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RE: W3C Patent Policy Framework Working Draft

From: Andy Chase <andy@greyledge.net>
Date: Tue, 2 Oct 2001 09:55:46 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <1882.63.201.185.26.1002041746.squirrel@mail.greyledge.net>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
I have been developing web pages for nearly six years now, and I have 
always done my best to adhere to the W3C's standards as closely as the 
browser technology of the day will allow.  I've always admired the W3C's 
role in quietly and impartially guiding the development of the web with 
clear, open standards.

It was with some alarm, then, that I read the Patent Policy Framework 
draft.  I am fully in favor of software developers and companies receiving 
recognition for their intellectual property, but for an organization 
founded to create open standards for the web to begin including patented 
technologies as part of those standards is a grave conflict of interest; 
you can't have your cake and eat it too.  

If the door is opened for patented technologies requiring license fees to 
be incorporated into W3C recommendations, where does it end?  Corporations 
will begin aggressively lobbying the W3C just as they do in Washington, and 
we'll wind up with companies like Microsoft forcing their proprietary 
standards like Hailstorm and .NET onto the entire web developer community, 
Microsoft users or not.  I don't want to see the web itself become a victim 
of the 'Embrace and Extend' phenomenon.  

Standards should be platform and corporation-agnostic...  For a web 
developer to be forced to pay licensing fees on a certain aspect of their 
project in order to be W3C compliant would be like forcing an Architect to 
pay a licensing fee to the company who made his T-Square and ruler in order 
to be in compliance with the National Institute of Standards Technology.

Software patents do exist, yes, and the statement that "ignoring them will 
do more harm than good" also seems apt, but why isn't it possible to 
acknowledge software patents without embracing them as an inevitability?

Just as with the DMCA and the upcoming SSSCA, large corporations stand to 
gain a great deal from this proposal if it passes W3C approval, while 
individual developers stand to gain nothing - in fact, individual 
developers stand to lose a great deal.  "Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory" 
looks good on paper, but as an individual developer who does a great deal 
of web development in his spare time, I can honestly state that I don't 
have the money lying around for any licensing fees that might become a part 
of a W3C standard.  Am I expected to stay behind current development trends 
at HTML 4.01/XHTML/XML 1.0 because I can't afford to keep up?

Please listen to the individual developers... the explosive growth of Linux 
as both server and desktop environment shows what can happen when 
developers come together without having to pay any licensing fees for 
developing and extending the existing code base.  For that matter, the 
explosive growth of the World Wide Web around the W3C's recommendations to 
date also illustrates this as well!  If the W3C is really commited to 
providing impartial guidance to the development of Web standards, it should 
not be considering incorporating closed source technologies requiring 
licensing into those standards.

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute my comments - I really want to 
stay behind the W3C, who laid the groundwork that has enabled me to earn my 
living as a web designer and developer for the last four years, but I am 
deeply concerned by this new proposal.

Best Regards,

-Andy Chase 
Received on Tuesday, 2 October 2001 12:44:53 GMT

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