf).

For those in the apps area, a brief introduction.  Someone posted a note to 
rem-conf (the IETF AVT working group mail alias) on the topic of two 
players that support the ".mp4" file extension which don't 
interoperate.  The discussion turned toward the issue of whether or not 
genuine interoperability is possible, due to patent licensing restrictions, 
to which several people made statements to the effect of "oh, that's just a 
red herring".

Well, I disagree.  MPEG-4 licensing is still very murky.  Here's the 
statement in the M4IF FAQ (see

     Based on the information that M4IF has received, the situation
     is as follows:

     MPEG-4 Systems: A call for essential patents was issued at the
     beginning of September. Licensing is expected to start in
     Spring 2001, and should encompass all of MPEG-4 version 1 and
     version 2 technology

     MPEG-4 Visual: portfolios are under development for the Simple
     and Core Visual Profiles. Patents are currently being evaluated,
     and a meeting will be called in October. It is expected that
     licensing will begin in the beginning of 2001.

     MPEG-4 Audio: A Call for essential patents is expected by the
     end of October. Licensing should start in 2001.  Details are
     still being worked out.

In other words, there's still a bunch of people talking in smoke filled 
rooms about what the licensing terms are.  Fine....just don't push this as 
a standard that's ready for prime time.

Having seen the hue and cry in IETF plenary meetings when *one* company 
holds an essential patent, I shudder to think how a discussion of MPEG-4 
licensing would play out if done in the IETF, where my understanding is 
that there are dozens of rights holders involved in the essential 
technology.  Perhaps that's why it's never been brought up.....   :)

So, I'm at a loss.  The MPEG4 group hasn't been very vigilant in ensuring 
that the technology that they are standardizing is practical to implement, 
from a technology perspective or from a business perspective. On the 
technology front, the specification is a sprawling set of documents from 
which only a small portion is useful for the nuts-and-bolts of 
interoperability, and even then it's not complete and is still a 
work-in-progress. On the business side, there are dozens of companies 
claiming to own intellectual property associated with essential technology 
in the specification, and the group responsible for working out a licensing 
pool (the MPEG-4 Industry Forum, M4IF) is long overdue in its attempts to 
work out the first of many pieces necessary for a complete end-to-end

Would it be useful for the IETF to engage in standardization of audio/video 
file formats?  If not the IETF, then who?


At 09:12 AM 3/27/01 +0200, Olivier Avaro wrote:
>Hi all,
>For clarification on some questions raised by the original mail from Hari.
>1- mp4 is the file format of MPEG-4. If you comply to the mp4 spec., you can
>parse any mp4 stream. The ability to play the stream is another dimension
>covered by the signaling of the audio, video, graphics and scene description
>profiles contained in the file.
>2- Because it would be nice when opening an mp4 file to know what bundles of
>codecs you need, the mp4 file format contains specific tags to signal this.
>As decided in the last MPEG meeting, these tags will be in part managed by a
>registration authority outside MPEG. Industry fora, like ISMA, 3GPP, ... can
>therefore defined the specific flavor of the MP4 file and signal it in a
>clean way.
>3- It's great to see the MPEG-4 wave happening now, with new MPEG-4 products
>released regularly (and not only audio and video !).Still, I am also
>concerned about the confusion created when people do not announce to what
>part of MPEG-4 they comply. It would be interesting to have this information
>from the technology provider, otherwise the products are pretty useless, and
>even more, they do not serve neither themselves nor the standard.
>4- I join Philippe regarding patents issues. I am also surprised by the kind
>of naive questions raised and therefore am inclined to doubt their true
>naivity. Quoting Leonardo : "Of course getting things for free is nice, but
>wise buyers know that a "free" price tag on something that is known to be
>valuable means that the cost of that particular "free" item is just folded
>into another cost item. The particular cost item that remunerates those who
>have developed Intellectual Property applies to the MPEG standard solution
>as much as to a proprietary solution. The fact that there is no explicit
>price tag for the Intellectual Property of proprietary solutions does not
>mean there there is no cost associated with it, it just means that it is
>hidden. And this is not necessarily a good feature for a wise buyer.". I
>would add to this that before considering developing another solution,
>possibly free of IP, maybe wise buyers should consider the cost of doing so,
>including the extra cost of navigating between the existing patents.
>Kind regards,
> > > >> Flavor Software is proud to release the first commercial
> > > MPEG-4 player
> > > >> and authoring software. The Mild Flavor(tm) player and
> > > sample MP4 files
> > > >> featuring New York City indi bands "The Pasties", "Brave
> > > New Girl", and
> > > >> "The Rosenbergs" are available for download from the
> > > Flavor Software web
> > > >> site.
> > > >>
> > > >> Go to and click on downloads.
> > > >>
> > > >> Spread the joy... tell your friends to go to the Flavor
> > > web site and get
> > > >> into MP4! Even better... create your own MP4 files and
> > > send them to your
> > > >> friends!  -- The Flavor Team

Received on Friday, 30 March 2001 15:29:37 UTC