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The practices of AOM (Apple, Google, Meta…), creator of AV1, under the magnifying glass of the European Commission

The European Commission’s competition services have raised — perhaps — a new wolf in the tech industry. In the sights of the regulator, the consortium Alliance for Open Media (AOM), whose purpose is to supervise the development of the AV1 codec. Specifications for this open-source, free video codec were released in early 2018, and it has the potential to establish itself as the future industry standard.

AOM has most of the big names in the digital sector in its ranks: Apple, Intel, Mozilla, Samsung, Nvidia, Google, Microsoft, Tencent, Meta, Netflix (which quietly started adopting AV1 in 2020), etc. The Commission has opened a preliminary investigation to determine whether the Alliance has engaged in anti-competitive behavior in connection with the conditions of use of AV1’s licenses in Europe.

At the start of the year, the competition services sent companies a questionnaire in which the Commission wondered about the possible existence of ” royalty-free mandatory cross-licensing imposed on companies that were not part of AOM at the time the codec was created. The patents on which AV1 is based are considered essential, and should therefore be licensed under a reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) license.

These practices would have had the effect of restrict the ability of innovators to compete with AV1 technical specifications and eliminate incentives to innovate “. This preliminary investigation does not necessarily mean that there will be a formal investigation behind it or that an offense has been committed.

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