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

Free Software compatibility

From: Dmitry Borodaenko <dborodaenko@optifacio.com>
Date: Mon, 8 Oct 2001 20:44:09 +0300
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Message-ID: <20011008204409.A11545@belcaf.minsk.by>
There is only one option for W3C Patent Policy to become compatible with
free software, and in particular with GPL (which is used in majority of
free and open-source programs):

   Reject RAND patent-encumbered technologies in all W3C
   recommendations, without exception.

As it was stated before on this list, GPL makes sure that software
distributed under this license is not subject to any limitations beyond
those imposed by GPL itself. Thus, even including special clause like
"royalty-free for GPL implementation" is not enough (look at FSF vs. KDE
and GPL vs. 4-clause BSD license debates if you want more information on
GPL compatibility issues).

The GPL wording, the whole history of Free Software movement, and
comments from its luminaries on this list show that we are not going to
adjust our position to patents, and there are good reasons for that.
This means that W3C has to choose its side right now:

   Does W3C support software patents, or does it support free software?

If W3C chooses the side of patents, Free Software community will be
forced to establish and use alternate standards body with different
patent policy.

This inevitable standards fork will considerably slow down Web
development: new W3C standards will rely on proprietary implementations,
and free software will follow an independent set of standards,
incompatible with W3C standards.

Free software influence should not be underestimated: even if
proprietary implementations don't lag behind in terms of quality,
security and release availability, Web in its current form heavily
depends on free software such as Apache, BSD, Linux, Mozilla, Perl, PHP
etc. In addition, many small proprietary software vendors, who are
likely to be hurt by RAND licensing as well, will also look for
alternative to W3C.

Thus, standards fork is lose-lose for everyone expect certain
proprietary software vendors, who are uncomfortable both with Internet
and free software anyway. Are you, all the W3C members, willing to
sacrifice the role of open and (therefore) leading standards body, and
to turn away majority of Web developers and researchers?

I, as a PhD student at Belarusian State University of Informatics and
Radioelectronics in Minsk, do research in the area of Semantic Web. If
new patent policy supporting RAND fees is adopted, I will seriously
consider changing research subject, and will not use patent-encumbered
W3C standards. If alternate Web standards body with free software
compatible patent policy is created, I will use and develop their
standards instead of competing standards of W3C.

Dmitry Borodaenko                      |  http://optifacio.com/
Belarus Unit Manager                   |  39 Platonova Street
Optifacio Software Solutions, Inc.     |  220071 Minsk Belarus
Received on Monday, 8 October 2001 13:44:19 UTC

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