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Cisco Debuts Thor, a Project to Create a Royalty-Free Video Codec

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Does the online video industry need another standard? After HEVC Advance—the second HEVC patent group—announced its royalty rates in late July, more people are likely to answer yes.

In a blog post, Cisco fellow and vice president Jonathan Rosenberg announced that his company is leading a project called Thor to develop a codec that's advanced, next-generation, and royalty-free. Licensing costs for H.265 are up to 16 times that of H.264, he notes, and there's no upper limit. There's also no allowance for use in free software (including browsers) or freemium software.

"While HEVC Advance is quick to say how 'fair and reasonable' their terms are, they aren’t," noted StreamingMedia.com executive vice president Dan Rayburn in a separate post. "The best way to describe their terms would be unreasonable and greedy."

Thor's project's team includes Gisle Bjøntegaard and Arild Fuldseth, both of whom have made significant contributions to other video codecs, and a passel of patent lawyers who can make sure Thor doesn't get bogged down in legal actions over patent infringements.

Cisco has already open sourced Thor's code, making it available on GitHub. Rosenberg invites others to help develop Thor or to contribute intellectual property rights for the royalty-free project.

In a reply to a reader comment, Rosenberg said that a final version of Thor is still years away. 

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