Television

WBU-TC demands rethinking on MPEG-4 AVC licensing

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MUMBAI: World Broadcasting Unions Technical Committee (WBU-TC), the technical arm of the Canada based World Broadcasting Union, has expressed extreme concern about the licensing of MPEG-4 AVC, says an official press release.

MPEG-4 AVC is the latest version of video-compression standard which will replace the earlier version called MPEG-2 introduced in 1990.

The MPEG-2 video-compression standard has enjoyed exclusive dominance in the broadcasting world since its launch. But the system now reaching its practical limits and the demand for compression still growing high, the new version of compression standard is introduced to pick up where MPEG-2 leaves off.

The World Broadcasting Unions Technical Committee (WBU-TC) is the collective technical body for the world's eight broadcasting unions and is responsible for technical broadcasting issues of importance to the members of the Unions. It reflects the opinions of the world's national broadcasters.

The committee expressed its concern in a press release dated 21 May 2003. The release says that the WBU- TC has commented on the licensing arrangements for MPEG-4 Visual and strongly objected to the concept of fees based on usage. The committee also expressed the hope that the licensing structure for MPEG-4 AVC would not be a barrier to massive global adoption.

Again on 17 November 2003, MPEG LA issued a news release entitled "MPEG LA Announces Terms of Joint H.264/MPEG-4 AVC Patent License" (http://www.mpegla.com/news/n_03-11-17_avc.html) which indicated that free-to-air broadcasters would be required to pay "Participation Fees" amounting to US $10,000 per year for markets of greater than 100,000 households.

Of late, on 18 May 2004, MPEG LA has announced (http://www.mpegla.com/news/n_04-05-18_avc.pdf)) that the terms of this license will be modified to include the option of paying a one-time fee of US $2,500 for each encoder used in transmitting MPEG-4 AVC video for free broadcast television.

Despite this concession, the WBU-TC has unanimously concluded that the MPEG-4 AVC licensing terms remain extremely onerous for free-to-air broadcasters. The WBU-TC suggests that free-to-air broadcasters should be exempted from charges for use of MPEG-4 AVC. In the absence of such an exemption, the WBU-TC may recommend that the world's major broadcasters should not use MPEG-4 AVC, says the release.

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