[asterisk-dev] Opus and VP8

Matthew Jordan mjordan at digium.com
Wed May 29 13:55:58 CDT 2013

On 05/25/2013 05:19 AM, Hans Witvliet wrote:
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Olle E. Johansson <oej at edvina.net>
> Reply-to: Asterisk Developers Mailing List
> <asterisk-dev at lists.digium.com>
> To: Asterisk Developers Mailing List <asterisk-dev at lists.digium.com>
> Cc: Olle E. Johansson <oej at edvina.net>
> Subject: Re: [asterisk-dev] Opus and VP8
> Date: Fri, 24 May 2013 13:26:29 +0200
> 24 maj 2013 kl. 12:51 skrev Lorenzo Miniero <lminiero at gmail.com>:
>> PS: a few months ago I also talked, on the #asterisk-dev IRC, about
>> the support I added for both Opus (transcoding) and VP8 (passthrough)
>> in Asterisk, codecs that are currently the default ones used in
>> WebRTC. I checked whether there was an interest in a patch for them,
>> but at the time there were some concerns about the copyright status of
>> Opus that prevented it to be considered for integration in Asterisk.
>> Has this situation changed in the meanwhile? I can open a separate
>> thread for this if needed.
> Lorenzo,
> Good seeing you here!
> Due to legal issues I don't think Digium can accept a contribution of
> Opus and VP8 in the svn repositories today.
> I would encourage you, if you have these patches, to publish them on a
> web site like github or sourceforge so w all can help you test it. I
> really would like for these to be available for the community in an easy
> form.


Hello! I'm going to comment here specifically to clarify Digium's
position on Opus and VP8 as codecs and their inclusion in Asterisk.

To start, pass through support in the form of a format module is fine
for both Opus and VP8. It involves no transcoding and hence cannot
violate any claims against their technology. We'd be happy to see format
modules in Asterisk.

VP8 is the easier of the two to clarify. A codec for VP8 is probably not
appropriate, regardless of any patent or IPR issues. Asterisk doesn't
perform video transcoding. Video transcoding is an intensive operation
that performs poorly without hardware augmentation. We've always taken
the stance that software video transcoding in Asterisk would cause more
problems then it would solve; as such, VP8 as a codec is best left
outside of Asterisk.

The real question is: what about Opus?

Before that, a word about the American patent system.

The American patent system has devolved into what can only be charitably
described as mafia-inspired extortion. Non-practicing entities (NPEs)
are groups of lawyers who have not and never will produce, market, or
sell a product. The only actions they perform are filing infringement
claims against businesses and individuals, regardless of whether or not
that business or individual actually violates a patent, with the sole
purpose of extracting as much money out of said business or individual
as they can. The cost of fighting these claims is enormous. The cost of
losing a fight against even one of these claims is crippling. The NPEs
know this. Technical merit, logic, rationale, or any kind of morality
has no applicability here: these folks exist solely to find new and more
creative ways to make claims against you and take your money.

They'd be happy to put you out of business in the process.

Back to Opus.

There are several IPRs filed against Opus with the unfortunate licensing
declaration of "Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory License to All
Implementers with Possible Royalty/Fee." These IPRs have not been
clarified, and the entities making these claims have not moved one way
or the other regarding their claims. If any one of these entities
decides to play the NPE game (see: Alcatel-Lucent), they could crush
Digium like a bug. They could go after every user, integrator, and
developer of Asterisk as well. It has the potential of spelling the end
of the Asterisk project. The risk of this unfortunately does not justify
the inclusion of Opus as a codec in Asterisk.

Question: I am a user, integrator, and developer of Asterisk that does
not work for Digium. Since Digium holds the copyright of Asterisk, how
am I at risk?

Answer: I have no idea. I do know that logic and reasoning does not
apply where patents are concerned. Caveat emptor.

Question: Asterisk is an open source project. Doesn't that protect me

Answer: No. The GPLv2 specifically states "that any patent must be
licensed for everyone's free use or not licensed at all". There are
additional sections that further explain how patents affect software
licensed under GPLv2; suffice to say that the sections exist to protect
the freedom of the software; not to protect you from patent trolls.

Question: If all of this is true, why does Google, Mozilla, Xiph.org,
and others implement Opus?

Answer: They either have an army of lawyers, are willing to roll the
dice on their future, or are ignorant of how the patent system works.

Question: This is messed up. If all of this is true, how can we ever
innovate in areas where patents have ever been filed?

Answer: You can't. The system is broken.

Question: What can I do about it?

Answer: Contact your government officials. Complain. The only way this
situation will get fixed is if the laws are changed. Note that there is
at least one bill being brought up in the U.S. Senate to address these
exact deficiencies in the American patent system (and possibly more in
the House); if you are a U.S. citizen I highly recommend you contact
your elected Senators/Representatives and express your opinion(s).

I hope this helps everyone understand why we've made our decision. We
all hope that this situation changes in the near future, but until then,
we'll have to limit our support of these codecs in Asterisk to
pass-through only.



Matthew Jordan
Digium, Inc. | Engineering Manager
445 Jan Davis Drive NW - Huntsville, AL 35806 - USA
Check us out at: http://digium.com & http://asterisk.org

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