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When is RAND fair

From: Dr. David Alan Gilbert <gilbertd@treblig.org>
Date: Tue, 2 Oct 2001 18:08:52 +0100
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Message-ID: <20011002180852.L369@tardis>
Hi,
  With regard to your proposals on licensing.  I would like to state:

	1) I support fully a disclosure mechanism prior to standard creation.
	2) I support fully the concept of a royalty free licensing scheme.
	3) I have issues with the RAND mechanism.

I think it is unfortunate, but considering the amount of legal action in the
world these days,  I believe the w3 does need a policy on this and to
sort it out.

I believe that in many situations RAND can help; one of the problems
with patents is that a large company might stifle a small company by trying
to enforce unfair requirements on a patent user.  I fully support attempts
to avoid such situations.

The problem however is two fold:
  a) Who decides what is fair under the terms of RAND
	b) What about free software.

	With reference to (a) a decision that might be appropriate for example
to the vendors of a web authoring package selling for hundreds of dollars
might be inappropriate to someone selling an addition to an existing product
for a few dollars.

  With reference to (b).  Let me first make it clear I fully believe in the
right of commercial developers to develop software and sell it and license it.
However I also believe that a developer should be able to write and distribute
software for free if he so desires; much of the software that underlies the
Internet was developed in this way and as a development method it has been
shown to work well and encourage a large number of organizations to 
push the technology forward and thus I believe that any RAND mechanism you
create should make this practical.

  Creating such a mechanism is challenging.  For a start it must not
require a free developer to spend a fortune in legal fees.  At the same time
you would need to make sure that commercial developers can't wriggle out of any
requirements by claiming there software is free but having some other charging
mechanism.

  In addition I think it is important to consider whether such licenses would
apply to:
     i) viewers
		 ii) servers
		 iii) content creation packages
		 iv) content

	The implications for these different categories vary considerably.  For
example if they actually related to any content created then that would mean
that any user would have to pay a license just to create their own document!

One possible solution might be to force RAND licensing to always state 
costs purely in terms of a percentage of sale cost of the product using the
license; thus software that was free would still be able to use the
technology freely.

I should also make it clear that 'free' does not only imply financial freedom
but also some level of freedom in use and modification.  For example I wouldn't
want a product licensed under RAND to restrict what content I was able to
view or who was able to create it and I would require that my ability to
exercise fair use copying was maintained.

Dr. David Alan Gilbert

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Received on Tuesday, 2 October 2001 13:08:55 GMT

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