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

RAND is incompatible with free/opensource implementations

From: Filipe Santos <filipe@onebox.com>
Date: Fri, 05 Oct 2001 07:11:14 -0700
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Message-Id: <20011005141114.MDPO16495.mta10.onebox.com@onebox.com>

As many others have already pointed out in a clear way,
RAND licensing is incompatible with free/opensource implementations
of the standard, which in general place few or no restrictions on further
redistribution and/or use of the software. A large fraction of the Web
infrastructure currently employs this sort of software, and one may expect
that this trend will not change significantly. 

One could argue even that the *majority* of the web infrastructure is
relying on free software, so the RAND proposal would represent an
initiative against this status quo, giving working groups of
presently little noticed but key future standards the opportunity to

render a free software implementation (such as one licensed and distributed
under the GPL) impossible or subject to the whims of
patent holders, which are often diametrically opposed to those of the
free software authors. As this patent policy proposal has starkly shown,
it's difficult for most of the people actively creating this free software
to follow the standards-making activities of the W3C consortium, so it's
unreasonable to expect that this scenario will not arise, that is, a
working group established under RAND defining an important standard that
cannot be freely implemented and distributed under the GPL terms or BSD

Another argument is that software patents are not yet a legally
accepted concept in many countries, such as the European Union ones,
and they are a hotly contested subject. If the W3C has a neutral
stand w.r.t. , it should refrain from building in such a concept in its
standard making regulations *until* software, look-and-feel, and/or business-methods
patents reach global and uniform acceptance, preferably within the scope
of a specific international treaty. This is consistent with the fact
that World is one of the W's in W3C, and most of the World has not yet
established that software patents are legal. Without this, the RAND proposal
can only be construed as a de facto and anticipatory acceptance of such
patents worldwide by the W3C.
So, the RAND licensing proposal should *not* be ratified. W3C recommended
standards should not contain patented features. 

The only compromise that I can quickly think of is to add a clause covering
*all* W3C standards stating that implementations distributed in source
code format and demanding no licensing fee should be automatically
granted a royalty-free use and distribution license from all patent holders
that adhere to the (now modified) RAND licensing scheme. 

This idea should be more extensively worked out, which makes, given the
complexity and breadth of the issue, the 11th October deadline clearly
inadequate. The W3C should review this and re-launch discussions involving
all interested parties, actively soliciting input and contacting developers
of free software world-wide, in my opinion.

Filipe Santos
filipe@onebox.com - email
(703) 234-3950 x6634 - voicemail/fax

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Received on Friday, 5 October 2001 10:11:46 UTC

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