Can You Legally Use H.264 for Professional Video?

Posted on by Larry

Recently, there’s been a big flutter on the web about whether professional video can be encoded using the H.264 codec. The reason is that the H.264 license agreement essentially states, in part, that the H.264 codec can only be used for personal, non-commercial, use; for professional use, a license fee may be involved.

Can this be true? The license agreement first appeared around 2003 – did we miss something? The answer, as we learned tonight on the Digital Production Buzz, is a resounding maybe.

Philip Hodgetts has been doing some research and tonight we interviewed him to get a better picture of the problem. You can listen to his complete interview here. (TRT: 7:01, 2.4 MB, QuickTime)


Note: This is not legal advice – for that, see your lawyer. However, this is our understanding of the problem, with a link to learn more.

A license fee for H.264 use is probably required for professional use if ALL the following conditions are all met:

1. The video program must be encoded using the H.264 codec. (Other codecs are not covered by this license agreement.)
2. You sell the program. (If no money changes hands, no license fee is required.)
3. The program is sold to the ultimate end user. (If you are compressing files for use by someone else, say, digital dailies, no license fee is due.)
4. These programs must be in excess of 12 minutes. (Shorter programs do not require a license fee.)

If required, the license fee is very small: $0.02 per disc sold or about 2% of gross revenue, whichever is smaller.


Where to obtain information about a license:

Listen to Philip’s interview and decide for yourself what your next steps are going to be. For me, I’ll be spending time on the MPEG/LA website.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Larry Recommends:

FCPX 10.5 Complete

NEW & Updated!

Edit smarter with Larry’s latest training, all available in our store.

Access over 1,900 on-demand video editing courses. Become a member of our Video Training Library today!


Subscribe to Larry's FREE weekly newsletter and save 10%
on your first purchase.