Good news, fans of free web video - the MPEG-LA has decided to indefinitely extend its royalty-free license for freely distributed web video using the H.264 standard. As you may or may not know, there was a fair deal of fuss made recently over the future of web video, in regards to the near-ubiquity of H.264 as the format of choice, as previously the free license was set to expire in 2016, so this is good news for the countless websites which rely on the format for encoding the often massive amounts of video they host.
What's perhaps surprising about the announcement is how caveat free it seems to be. The only requirement for maintaining a license to use H.264 royalty-free is that the video be freely distributed. That covers the use of sites including YouTube, Vimeo and even us at TrustedReviews; in fact, you'd be hard pushed to find an internet video host that doesn't use H.264 as its codec of choice.
The announcement should dispel fears that websites using H.264 for freely distributed video would need to find an alternative solution prior to the 2016 cut-off date in order to continue servicing. In fact, Google had previously announced its own alternative solution, in the form of WebM, itself based on the less-common VP8 codec, which was to be offered as the primary coded with YouTube's HTML5 video implementation. As one of the main benefits of H.264 is its near-ubiquity it seems unlikely that arguably inferior (in terms of video quality) format will find much traction.
Implementations of the H.264 codec outside of freely-distributed internet video will still garner a royalty fee, so don't expect to be selling your own Blu-ray movies any time soon without getting a friendly visit from the MPEG-LA's lawyers. But I think we can all agree that's a small price to pay for the freedom to laugh a few pictures of cats doing people things on YouTube.