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Licensing model for MPEG-4 released

The key licence for use of the MPEG-4 digital compression standard is now available, according to MPEG LA, a group of MPEG-4 patent holders.

The release ends a dispute around licensing for MPEG-4 that earlier this year led Apple Computer to delay the release of its QuickTime 6, which uses MPEG-4 technology.

MPEG LA stirred a debate after releasing a proposal for licensing terms in February. The terms were updated in July, to the satisfaction of MPEG-4 users.

The final MPEG-4 Visual Patent Portfolio Licence, which sets fees for use of MPEG-4 encoders and decoders on devices including PCs, mobile phones and in consumer electronics, is based on the July update and should please the industry.

"There is no excuse anymore not to use MPEG-4," said Sebastian Moeritz, chief executive officer of Dicas Digital Image Coding and a board member of the MPEG-4 Industry Forum (M4IF), which represents companies adopting the MPEG-4 standard.

Most important among the licensing terms are caps to provide cost predictability and user-threshold levels to minimise impact on lower volume manufacturers and encourage early stage adoption, according to Moeritz.

MPEG-4 is a digital compression standard for multimedia developed by the Moving Pictures Experts Group (MPEG). Many companies hold patents on parts of the standard and are represented on licensing matters by MPEG LA.

MPEG-4, the successor to MPEG-2, will first be used on the Internet. It promises a much better picture at lower bit rates than are common today.

MPEG-4 could be used in many devices, including TV set-top boxes and mobile phones. Apple and RealNetworks are among the biggest promoters of MPEG-4 use on the Web.

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