A few days ago I had the mixed pleasure of buying a new digital camera, a Canon IXUS 130. It was instructive and very disturbing to be able to verify that also this camera producer have the nerve to specify how I can or can not use the videos produced with the camera. Even thought I was aware of the issue, the options with new cameras are limited and I ended up bying the camera anyway. What is the problem, you might ask? It is software patents, MPEG-4, H.264 and the MPEG-LA that is the problem, and our right to record our experiences without asking for permissions that is at risk.
In short, the camera producer have chosen to use technology (MPEG-4/H.264) that is only provided if I used it for personal and non-commercial purposes, or ask for permission from the organisations holding the knowledge monopoly (patent) for technology used.
This issue has been brewing for a while, and I recommend you to read “Why Our Civilization’s Video Art and Culture is Threatened by the MPEG-LA” by Eugenia Loli-Queru and “H.264 Is Not The Sort Of Free That Matters” by Simon Phipps to learn more about the issue. The solution is to support the free and open standards for video, like Ogg Theora, and avoid MPEG-4 and H.264 if you can.
If people seriously want everyone to start using a fully-open-source video standard, here’s what’s necessary:
- Get the software companies to support encoding in it.
- Get a hardware manufacturer to begin making hardware solutions for devices to use it.
- Create one that (unlike Theora) doesn’t suck.
Until those things happen, we’re stuck with h.264 and other “kind of free” standards.