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There Was Once a Vision of a Free Internet

From: Mark Herman II <turbodog@cajun.net>
Date: Tue, 09 Oct 2001 13:49:27 -0500
Message-ID: <3BC346B7.7080903@cajun.net>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org


    Dear W3C Patent Policy Working Group,

    I am extremely concerned about the proposals regarding RAND
    licensing terms on W3C standards.

    The rampant distribution of patents by the US is already making it
    more difficult than ever to develop software without wondering whose
    toes are being stepped on and what lawsuits will be filed. A
    high-profile case in point is Amazon's patent on one-click ecommerce
    transactions. Another would be the patents issued in 1996 for the
    windowing method of solving the Y2K problem. Many of the patents out
    there were given to someone simply because they were the first to
    file the papers. Many of them weren't necessarily innovative, but
    were just obvious solutions to problems that hadn't presented
    themselves before. It's unfortunate that the patents are often
    issued before someone even has a reasonable start of an
    implementation. If software patents are allowed to continue at their
    current pace, one day everybody will be wondering why it costs so
    much just to look at the Internet.

    Free software and free standards bring computing and the Internet to
    people who otherwise couldn't have them. Endorsing and legitimizing
    patents just helps bring people closer to the day when they may have
    a free operating system but have to pay $5 to view 1/3rd of the
    pictures on the Internet or $10 to listen to music from it. $10 may
    be reasonable to the average middle class American, but it may be
    what someone in another country using a 6 year old computer that was
    given to them makes in a week.

    Even hobbyists and students are often forced to use pirated versions
    of software not because they seek to become criminals but because
    the pricing structure of development software, for example, is
    generally targeted to large corporations and not to the average
    person. Patents may eventually make it hard or impossible to bring
    free implementations of common programs to these groups.

    Patented "standards" are just the sort of thing that companies that
    seek to dominate the Internet need to, for example, make their
    bundled products appear free while another truly free implementation
    can't use it because their product would no longer be free. This is
    already becoming the case even without the endorsement of the W3C.
    Why should the W3C endorse such activity? It seems hard to even call
    something that is financially hindered a standard.

    If the Internet is to reach its potential of bringing the world
    together, then the most basic building blocks of it must remain
    free. What is "reasonable" to a majority may still be totally out of
    reach for countless others. Adopting the RAND proposals will
    completely undermine the relevance of the W3C.

    Sincerely,

    Mark Herman, II
Received on Tuesday, 9 October 2001 14:47:15 GMT

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