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

Re: public opinion on W3C

From: Pierre Phaneuf <pp@ludusdesign.com>
Date: Thu, 04 Oct 2001 09:24:31 -0400
Message-ID: <3BBC630F.40698F05@ludusdesign.com>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Chris Lilley wrote:

> > If this passes, I won't be able to do so anymore.
> Sure you will, because you will be able to point to a
> publically available specification (juts like before)
> but now, you will be able to point to existing patent
> disclosures and license terms as well, from all the
> companies that helped create the specification. So you
> can tell at a glance what the patent status is from
> those companies; a big advance on having to ask them
> all individually, or hope that they don't have any
> patents, or whatever you did before. What did you do
> before, by the way?

Before, I hacked my own incompatible crap out of spite, with all the
expected usefulness (none).

Of course, having up-front notification about patents is nice. I wish I
had a little guy over my shoulder telling me when I am using a patented
thing unknowingly, so that I would save time by not doing open source
implementation of them.

But this is not the Right Thing, it is only a nice thing. The Right
Thing would be for me to code whatever the hell I want without getting
idiotic subpoenas about how I'm supposed to know that I'm not the only
one with a brain on Earth.

In particular, I find an "open standard" that has a supposedly
"non-discriminatory" licensing policy pretty closed and discriminating
when it just prevents me from implementing it. Of *course*, I know that
the RAND doesn't mean all standards adhering to it will require any
royalties or other licenses fees or will not be able to have an open
source implementation.

But it open the door, and once it is open, I bet you'll see companies
gushing in. In particular, I can all too easily envision a world where
streaming media protocols are patent-ridden and where I'd have
absolutely no hope of ever seeing the software to play those supposedly
"open standard" streams on Linux ever appear. Yay for interoperability.

At least I would get sued because I unknowingly used patented
technology, that's the good side? All right...

> > Don't do this to us!
> I agree about "don't do to us what happened with
> GIF". We are taking steps to ensure that this is not
> done to anyone, at least for W3C specs.

Let me be clearer. I'll define "this" as "make standards that we won't
be able to make open source implementation of without lawyers knocking
my door down". RAND doesn't look like this to me.

Regarding your example about GIF, times have changed. Now, patents
aren't used as much in submarine kinds of way.

They go with it in more obvious manners nowadays, since this is
"required to be innovative". Large companies licenses each others
patents (i.e. MP3, AAC and a number of similar codecs) and leave open
source developers out in the cold. "So long, suckers", they tell us. W3C
didn't call me a sucker in the past, will it do so in the future?

There are "open standards" like JPEG2000 and MPEG4 in development, where
it is widely known that they are patent-ridden. How "open" is that?

Again, don't do this to us, *please*.

Pierre Phaneuf
Received on Thursday, 4 October 2001 09:21:13 UTC

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