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AAC-LC patent expiry?

Has anyone tried to assemble a list of AAC patents and when they expire, as several people did for MP3? Given that AAC-LC was published in 1997, isn't it likely that all AAC-LC related patents have expired and binaries for LC encoders may now be published without legal qualms?

And I suppose HE-AAC (v1) will follow in ~3 years.


Re: AAC-LC patent expiry?

Reply #2
Additionally, it depends very much on the location.
Some patents expire at different times in different countries. With MP3 the last place for the last patent to expire, was in Japan, iirc.

It expired a week after it expired in most of the rest of the world, including the US.

Apparently, calculating the term of the patents after the debacle with MP3, became much more reliable.
This page explains how term calculation works, and gives a couple examples: https://www.osnews.com/story/24954/us-patent-expiration-for-mp3-mpeg-2-h264/
This "patent calculator" I find particularly interesting: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Jrincayc/Patent_utils

I haven't looked into by what patents AAC is covered by. If you happen to create a list of patents, it'd be rather easy to calculate their terms of expiration.
I remember someone telling me on HA, that AAC patents are actually much easier to "track" than those of MP3, due to some legal changes in the mean time (I forgot the technicalities, but it was more or less a reaction to the U-Boat patents associated with MP3 that lead to those changes. Someone on HA explained it in a very old thread).

However, all this pertains only to patents filed in the US. How things work in different countries, depends on patent laws in those countries. It is very likely, that expiration terms are different. How much this is impacting a general availability of encoders and decoders, is questionable, though. The impact of this is visible in certain Linux distributions, which have a very strict reliance on free licenses, etc. like Fedora. In fact I use the official repos of Fedora as means of tracking what has expired patents what hasn't. When the MP3 patents expired, not even an hour after midnight in Pacific time, an update for Fedora was available, with things like MP3 playback capabilities for all sorts of media players, and things like binary LAME packages became available.

On a personal note, I think no one compiled a patents list, because no one really cares. AAC is as I see it, the last "hurrah" when it comes to patented codecs like this. With the recent release of AV1 for video, and things slike Opus and Vorbis for audio before that, there's simply no need to use codecs like AAC. The last product in the AAC family, xHE-AAC is next to impossible to find in-the-wild. I remember a Norwegian Icecast instance, which listed one xHE-AAC stream (I'm not sure that Icecast web-interface was supposed to be exposed to the internet), and I believe it was more of an experiment if anything. From a developer's perspective, using libraries for AAC is incredibly difficult, when you're not developing for Windows or mobile (I don't have experience developing for consoles, like the PS4 or X-Box). On the other hand, using Opus or Vorbis, is and was plain and simple, and there was no legal baggage (or at least, not as much).
The only remaining realm of audio codecs that is still kinda securely in the grips of proprietary codecs and heavy patented ones, is telephony and ultra-low-bandwidth codecs, however things are changing there, too, with things like Codec2.

From a perspective of pure knowlege-seeking, I'd very much hope, there will be eventually all sorts of nice AAC codecs available, perhaps as part of FFmpeg, etc.

 

Re: AAC-LC patent expiry?

Reply #3
With the recent release of AV1 for video, and things slike Opus and Vorbis for audio before that, there's simply no need to use codecs like AAC.
AV1 is still way too slow to be practically usable by ordinary users (except google or something). Are you really using it?
H264+AAC in video is already something like JPEG in picuture or MP3 in audio, so it shouldn't be dead soon as you say.

Re: AAC-LC patent expiry?

Reply #4
Once there are enough lossy files "with no lossless original", is very hard to get rid of the format. MP3 won't just disappear. And because Apple (the music vendor) settled for AAC, it is hard to get rid of that as well. (IIRC, Apple/iTunes accepted AAC uploads from musicians? Then they don't necessarily have any "better" to replace it with?)
There will be decoding support, and that makes it a "safer" choice for decoding.

If we look at (lossy) formats/codecs that once had some momentum (sorry, Musepack fans) and that we are maybe closing in on getting rid of, then what?
Real. A stellar example of how not to do it.
MP1 on DCC, and ATRAC.
Vorbis served the purpose of being a threat. Kept MPEG-formats cheap to costless. But I have only a few hours' worth of .ogg music. And video? (Can the Theora users please raise a hand? Both of you, please.)
WMA ... I have more .wma than .ogg, and even more when we count video files. Most downloaded from careless musicians who posted on their website in what their Windows computers would default to. But despite all the hardware players that support it, I don't see much .wma anymore. Abandonware it is as well. (I wish I could blame WMA on Steve Ballmer.)
High Voltage socket-nose-avatar

Re: AAC-LC patent expiry?

Reply #5
AV1 is still way too slow to be practically usable by ordinary users (except google or something). Are you really using it?
H264+AAC in video is already something like JPEG in picuture or MP3 in audio, so it shouldn't be dead soon as you say.
Yes, AV1 is slow as hell, the reference implementation, that is. On the other hand, things like the SVT encoder are very promising, and the codec has only been out for a couple months, it's gonna take some time till fast encoders show up.

The point really is, people mostly only care about one thing: Whether it works or not. Most people are completely unaware, what sort of encoding their Youtube videos has, or what they're actually looking at, when they're watching a Twitch stream, or when they're listening to something on Spotify.

This used to be quite different not too long ago.

