Image Processing Reference
license regimes and cause some nightmare licensing problems. It probably invokes others
if it uses metadata as a means to search and discover TV programs via MPEG-7 or TV-
Anytime, and more still if MPEG-21 is used to rights-protect it.
It is important to be able to license only the technology that you are using. The sce-
nario outlined above is beyond any reasonable complexity that you should expect to deal
with as a product developer or content supplier. Certainly if you are only shipping AAC
audio, a simpler license would be required than if you ship video and audio products.
BIFS-based multimedia will force the licensing authorities to develop a simpler approach
or risk killing off the very technology generating the revenues for them.
At the End of the Day
If licensing of open-standards technology becomes too complex or expensive, it will drive
people into the arms of the proprietary or patent-free open-source codec manufacturers and
we will lose the opportunity to gain all the interoperability advantages of an open standard.
The licensing situation is better than it was but is still out of control. It is right that
folks who have genuinely invented something should get some revenue for their hard
work. That's not the issue. It is all the middlemen that are demanding their piece of the
action that I find hard to justify.
The problem is the way that licenses have been divided up according to the technol-
ogy components and then split between two separate and mutually incompatible licens-
ing bodies. This needs to be harmonized—urgently.
We need a single place that we can go with one set of rules and criteria. Then we need
to just be able to check the boxes to indicate what technologies we are using. This isn't a
hard system to develop. It has been done for years with the MCPS scheme that clears roy-
alty payments to composers, which is considerably more complex.
What we will get in the short term, at least, is a third company getting involved and
writing a suite of software that you have to buy to work out all your clearance fees. From
the point of view of the small independent producer, that's another bunch of people hav-
ing a slice of your pie and your share is getting smaller all the time.
This is ultimately going to kill the whole thing unless these people who aren't actu-
ally contributing anything constructive stop trying to carve out their own piece of the
action in what is an emerging and potentially interesting set of technologies.
The fact that we are even in this situation is, in a very perverse way, an indication
that the standards will become dominant, or at least very important. If that were not the
case these middlemen and intermediaries would not waste the time and effort. The
lengths they are going to suggest that their projections of revenue earned from licensing
The following are the relevant questions to pose when analyzing the commercial side of com-
pressed-video distribution. The first list relates to factors contributing to positive cash flow: