W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org > October 2001

Why "non-discriminatory" _is_ discriminatory

From: Pavel Roskin <proski@gnu.org>
Date: Thu, 4 Oct 2001 02:52:40 -0400 (EDT)
To: <www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.33.0110040150360.14243-100000@portland.hansa.lan>

Let me introduce myself.  I'm Pavel Roskin, maintainer of GNU Midnight
Commander and contributor to other GNU projects.  GNU is an effort by Free
Software Foundation (http://www.fsf.org/) to create an operating system
that everybody is free to use and improve.

I'm very concerned that W3C is considering a possibility to include
patented technology in the future web standards.  Although the proposal
stipulates that only "reasonable and non-discriminatory" patents will be
accepted, the fact is that any patent is "discriminatory" towards free

A patent, by definition, restricts use of the patented technology.  Free
Software, on the other hand, does not allow any restriction on how it is
used.  Therefore, every software patent is incompatible with Free Software
and thus "discriminatory".

Considering the role that free software played in the history of World
Wide Web it seems very ungrateful to discriminate against it.

I'm not against patents.  They are useful to promote research and
creativity.  However, patents don't cost nothing to the society.
Restricting the use of patented technology may stimulate new ideas, but
the patent royalties do prevent some people from using already existing
ideas.  Patent law is a balance between helping the creator and
restricting the followers.

In the countries that acknowledge software patents, the patent law is
actually biased to the benefit of "creators", who are often the companies
with few engineers and many lawyers to sue everybody who doesn't want to
pay royalties for trivial ideas.  There is no need for W3C to disbalance
the system even further.

Another problem with patented technologies is that they cannot be
developed without participation of the patent holder.  What happens if the
patent holder doesn't want to improve the technology?  What if the
patented technology has security holes by design and the patent holder
refuses to fix them?

What if the patent holder is forced to change the terms of the patent so
the they are not "reasonable and non-discriminatory"?  Can you actually
withdraw a standard already implemented in many products?  I don't think
so.  Imagine that somebody forces you to withdraw e.g. Cascading Style
Sheets because of patent problems.  Not only would everybody make fun of
you, but W3C would become irrelevant after that.

If W3C is to survive and to remain relevant, it should require any patent
rights to be surrendered unconditionally on the prospective web standards.

Pavel Roskin
Received on Thursday, 4 October 2001 02:52:04 UTC

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