Justice Department investigates MPEG LA in H.264 video probe

An unlikely suspect is shouting “anticompetitive!”, with Google, according to reports, having its knickers in a twist because top tech companies are trying to bury its free video technologies. 

It’s thought that the organisation, MPEG LA, has been harvesting video patents to keep Google, Youtube, Netflix, Blu-ray, and others submitting to its hefty payroll by way of royalties. Heavyweights such as Apple and Microsoft are members of the MPEG LA, effectively profiting from royalties on a vast range of the patents.

The Wall Street Journal believes that the probe could see which industry bigwigs will have the competitive edge for online video broadcasting, even including who will own the rights to creation and broadcasting over HTML 5. 

The Justice Department reckons that the group’s licensing deals, particularly with H.264, could be putting a premature stop to the emergence of any rival, non-proprietary technologies. Rather than admitting any sort of liability, MPEG LA’s chief exec, Larry Horn, said: “We are effectively a convenience store” for licensing patents. 

Horn goes on to dismiss the idea that Google’s alternative, VP8, will sit open-source or without royalties. At the moment money is not charged for using VPM, but Horn called out:”I can tell you, VP8 is not patent-free. It’s simply nonsense.”