Google Addresses Concerns over WebM License

Jun 07, 2010

Open source codec license gets tweaked in lieu of community concerns.

Google's recently open-sourced WebM video codec was greeted with concerns from the open source community after its announcement last month at Google I/O, namely because the license used for the project hadn't been submitted to the Open Source Initiative for approval. Additionally, the license included a field of use restriction in the patent grant.

Under Google's license, if patent action was brought against the company, all rights, not just patent rights were terminated. This provision made the license incompatible with GPLv3 and GPLv2.

Google has responded to concerns by moving the project into a BSD license. Google split the copyright license and patent grant into separate documents, in the process removing incompatibilities with the GPLv2 and GPLv3 licenses, allowing for the codec's ready implementation into the GNU and GNU/Linux environments.

Via the WebM Blog:

"Using patent language borrowed from both the Apache and GPLv3 patent clauses, in this new iteration of the patent clause we've decoupled patents from copyright, thus preserving the pure BSD nature of the copyright license. This means we are no longer creating a new open source copyright license, and the patent grant can exist on its own. Additionally, we have updated the patent grant language to make it clearer that the grant includes the right to modify the code and give it to others."

Concern over the codec's potential, lawsuit-worthy similarities with MPEG-LA's h.264 codec still loom heavy for some developers, though no legal action has been taken at this time.

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