The Wall Street Journal reports that the Justice Department is investigating whether MPEG LA is unfairly trying to “smother” a free alternative format for delivering online video backed by Google.
Google’s open source VP8 video codec has been a concern for the MPEG LA organization, which has amassed patents covering popular video formats and collects royalties for its members, including Apple and Microsoft.
Video-streaming services such as Netflix and YouTube — as well as makers of Blu-ray Disc players and other hardware — currently pay patent royalties to MPEG LA. The antitrust probe is investigating whether MPEG LA or any of it members are attempting to knock out Google’s VP8 format by creating legal uncertainty regarding potential patent violations. WSJ suggests the probe “pits Google and open-source software advocates against some technology giants like Apple” — and raises interesting issues about the broadcast of online video in HTML5 and the future of content delivery.