MPEG-4 Gains Two Yeas, One Nay

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The MPEG-4 camp gained two crucial pegs with announcements this week, but it
also saw a new legal challenge.

First, start-up iVAST Inc. landed a deal with El Dorado Hills, Calif.-based
ClearStar USA to supply its MPEG-4 encoding, delivery and decoding system to the
satellite content-delivery and communications provider.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based iVAST and ClearStar teamed up earlier this year on
the first successful content broadcast using MPEG-4 over satellite.

The multimillion-dollar deal, announced Tuesday, will include a beta
deployment in May, with full deployment set to begin in August in Mexico and the
Asia-Pacific region.

And at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas this
week, Peter Marx, vice president of emerging technologies at Vivendi Universal
SA, told a crowd the much-anticipated MovieLink streaming video-on-demand
service would tap MPEG-4 as a format, although he stopped short of saying that
it would be the exclusive scheme.

MovieLink, formerly called MovieFly, is a joint project between movie studios
Vivendi, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., Warner Bros. and
Paramount Pictures that is set to debut later this year.

The latest in video standards developed by the Moving Picture Expert Group,
MPEG-4 promises to deliver video and audio at higher compression rates than
older MPEG-2 video. It also adds interactive elements.

But there is a fly in the MPEG-4 ointment, as well.
Streaming-media-technology provider On2 Technologies Inc., which has developed
its own proprietary codec, filed a position paper with the Department of Justice
and 50 state attorneys general arguing that MPEG-4 should not be recognized a
standard.

On2 argued that the DOJ-sanctioned patent pool, which was set up to collect
and distribute license fees for MPEG technology, has not been formally extended
to include MPEG-4 and, therefore, its licensing is improper.

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