Apple and MPEG-LA expect to reach a reasonable settlement to their MPEG-4 licensing dispute within weeks.

MPEG-LA is the body tasked with developing a licensing model for the MGEG-4 standard. Apple’s decision to release QuickTime 6 Public Preview caused industry watchers to speculate that discussions with MPEG-LA may be approaching a successful conclusion.

MPEG-4 is a standard developed to kick-start the online video-on-demand industry. It offers high-quality Internet video at low bandwidth requirements. It also promises a new level of video interactivity. The technology is expected to replace competing standards that exist for online video, from companies including Apple, RealNetworks, and Microsoft. Both Apple and Real have announced plans to adopt the standard, Microsoft is believed to be developing its own solution.

MPEG-LA stirred-up controversy in February this year. Apple had announced QuickTime 6, but revealed that the release would be delayed, as the company did not agree with MPEG-LA’s proposed terms. The group expected content providers to pay a per-stream, per-use royalty-rate of $0.02, which Apple felt would stifle the development and adoption of the standard.

Progress In a statement, Apple PR confirmed that progress toward a satisfactory resolution of the argument has been made: “Apple has been working proactively with MPEG-LA and the content-creation community to ensure that the final license agreement has reasonable terms for content providers, and encourages use of the MPEG-4 standard.”

The company also revealed: “Based on the success of our discussions, we are confident that the licensing situation will be resolved to everyone’s benefit, and that MPEG-4 will be the open-standard for streaming video and audio over the Internet.”

These comments are supported by MacCentral, which reports Larry Horn, vice president of licensing at MPEG-LA, as saying: “We expect to issue a licence this summer. Progress is being made, the discussions are going well, and I’m confident we are going to come up with something the market finds acceptable.”

Tom Jacobs, president of the Internet Streaming Media Alliance (of which Apple is a founding member) told Macworld UK: “We look forward to MPEG-LA soon publishing final licensing terms. The ISMA has high expectations that amenable terms for all will be reached.

“The ISMA membership continues to work toward interoperable approaches for transporting and viewing rich media, and we believe that MPEG-4 is a superb content choice.”