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On the use of Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory fees

From: Itamar Shtull-Trauring <itamar@zoteca.com>
Date: Fri, 05 Oct 2001 12:48:05 +0200
Message-ID: <3BBD8FE5.5040100@zoteca.com>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
dis·crim·i·na·to·ry

    1. Marked by or showing prejudice; biased.
    2. Making distinctions.


The Web has always been an open place - anyone who wanted to could build 
a site. Anyone who wanted to could build software that complies with the 
Web's standards. As a result much of the software powering the Web (and 
the Internet today) is free, and open source. The web was a democratic 
place - publishing content and viewing content could be done without 
having to pay large fees or have the right connection. Yet now you are 
starting a policy that will make all this a thing of the past.

Now, right away you say - "we said *reasonable* and *non-discriminatory* 
fee". Well, that is not accurate. Large parts of the world are *poor*. 
The per capita GDP of the USA is $36,200. Not bad, right? Well, India 
(with how many hundreds of millions of people?) has a per capita GDP of 
$1,720.

Now, software and hardware is just not that affordable when that's the 
kind of money you have - so you go for the cheapest alternatives, and 
that means open source. Since open source software has always been able 
to interoperate quite well and support the web standards, this not a 
problem.

For example, in India Simputer has designed a $200 computer running 
Linux in order to bring computing to the masses - 
http://alllinuxdevices.com/news_story.php3?ltsn=2001-09-24-001-03-IN-HH 
- and there are other countries and people doing this sort of thing.

Now, your RAND policy says 
(http://www.w3.org/TR/2001/WD-patent-policy-20010816/#def-RAND):

"1.  shall be available to all implementers worldwide, whether or not 
they are W3C Members;"

and

"5 may be conditioned on payment of reasonable, non-discriminatory 
royalties or fees;"

I contend that the only truly reasonable, non-discriminatory policy is 
royalty free. Open source software will *not* be able to pay any sort of 
fee (will the author pay the fee for each user that downloads the 
software?) nor, even more importantly, will people in 3rd world 
countries be able to afford the commercial software that will be 
avialable. And since the software will not be available for free, they 
will be cut off from using these supposedly "non-discriminatory" standards.

Consider the BSA's report on software piracy - 
http://www.bsa.org/resources/2001-05-21.55.pdf. There is a clear 
correlation between a poor economy and high software piracy. This is 
because *people can't afford to pay for the software*, no matter how 
cheap it is.

As for the idea that the companies involved might be willing to allow 
the poor of the world to have access to computing? Somehow I think not - 
  consider Microsoft's behavior when a charity loaded Windows 95 on 
computers it was donating - Microsoft said it would only agree for this 
to be done on 150 computers, and the hundreds of other computers' OS 
would have to be payed for (even though, since these were refurbished 
computers and defunt software there was no loss of revenue). This was 
done in order to "protect innovation". The charity switched to using Linux:

http://www.thestandard.com.au/articles/display/0,1449,14771,00.html?1447
http://www.zdnet.com.au/newstech/news/story/0,2000025345,20255277-1,00.htm


So, when you say "reasonable and non-discriminatory", that can only mean 
  one of two things:

1. Royalty-free, allowing *everyone* to use the standards.
2. A policy that discriminates against those who cannot afford to pay 
for the privilige of using these standards - and this includes literally 
  billions of people.


-- 
Itamar Shtull-Trauring
Chief Technical Architect @ Zoteca
Received on Friday, 5 October 2001 06:50:31 GMT

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