Commons:Requests for comment/MP4 Video/Background

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This background page complements the MP4 Video Request for Comments, with more clarifications about topics that are not explained in full detail in the main RfC.

What does MP4 mean?[edit]

MP4 is a digital multimedia format most commonly used to store video and audio, but that can also be used to store other data such as subtitles and still images. This format typically includes the MP4 container, the H.264 video codec and the AAC audio codec. The three technologies we would need to license to support MP4 on our sites include two video-related specifications (licensed by MPEG-LA and called MPEG-4 Part 2 and MPEG-4 Part 10), and their accompanying audio codec (called “AAC”). Collectively, they are sometimes referred to as to as .MP4, AVC or .3GP.

How would MP4 work on our sites?[edit]

To support MP4 videos, the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) would need to install two pieces of MP4-related software on our servers: a decoder that would import MP4 videos uploaded from desktop computers or mobile devices and convert them to free/open formats for use on platforms that support them; and an encoder that would import videos uploaded in free/open formats, and convert them to MP4 video for mobile or desktop platforms that do not support free/open formats.

For example, the decoder would make it possible for an MP4 video recorded on a mobile phone to be uploaded to our sites, then decoded and converted to WebM/Ogg open formats by our servers. And the encoder would make it possible for video files that are currently in WebM/Ogg to be encoded by our servers, then displayed on a mobile device or desktop browser that only supports MP4 viewing.

This paired encoder/decoder approach would ensure that all videos hosted by WMF would always exist in both MP4 and free/open formats. This would support those users who are able to use free/open formats, and give WMF the flexibility to abandon support for MP4 without removing content if that became necessary for technical or legal reasons.

What would an MP4 license include?[edit]

To support MP4 video on our sites, the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) would license:

  • two video-related specifications from MPEG-LA (MPEG-4 Part 2 and MPEG-4 Part 10)
  • one audio codec from Via Licensing (AAC).

These three licenses have been evaluated by the WMF legal team from a legal and risk-management perspective. These licenses:

  • have generally acceptable terms;
  • have no fees for AVC video codecs currently;
  • require only a small upfront fee for the AAC audio codec; and
  • do not conflict with our obligations under the open source licenses of our video stack.

Though no royalties are being charged for use of the MP4 video software on free Internet sites like ours, MPEG-LA’s contract reserves the right to raise fees in 2016 (at which point we could simply choose to end MP4 support). Also, a small upfront license fee is required by Via Licensing for the AAC audio codec.

It's also worth noting that the above licensing requirements only apply to the use of the licensed software, not to the MP4 content files, which can be freely distributed by our users.

Though the full license agreements cannot be disclosed in public, as requested by their licensors, they have been widely adopted by some of the world's top web sites, as well as most manufacturers of desktop computers, mobile phones and home video equipment.

Do users of Wikimedia need an MP4 license?[edit]

Users of Wikimedia do not need to buy or agree to patent licenses in order to play, edit, distribute, or upload videos from Wikimedia, as outlined below.

  • Users who are opposed to software patents will still be able to play, edit, and upload videos from Wikimedia in open formats, using widely-available open source software like Firefox, Chrome, and Android.
  • Other users who cannot play open video formats on their machines will typically not need a license to play MP4 videos, because their operating systems (including all modern Windows, Mac, and iOS devices) usually come with video software that is already licensed by MPEG-LA and Via.
  • Merely distributing MP4 files never requires a patent license.