Internet alliance okays MPEG-4 AAC licensing

The Internet Streaming Media Alliance (ISMA), which was co-founded by Apple Computer Inc., has announced its support for the MPEG-4 Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) licensing models recently introduced by Dolby Laboratories Inc. In contrast to the proposed terms for the MPEG-4 Visual license, the approach of the MPEG-4 AAC licensors doesn't involve royalties on the distribution of audio compressed in the MPEG-4 AAC format, a situation that's holding up the release of QuickTime 6.

MPEG-4 AAC is high-quality audio coding technology, often positioned as an alternative to MP3. MPEG-4 AAC provides up to 48 channels of audio, sample rates of up to 96 kHz, and can achieve ITU-R broadcast quality at 320 kbps for a 5.1-channel audio program. It was developed and standardized within ISO/IEC.

"The MPEG-4 AAC co-licensors listened to licensees and understand the complexities of the marketplace -- it is impractical to expect content owners or distributors to adopt a format which involves use fees, dramatically increasing their costs while also burdening them with tracking usage," said Tom Jacobs, president of ISMA, in announcing the organization's support of the Dolby terms. "ISMA members have been very concerned that the proposed use fees for MPEG-4 video patent licensing will inhibit the uptake of MPEG-4 among its most important constituents -- the companies that create and/or distribute multimedia content."

He added that the organization also "strongly supports" the MPEG-4 AAC business model. It encourages the use of the new technology by "making it attractive to the content industry, which will in turn promote the sale of products and the success of the MPEG-4 standard," Jacobs said.

The MPEG-4 AAC patent license treats personal computer-based products as a separate class of products from non-personal computer devices. Low fees and maximum annual payments for personal computer-based decoders will allow companies to proliferate MPEG-4 AAC playback on personal computers, Jacobs said.

"We're gratified by the show of support from the ISMA," said Ramzi Haidamus, Dolby Laboratories' Director of Business Development. "Dolby and the MPEG-4 AAC co-licensors have worked very hard over the past several years to develop a licensing program that is responsive to the needs of different companies in diverse markets."

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