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MPEG-4 Systems License Released

The final piece of the MPEG-4 patent licensing puzzle has been put in place by the MPEG LA consortium.

MPEG LA, a group of patent holders pushing for the adoption of the MPEG-4 digital media distribution standard, on Tuesday announced the availability of the MPEG-4 Systems Patent Portfolio License, officially paving the way for use of the standards-based format.

The availability of the systems license follows last November's release of the final Visual Patent Portfolio License, which officially set the pricing terms for use of the technology.

With the release of the systems license Tuesday, developers looking to use the MPEG-4 tools or the MP4 format for data packaging can now get "fair, reasonable, nondiscriminatory access under a single license," the group said.

Last July, controversy erupted over the royalty rates set by MPEG-LA. Those rates call for a fee of 25 cents per subscriber or 2 cents per hour, subject to a $1 million annual cap. The fees are applicable to Web site operators that benefit commercially from use of the technology, through either paid advertisements, pay-per-view services or subscriptions.

The MPEG-4 standard allows a single form of compression on all media players and it has become quite popular among the developer crowd because of the ability to add text, animations and graphics in an object-based setting.

It competes directly with proprietary formats from tech heavyweights like Microsoft and RealNetworks .

The license released Tuesday includes patents owned by Apple , Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI), France Telecom, Koninklijke Philips Electronics, Mistubishi Electric Corp., Samsung Electronics and Sun Microsystems .