Web Video Rivalry Sparks U.S. Probe [Wall Street Journal]
Remember when VHS and Betamax were battling for video format supremacy? Well something very similar is happening with in online video, and now the Department of Justice is doing something this time that it chose to stay out of during the video format war -- stepping in to ensure one technology is not being "unfairly" prejudiced.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the DOJ is investigating MPEG LA, which is the organization licenses patents for MPEG-4 and H.264. MPEG LA collects royalties from web video sites like Netflix and YouTube. The video sites pay into the MPEG LA, who distributes the royalties to its members (the patent holders), which include Apple and Microsoft.
Recently Google released a new web video format called VP8 which competes with the technologies licensed by MPEG LA. The DOJ is investigating whether MPEG LA is actively creating legal uncertainty as to whether the use of VP8 violates MPEG LA-held patents.
Because they own the competiting technologies, Google and Apple are on opposite sides of the investigation, with very significant implications for the future of online television. This investigation could very well have a significant impact on which video format thrives in the growing web video market.
In addition, this investigation also could lead to interesting determinations about online video copyright in the next generation of web programming language, HTML 5.