AAC Frequently Asked Questions

Who must sign a license?

An AAC patent license is needed by manufacturers or developers of end-user encoder and/or decoder products.

What products are covered by the license?

Licensee's end-user products, when sold directly or through distribution to end users, are covered by the license. Licensee's products that are not end-user products (e.g. components or implementations) are not covered by the license and would require that the party incorporating such a component or implementation into its end-user product obtain a license.

What technologies are covered under the AAC patent licensing program?

The license encompasses AAC Low Complexity (AAC-LC), High Efficiency AAC (HE-AAC, also sometimes known as aacPlus), MPEG-4 HE-AAC v2, and xHE-AAC (Extended HE-AAC). Also included in the license are patents essential to MPEG-4 AAC Scalable, MPEG-4 Low Delay AAC Profile (AAC-LD),  MPEG-4 ER AAC ELD (AAC-ELD) and AAC-ELD v2. The license provides comprehensive coverage of those aspects of AAC that are in commercial practice. The License grants licensees the right to use the licensed patents solely for the purpose of practicing these technologies and not for use with any other audio technology.

What is Extended HE-AAC?

xHE-AAC (Extended High Efficiency AAC) is the most recent upgrade to the AAC family of audio compression technologies standardized by ISO MPEG.

xHE-AAC is ideally suited for radio broadcasting, streaming, podcasting or any application that must accommodate a variety of audio content types, from purely talk, to voice-over-music or sound-effects, to music-only programming.

This ability to maintain audio quality with mixed content types at extremely low bit rates is why xHE-AAC has been selected as the mandatory audio coding format for Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) [www.drm.org], the global ITU endorsed digital radio standard designed to work over existing analog radio broadcast infrastructure, from shortwave to the VHF bands. 

With stereo bit rates as low as 12 kilobits per second, or 6 kbps for mono content, xHE-AAC enables reliable streaming audio services over 2G networks – for the first time, addressing up to 90% of mobile users in emerging markets. It also increases delivery reliability anywhere in the world over congested mobile networks or when suffering from fallback low-bitrate coverage outside metropolitan areas. The use of xHE-AAC can save significant streaming bandwidth and thus CDN costs for service providers. In addition, xHE-AAC helps consumers overcome concerns about overage charges when using limited data plans for streaming services. 

For additional information about xHE-AAC technology, please see the material presented, here.

A downloadable audio demo of xHE-AAC is available at the Digital Radio Mondiale website, here.

Is there an additional cost for Extended HE-AAC?

No. The xHE-AAC patents have been added to the AAC program at no additional cost to Licensees.

Are there use fees for AAC?

No. License fees are due on the sale of encoders and/or decoders only. There are no patent license fees due for the distribution of bit-streams encoded in AAC, whether such bit-streams are broadcast, streamed over a network, or provided on physical media.

What is the term of the AAC license?

The term of the license is five years, and can be renewed for additional five year terms.

Besides the license fees, are there any other costs involved?

There is an initial fee of $15,000 due upon execution of the license. This fee is a one-time charge and not an annual fee or an annual minimum. Small entities, defined as those with fifteen or fewer employees and with annual gross revenues of less than US $1 million, qualify for a reduced initial fee of $1,000. The initial fee will be waived for existing licensees that renew or update their AAC license.

The AAC website used to describe different pricing for PC software products. Is this pricing still available?

Yes, PC Software pricing remains available for products that have been approved by Via for reporting in this category.

Who are the licensors participating in the AAC Licensing Program?

The set of companies granting rights to their essential AAC patents through the AAC patent license agreement is presented here.

How can I obtain a sample license for review?

A sample of the AAC patent license agreement can be provided in electronic form via email. You can request a sample license by completing the sample request form on the Via Licensing website.

What do I need to do in order to execute the agreement and obtain a license?

After your review of the sample agreement, Via Licensing staff is available to answer any questions you may have. When you are ready to execute the agreement, Via will prepare two hard copies of the AAC Patent License Agreement with your company information added to the cover page and signature page. These copies will be shipped via courier for execution, or if you prefer Via can provide the executable agreement in electronic form via e-mail. When both copies are signed and returned to Via, they will be countersigned by Via Licensing and one copy returned to the licensee while the second copy is retained for Via's records. The initial fee (except from existing licensees migrating to the AAC agreement) is due within four weeks of the effective date of the agreement, and as long as the licensee complies with the conditions of the license, the license remains in effect for a five-year (renewable) term.

What are the reporting requirements of the AAC Program?

Licensees must report the sales of licensed products on a quarterly basis, using a secure website. The specific information required in the quarterly reports is simply the product designation (name and/or model number) and the number of units of each product sold in the quarter. For licensees reporting products sold in R2 countries/regions under the Alternative Rate Schedule, the country of sale must also be reported.

What is meant by a "reset" in the fee schedule?

A reset means that the per-unit fees are calculated from the quantity one price on a recurring basis. In the case of an annual reset, the royalties are calculated against the number of AAC products sold within a year starting at the quantity one price, regardless of the number of AAC products sold during the previous year. A year does not necessarily begin with the first calendar quarter, but is defined as four consecutive quarters starting with the first quarter for which a licensee reports.

Is there a difference between license fees for multichannel products and stereo products?

Under the AAC Patent License Agreement, a stereo product is counted as a single unit while a multichannel product is counted as 1.5 units when calculating license fees.

How are products categorized as either stereo products or multichannel products?

A device is considered a multichannel product if it includes a decoder that receives an AAC signal and decodes that signal into three or more channels of a different (compressed or uncompressed) audio format. A device that includes an encoder which is capable of producing an encoded AAC signal that consists of three or more channels is also considered a multichannel product.

"Channel" here means an audio channel, as in left, right, center, back-left, etc., and not, for example a television broadcast channel. Examples of multichannel products include: a device that produces a six-channel PCM signal at the output stage of a decoder; a device that presents a six-channel analog signal at the back panel of an A/V receiver; or a device which transcodes a 5.1 channel AAC signal into a different (compressed or uncompressed) format. 

As an exception to the above, a device that decodes a multichannel AAC signal and only down-mixes to stereo (either during or after decoding), without providing any multichannel output, would not be considered a multichannel product.

Is there a trial period available for licensed products?

Yes, licensees can provide end users with products for a trial period of up to 30-days.

What do I get after signing the AAC Patent License Agreement?

Licensees receive an agreement that has been executed by themselves and by Via Licensing acting in its capacity as an agent on behalf of the licensors. The agreement grants licensees the right to use the licensed patents for the sole purpose of practicing the AAC Standard as defined in the agreement. There are no additional deliverables (such as source code, compliance bit-streams, or technical support) under the AAC patent licensing program.

Where can I get code or other "know-how" for AAC?

A number of companies license implementations of various AAC technologies. In addition, reference software can be obtained from the ISO Store at https://www.iso.org/store.html. Via Licensing is not a source for code or engineering/technical support for AAC.

These answers to frequently-asked-questions are provided to explain the licensing program. The terms and conditions governing the license are provided in the license agreement.