Adobe Flash Media Server and Wowza

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Adobe lawsuit to Wowza

Some time ago we wrote of choosing a media server to deliver video content. We discussed alternatives to Adobe Flash Media Server (FMS). One such alternative is the Wowza Media Server (WMS), which offers additional features compared to Adobe FMS, although it is inferior to Adobe in stability and load handling performance. Wowza’s methods of implementation and promotion raised claims on Adobe part, and they filed a lawsuit against Wowza. In this article, we will discuss the subject of claims and the possible consequences for the Wowza Media Server users.

The main Adobe’s claim to Wowza is a violation of Adobe patent #7272658 issued in September 2007 and patent #7587509 issued in September 2009. These patents describe the technology used in Flash Real-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP) and its encrypted version RTMPe. Wowza developed its own implementation of both protocols to use them in Wowza Media Server. Wowza does not admit to infringing these patents and intends to prove its actions legal, pointing at the availability of a functional product at a lower cost.

The most obvious violation of the patent is implementing of an encrypted version of the protocol, RTMPe. While the RTMP protocol version is open and anyone can implement it in their products, RTMPe version is closed, and its implementation is strictly proprietary. Making RTMPe operable is possible by reverse engineering only, which Wowza actually did. Over time it will become clear to which extend RTMPe is protected by patents and third-party implementation of RTMPe is justified. Adobe’s motivation is quite clear: RTMPe has been agreed with the rights holders (especially large studios) as a format of content delivery in Web environment. The approval involves significant expenses borne exclusively by Adobe, and Wowza, to a certain extent, derives its income from this, using RTMPe in their promotional materials and on their website.

But to be fair it should be noted that Wowza has some functional advantages over Adobe Flash Media Server, and apparently its success is not exclusively driven by RTMPe support. An interesting fact is that Wowza founders David Stubenvoll and Charlie Good previously worked at Adobe, although Wowza claims that they left Adobe before the acquisition of Macromedia, and could not have access to confidential information on RTMP and RTMPe implementation. However, in my opinion, it is doubtful that the product was implemented at no information leak. For additional information, please visit this webpage.

To my mind, settlement of this case would lead to exclusion of RTMPe functionality from the Wowza Media Server. However, this would not greatly affect the product specifications and the current WMS users have nothing to worry about. In addition, I would note the tendency of transition to the HTTP Dynamic Streaming, where a normal HTTP caching proxy server is used as a media server. Such servers are abundant and free-of-charge.

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