The European Union is wary of the alliance for a unified video codec (Apple, Netflix, Google, Amazon…)

The European Commission is investigating the video licensing policy of the Alliance for Open Media (AOM), creator of AV1, an open video codec. An alliance created by big names in new technologies whose practices are questioned.

Source: Guillaume Perigois

The European Commission has confirmed to Reuters carry out a preliminary investigation About AOM License Policy “, according to a spokesperson for the European executive. He also clarified that “ the fact that the Commission conducts a preliminary investigation does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation into the existence of an infringement “.

Reutersrecalls that earlier in the year, a questionnaire had been sent to certain companies by the Commission, in order to find out more about ” alleged anti-competitive behavior related to AV1’s license terms by AOM and its members in Europe“.

What are AOM and AV1?

The Alliance for Open Media (AOM) is a consortium created by major digital companies, such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Intel, Meta, Microsoft, Netflix, Samsung, Adobe, VideoLan, etc. This association was founded with the aim of developing an open and free video format, to overcome the problems of H.265/HEVC. AOM has launched AV1, a video codec that is said to be 30% more efficient than its competitors. It allows ” More screens display vivid images, deeper colors, brighter highlights, darker shadows“.

aom-founding-members
The founding members of the AOM // Source: AOM

At the end of 2021, AV1 was launched on Netflix on many devices. Although few devices are still compatible, AV1 supports 8K. According to Netflix, this codec improves launch time by 2% and quality drops would be reduced by up to 38%?

Why is the European Commission investigating AOM?

In this questionnaire, we learn that The Commission has information that AOM and its members may impose license conditions (compulsory royalty-free cross-licensing) on ​​innovators who were not part of AOM when the AV1 technology was created, but whose patents are considered essential to (its) technical specifications“.

For the Commission, this could restrict the ability of companies to innovate, and therefore to compete with AV1. Which can prevent end users from accessing better video codecs. Also, Reutersreports that “the questionnaire also questioned the impact of an AOM patent license clause in which licensees would have their patent license terminated immediately if they launched patent lawsuits, saying that the implementation violated their claims“.

The announcement of this investigation comes a few days after a vote by Parliament on two pieces of legislation aimed at putting more pressure on the “GAFAMconcerning their practices, in particular anti-competitive. If the companies concerned are condemned for this reason, when these laws come into force, they will risk fines of up to 10% of their worldwide turnover.


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