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Some of my reasons for objecting to the Patent Policy and RAND

From: Jesper Juhl <juhl@eisenstein.dk>
Date: Fri, 05 Oct 2001 11:33:12 +0200
Message-ID: <3BBD7E58.10903@eisenstein.dk>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org

Dear sirs,

I have posted brief comments to this list before, but they where brief 
only becourse I thought the comment period was about to close and I 
wanted to get a mail in to show my opposition. Now that the comment 
period has been extended and I've had some time to think about the issue 
I now post to you a more 'in-depth' comment.

First of all, please excuse spelling errors, badly constructed sentenses 
and the like - while I've tried to write as correct as possible, english 
is not my native language. If any of the things I write below are 
unclear, then just contact me by email and I'll be happy to elaborate.

The "Patent Policy Framework Working Draft" as published by the W3C has 
a number of problems. Below I have tried to describe the things that I 
find problematic.

By allowing patents and patented technology to become a part of a 
standard you pretty much destroy the possiblity of Open Source 
implementations of the standard since there will often not be anyone to 
pay the license fees. Some projects such as Apache, KDE, Gnome and 
OpenOffice are managed by large organized groups that might be able to 
raise the money to pay a license fee, but most projects are much more 
loosely knit than those mentioned, and not very many individual 
developers will be willing to pay such fees.

The internet as we see it today is build mostly on open public standards 
and Open Source implementations of those standards. Without the massive 
amount of work by individuals, organized Open Source projects, and 
educational institutions release to the public as free and/or open 
source software there would be no BIND, Sendmail, Apache or even Email.
So by eliminating (or at the very least limiting) those people from 
implementing your standards, you are depriving yourself of a huge workforce.
Also the specifications of the very heart of the internet, the 
TCP/UDP/IP protocols, are available license and royalty free, if the 
TCP/IP protocol had required a license fee to implement then I doubt 
that operating systems such as Linux, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD, ATheOS 
and others would have been able to implement them and the internet would 
have been a mess of various incompatible protocols (imagine the internet 
functioning on a mix of SNA, TCP/IP, IPX/SPX, AppleTalk & XNS - what a 
horror, it would never work). The only reason the internet has been able 
to grow as it has is that the TCP/IP specification was open and did not 
require a fee to implement so it got a huge following by being 
implemented in almost any operating system imaginable.

A standard is worth nothing if it is not implemented broadly.
Open and free software implementations of previous W3C standards have 
helped the standards themselves by ensuring a wide spread of 
applications that supported those standards. With licensing fees 
lowering the number of implementations I believe that it will be harder 
for any given standard to gain a broad following - that is bad for the 
standard and bad for the users.
I believe that an inevitable consequence of this will be that the W3C 
will become irrelevant to the entire Open Source and academic community 
as a standards body. Instead I think we will se another organization or 
Open Source project step forward and take on a role similar to the one 
that W3C has had this far. New, open, patent and royalty free competing 
standards will be defined implemented and used by the community - this 
situation is not optimal as we will then have competing standards and 
incompatible products, but it probably /will/ happen since the open 
source community is not just going to roll over and die without a fight 
(and I know that I would personally support competing standards if they 
were open and free from patents as opposed to a patent encumbered W3C 

As an example of why W3C standards need to stay completely open and 
free, think a few years back (well, it even applies today although the 
situation has improved). Do you remember all the special tags added to 
HTML by Netscape and Microsoft? It was pure _hell_ to write HTML that 
displayed properly in both browsers and if you also wanted other special 
browsers to work ok it was almost impossible.
By publishing open standards and encouraging alternative implementations 
of the standard this situation has improved. It is now possible to write 
HTML that conforms strictly to W3C standards and have it display 
properly in almost every browser. If the HTML 3.2 or HTML 4.x 
specification had required that a fee be payd to implement it, then I 
think that we would still have a few major corporations implementing the 
standard as they saw fit, and adding tons of extensions that would only 
work in their browser version. There would be little or no alternative 
browsers for people to use to force the competing (dominating) browser 
publishers to adhere to the standard.

Another thing is common decency. The internet was created mainly by 
people in the educational sector, individuals and people working 
together on open source projects. Now that all these people have spend 
an enourmous amount of time building a internet (and world wide web) 
that bennefits millions, largely without getting paid for it, you are 
going to attempt to limit their access to the information that they 
require to carry on this work and instead you hand it to corporations 
that have the money to pay for it. In my eyes that's a complete 
sell-out, you are biting the hand that feeds you.

At the risk of repeating myself I would like you to think about these 
scenarios and who bennefit from them:

   The W3C publishes a royalty-free, open, publicly available standard.
   Various corporations implement the standard in commercial products.
   Various Open Source projects implement the standard.

   - The situation is now that there's a large possibility that a user 
of the commercial products will be able to communicate with users of a 
non-commercial product and vice versa. This is good for the users, they 
have the freedom of choice of what product to use.

   The W3C publishes a standard requirering a licens fee to implement 
all or parts of the standard.
   Various corporations pay up and implement the entire standard.
   Open Source developers choose not to pay the royalty and implement a 
competing standard.

   - The situation is now that users of the commercial products can 
communicate with each other (and so can the users of the open source 
alternative), but communication between the two groups is impossible (or 
at least difficult). This is good for the corporations (if the W3C 
standard becomes more widespread than the alternative) since they can 
now force users over to their products. This is bad for the users and 
bad for people trying to support as broad a userbase as possible as they 
now have two (or more) standards to implement.

I will not comment on the specific text of the Working Draft in this 
email, but I am working on some comments about specific problems with 
the wording in the document - you will recieve those comments before the 
comment period ends on Oct. 11.

Jesper Juhl
Received on Friday, 5 October 2001 05:40:09 UTC

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