The awareness what format or codec is used has gone way down. This is one reason, how Opus (and to some extent, Vorbis before that, see Spotify), snuck into every day usage, without anyone noticing. In a similar way, many pictures used on websites, are actually PNGs, not JPEGs. Nobody really cares what sort of image format is used, it just has to work, and PNG is fine for almost all cases. WebM is so common these days, it has supplanted many other video container formats.

So, since people really don't care, I'm not saying MP4(H.264, AAC) (this is how I often declare formats/codecs in writing, btw.) is gonna go away anytime soon, just as MP3 is still lingering around. However it got dropped for other things without people really noticing, because they shouldn't, they don't have to care at all. For media used on mobile devices, desktops etc., things that are easily updated, the changes will be more gradual, but also in faster succession. I think it's safe to say, that MP3 almost outlived its patent status, it kinda did, but also didn't. However with AAC, I don't think this will be the case, except some legacy applications. I think we'll see AAC being dropped for something else, way before the patents are expired.

Notwithstanding, are things like DAB+ streaming, etc. Those things are locked-in as hell, of course. Once you get a DAB+ radio, you gotta use that. When they change the format and/or codec, you usually need to get a new radio, similar things happened here with DVB-T and DVB-T2, obsolescence never felt in a more rapid succession...
Those things aren't really comparable though. By those standards, audio cassette tapes aren't "dead", because many people still use them in their car stereo systems.

Re: AAC-LC patent expiry?

Reply #6
Sorry, I didn't see your post when I wrote my previous one.
Once there are enough lossy files "with no lossless original", is very hard to get rid of the format. MP3 won't just disappear. And because Apple (the music vendor) settled for AAC, it is hard to get rid of that as well. (IIRC, Apple/iTunes accepted AAC uploads from musicians? Then they don't necessarily have any "better" to replace it with?)
There will be decoding support, and that makes it a "safer" choice for decoding.
OK, a couple things to unpack here.

* Lossless Original missing.
Oh boy, that's a sad. And I'm assuming the original medium, be it CD, Vinyl, magnetic tape, etc. is missing, too?
Sure, if a lossy file is just that, the best way is to just not touch it, just keep it as it is, and that's the "original" now.

* Apples choice to use AAC.
They might as well change it at some point down the line. As I said in my previous post, users generally don't really care what sort of format or codec their data is, as long as it works reliably. Also, iTunes is kinda on the declining leg of the industry. Streaming media is just so much more convenient for the average user. So on one hand, iTunes might as well switch to a different codec and/or format, and most people simply wouldn't even notice the switch. When it comes to streaming services, this problem doesn't even manifest itself.

* Musicians.
OK, I don't know how much faster the internet has yet to become. Seriously though, when you're a musician, you'll take care your music reaches the distributor in the best format it can. If you're essentially uploading a master, you might as well upload a FLAC or ALAC along with lossily encoded versions (if a distributing service cannot transcode to a lossy target on-the-fly, I don't even know what to say in this day and age). Musicians generally care about this (contrary to most users), and if it isn't the musicians, the producers and labels do. Music creators demand that sort of functionality, sooner or later distribution services will start to comply.

* Safer choice as it's an older codec.
Yes, at least for some time, sure. Eventually it'll get obsoleted from hardware decoders, etc. Note how I was talking about a more gradual, less apparent, and in quicker succession occurring transition phase. We will still see transition phases, but for things played on smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers (or rather, decoded by those), it really doesn't matter as much. When we talk about hardware that's locked-in, like hardware decoders in stereo systems, car stereo systems, digital broadcasting, etc. that's a different issue. The consideration is also one of quality. Sure, an older codec might be a "safer" choice when it comes to compatibility, but the quality might not be ideal, either, etc.

Quote
If we look at (lossy) formats/codecs that once had some momentum (sorry, Musepack fans) and that we are maybe closing in on getting rid of, then what?
Nothing, really. If a format is crap (like HD-DVD), it'll simply get lost to time. Too bad if you adopted something early on, and gotten rid of the original medium.

Quote
Real. A stellar example of how not to do it.
MP1 on DCC, and ATRAC.
Those are locked-in technologies, similarly, how many people still use audio cassettes in their cars. Some even still use 8-Track for the same reason. The same issue arises with things like DVB-T(2), which brings pretty much the same issue to the table. Eventually you're forced to get a new device, if the firmware can't be updated in a reasonable amount of work.

Quote
Vorbis served the purpose of being a threat. Kept MPEG-formats cheap to costless. But I have only a few hours' worth of .ogg music. And video? (Can the Theora users please raise a hand? Both of you, please.)
WMA ... I have more .wma than .ogg, and even more when we count video files. Most downloaded from careless musicians who posted on their website in what their Windows computers would default to. But despite all the hardware players that support it, I don't see much .wma anymore. Abandonware it is as well. (I wish I could blame WMA on Steve Ballmer.)
That's already quite a lot and quite complex compared to the average user, using their smartphone as their primary playback device. Just the fact that you keep files is actually rather unusual to the casual user. The entire concept of keeping a private music collection is actually on the downswing. Just using an on-demand streaming service is much simpler. Sure, it eats bandwidth, but then again, that's gotten reasonably cheap, so why bother with files? Sure, some people prefer just that.
Same thing with musicians not being available through streaming services like Spotify. They might offer their music for download on bandcamp or just on their website, but it's actually smart to use something like Soundcloud similar, where people can listen to their music in its entirety without downloading (and dealing) with files.

 
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