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License release brings MPEG-4 closer

Following months of dispute over royalties, the MPEG-LA group releases its license for the new media delivery standard. It's raising hopes for widespread adoption.

A consortium of companies holding patents attached to the MPEG-4 multimedia standard released its license for the technology, raising hopes for widespread adoption.

The license released Monday is essentially the same as one proposed by the consortium, MPEG LA, in July. That proposed license set a cap of $1 million per licensee, as well as a threshold that exempts MPEG-4 users with fewer than 50,000 implementations from royalty payments.

"As I understand it, nothing has changed except that it's available right now with all the legal language," Rob Koenen, president of the MPEG 4 Industry Forum, said in an interview. "I look forward to seeing...people start taking up the license. Because the proof of the pudding is in the eating."

MPEG-4 is a video and audio standard under development by the Moving Pictures Experts Group (MPEG) under the auspices of the International Organization for Standardization . The MPEG group, founded in 1988, created MPEG-1 for the video compact disc and for MP3 audio, and MPEG-2 for DVD and digital television set-top boxes.

Companies claiming patents related to MPEG-4 include Microsoft, Canon, France Telecom, Fujitsu, GE Technology Development, General Instrument, Hitachi, Matsushita, Mitsubishi, Samsung, Sanyo and Toshiba. A plurality of the patents belongs to Sony.

Concern about the original MPEG-4 license, which included neither a cap nor a threshold, threatened Apple Computer's adoption of the standard. Apple agreed to license MPEG-4 a month before MPEG LA's license terms were finally made public.

Apple declined to comment on Monday's release, saying it had not yet had a chance to examine the license.

The new license can be requested through MPEG LA's Web site.