There has been a bit of hype in recent days about video codecs and potential patent infringements. My colleague David Needle has published a great story, about an alleged claim made by Apple CEO Steve Jobs that the Theora open source video codec is at risk from vendors that are assembling a patent pool against it.
Is this all FUD? Or is there something that Theora users and developers need to worry about?
The answer is NOT quite as clear cut as you might think. At least one Theora developer isn’t worried (yet), based largely on the lack of credible evidence so far. Jobs’ claims was reprinted on other websites and was not directly posted on Apple.com (unlike Jobs tirade against Flash last week). Theora developer Gregory Maxwell noted in a Theora developer list posting that it would also have made sense for someone from Apple (or the assembled patent pool) to have contacted Theora about the claims.
“Since the developers of Theora have received no such contact, I can
only conclude that no such effort is being undertaken and that the
quoted statement is either a forgery, the result of a
misunderstanding, or that the statement may be indicative of a
dishonest and anti-competitive collusion by Apple and other H.264
patent holders to interfere which the development, promotion, and
utilization of unencumbered media standards,” Maxwell wrote.
Maxwell’s comments aside, I know that I personally contacted Theora’s handlers (Xiph.org) at multiple points on Friday about the alleged patent issue and did not receive the courtesy of any response from them. If Apple or other patent holder had a similiar experience, perhaps they have been contacted and Maxwell just doesn’t know about it (yet).