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"Lower-layer infrastructure" needs clarification, timing stinks

From: Jeffrey Zeldman <jeffrey@zeldman.com>
Date: Thu, 4 Oct 2001 10:14:43 -0400
Message-Id: <l03130303b7e21ebd7022@[216.223.217.61]>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org

RAND Section 2.2 says "it is especially important that the Recommendations
covering lower-layer infrastructure be implementable on an RF basis."

        RF = "Royalty-free," which means that even if a company has
patented a standard, it cannot charge money for it. So far, so good.

        "It is especially important" means, "We hope you will adhere to
this principle, but we will not enforce it." Not good, but understandable,
since W3C by its charter has no enforcement power over member companies.

        "Lower-layer infrastructure" *may* refer to most of the standards
that have built the web. But there's no way of knowing. Is HTTP part of the
lower-layer infrastucture? Is HTML? What about XML and CSS?

        For the community to buy into RAND, W3C needs to spell out exactly
which technologies are and will remain Royalty-free. Otherwise, it's open
season for corporate lawyers to exploit W3C's vagueness to their companies'
financial advantage.

        Put another way, if RAND is intended to protect the interests of
member companies while preventing bad corporate behavior, as currently
written it is too vague and wishy-washy to achieve either goal.

        My other problem with RAND, and it's a subjective one, is that the
timing stinks. The W3C seems not to have noticed that New York, Washington,
and Pennsylvania were brutally attacked on 11 September by an enemy or
enemies who chose not to take "credit" for their acts of war.

        W3C, pull your heads out of your labs. The entire world is on
tenterhooks, praying for peace and security while preparing for global
devastation. This is hardly the time to expect web users and developers to
contribute intelligently to the discussion of vaguely-worded documents with
potentially far-reaching consequences. By all standards of decency, W3C
should have put RAND on the shelf.


jeffrey


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Received on Thursday, 4 October 2001 10:16:06 GMT

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