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Too big a bite of the Apple?

Mac firm delays QuickTime 6 because of MPEG-4 licence

Apple is delaying the release of its QuickTime 6 and QuickTime Broadcaster software because it doesn't agree with licensing terms for the MPEG-4 video technology used in the software.

MPEG-4 is a digital compression standard for multimedia developed by the Moving Pictures Experts Group, or MPEG. Many companies hold patents on parts of the standard. They are represented on licensing matters by a firm, MPEG-LA, whose proposal for licence fees, released late last month, has stirred much debate.

Content providers will have to pay a penny an hour of streamed commercial MPEG-4 content and content stored on a packaged medium, such as a CD, according to the MPEG-4 licensing terms drafted by MPEG-LA.

Companies that offer products with MPEG-4 encoders and decoders, such as Apple, have to pay around 16p per encoder or decoder, up to a maximum of around £700,000 per year, according to the terms.

The MPEG-4 Industry Forum (M4IF), representing companies adopting the MPEG-4 standard, has asked for clarification of the terms as its members are concerned about the practicality of the licensing scheme, according to a statement it released last week. Apple is an M4IF member.

Apple agrees with paying a reasonable royalty for the use of MPEG-4 codecs in its software, but believes MPEG-4 can't be successful if content producers must also pay, the company said in a statement.

An Apple spokeswoman in Europe could not say when Apple expects the licensing debate will be resolved, enabling it to release its software.

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