RE: MP4 Player Available for Download

My answers below

>I'd like to hear what the straight answer is from 
>someone who's willing to state it publicly. 

Unfortunately that is not me. This is because I keep myself deliberately
unaware of "what is happening in smoke filled rooms where a bunch of people
are talking about what the licensing terms are".
The reason why I brought the MP3 and MPEG-2 examples was to show that it is
possible to implement a virtuous circle in standards that require IPR.
Therefore the people who own the IPR that makes MPEG-4 possible have an
incentive to agree on "good" licensing terms, if they do not want to lose
revenues and "fast" if they do not want to lose the opportunity all

>Since there's no shortage of 
>people who will hound RealNetworks publicly about not yet supporting 

I do not see why they should. RealNetworks is a quoted company that responds
to its shareholders. If the current management of RealNetworks think that
they serve the company shareholders' interests better by not adopting
MPEG-4, one of the two things can happen
1. RealNetworks thrives. The policy is shown to be sound. Shareholders are
happy. The management is confirmed
2. RealNetworks sinks. The policy is shown not to be sound. Shareholders are
unhappy. The management is fired.
People who "hound RealNetworks publicly about not yet supporting MPEG-4" can
go to a supplier of MPEG-4 solution. This is the good side of competition,
particularly when the alternative is a standard solution with many competing

>As they say in the stock market:  "Past results are no indication of future

>performance"   :)

The alternative to studying the past is divination. This does not seem to
work so weel these days in the stock market :-)

>MPEG-4 is a very different technology than MPEG-2, and "licensable" is very

>different than openly available.

Is RealNetworks technology licensable or openly available?

>I'd also note that DivX files are not .mp4, but are .avi, right?  I think 
>that speaks to the heart of the issue.

No, it does not. It just means that these people were contented with a
single MPEG-4 "tool" - something that is perfectly legitimate with MPEG
standards - and thought that another, non-MPEG, technology suited their
needs better.

>I'm saying that there doesn't 
>exist  multimedia standard with the stated goal of being royalty-free.

Stated by whom?

Leonardo Chiariglione

-----Original Message-----
From: Rob Lanphier []
Sent: 2001 marzo sabato 04:03
To: Chiariglione Leonardo
Subject: RE: MP4 Player Available for Download


Thank you for your reply.  I would like to respond to some of your points:

At 11:37 PM 3/30/01 +0200, Chiariglione Leonardo wrote:
>I do not know for the IETF email address that appears in Cc:, but as far 
>as MPEG is concerned discussions about patents are not allowed by the 
>ISO/IEC directives. [...]
>In any case, please do not make further discussions about patents on MPEG

My apologies.  I didn't realize that there was any reflector other than the 
two IETF lists ( and  I'm assuming is the ISO reflector?  It's no longer listed 
as a recipient in my reply.

>I can understand that it may suit some parties to state that "MPEG-4
>licensing is still very murky" and I will make no efforts to convince such 
>parties that its is not, for the very simple reason that I do not know 
>whether this is true or not and I do not want to know.

Hey, if you can find someone who's willing to make a non-murky public 
statement on this issue, I'm all ears.  It may seem to you like I'm being 
disingenuous and that I really don't want the answer, but nothing could be 
further from the truth.  I'd like to hear what the straight answer is from 
someone who's willing to state it publicly.  Since there's no shortage of 
people who will hound RealNetworks publicly about not yet supporting 
MPEG-4, I'm sure there's someone who can give a good answer to this.  :)

>I will simply point out these two very simple and incontrovertible facts:
>1. the number of MP3 processors (encoders, decoders etc.) can be counted 
>by the tens of millions (at least 60 million Napster users :-)

Yes, but over the years, as MP3 has gotten more popular, Thomson has 
changed the terms on MP3 to be more restrictive (from what I 
understand).  This is very reminiscent of what happened with GIF...which 
would lead one to think that maybe a PNG effort is in order.  For example, 
the Vorbis project has a good start on an audio codec:,1284,37538,00.html

...but alas, there's a lot more to doing full-blown multimedia than 
audio.  That's not a slam on the Vorbis people; they recognize it too and 
have a very nascent video format and other elements of a complete 
system.  But I guess I'm tired of hearing that MPEG-4 is the undisputed 
standard here, and I'm frustrated that I encounter so many people who 
aren't even aware that there are licensing issues at all with MPEG-4.

>2. the number of MPEG-2 processors is well above 100 million (50 million
>digital television set top boxes, 30 million hardware-based DVDs, 10 
>million Playstation 2, an unknown number of software DVD decoders, an 
>unknown number of DviX converters :-).

As they say in the stock market:  "Past results are no indication of future 
performance"   :)

MPEG-4 is a very different technology than MPEG-2, and "licensable" is very 
different than openly available.

I'd also note that DivX files are not .mp4, but are .avi, right?  I think 
that speaks to the heart of the issue.

>I hear reports that implementation of these two standards requires the use
>of patented technologies (I have been told about 100 patents for MPEG-2).
>It may suit some parties to run down MPEG-4, but the power of standard
>technologies demonstrated by the two cases above stays unchallenged. 
>Patent issues may be complex, but so are business decisions for which 
>patents are just one element. That is why I am sure that, as for the past, 
>wise people will make wise decisions.

I'm not arguing against standards (that'd be pretty stupid in general, and 
*really* stupid given this audience).  I'm saying that there doesn't 
exist  multimedia standard with the stated goal of being royalty-free.

I guess it would be nice to redirect the efforts of the IETF toward truly 
open formats, since most of the effort thus far has been toward things like 
documenting the .wav file format (as VPIM has been doing), or defining the 
packetization formats for MPEG-4 (as AVT is doing).


-----Original Message-----
>From: Rob Lanphier []
>Sent: 2001 marzo venerd́ 22:26
>To:; 'Hari Kalva';
>Cc: gen-sys@advent. ee. columbia. edu (E-mail);
>Subject: 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
> >
> >1- mp4 is the file format of MPEG-4. If you comply to the mp4 spec., you
> >parse any mp4 stream. The ability to play the stream is another dimension
> >covered by the signaling of the audio, video, graphics and scene
> >profiles contained in the file.
> >
> >2- Because it would be nice when opening an mp4 file to know what bundles
> >codecs you need, the mp4 file format contains specific tags to signal
> >As decided in the last MPEG meeting, these tags will be in part managed
> >registration authority outside MPEG. Industry fora, like ISMA, 3GPP, ...
> >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
> >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
> >from the technology provider, otherwise the products are pretty useless,
> >even more, they do not serve neither themselves nor the standard.
> >
> >4- I join Philippe regarding patents issues. I am also surprised by the
> >of naive questions raised and therefore am inclined to doubt their true
> >naivity. Quoting Leonardo : "Of course getting things for free is nice,
> >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
> >into another cost item. The particular cost item that remunerates those
> >have developed Intellectual Property applies to the MPEG standard
> >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
> >including the extra cost of navigating between the existing patents.
> >
> >Kind regards,
> >
> >Olivier
> >
> > > > >> Flavor Software is proud to release the first commercial
> > > > MPEG-4 player
> > > > >> and authoring software. The Mild Flavor(tm) player and
> > > > sample MP4 files
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> > > > 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
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> > > > >> into MP4! Even better... create your own MP4 files and
> > > > send them to your
> > > > >> friends!  -- The Flavor Team

Received on Saturday, 31 March 2001 05:19:24 UTC