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Comments on Patent Policy Draft

From: <matthew@toseland.f9.co.uk>
Date: Tue, 9 Oct 2001 23:03:25 +0100
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Message-ID: <20011009230325.A18447@cableinet.co.uk>
Hi. My position as an open-source network software developer:
a) Requirement for disclosure is essential.
b) RAND terms may prevent open source implementation and thus ferment
monopolism. If RAND terms are allowed, then I could get a browser implementing
a RAND-licensed specification only from a closed-source developer, without 
source and so with no possibility of audit for potentially security-threatening
bugs, portability etc; I may be able to get source form from some companies,
for enormous cost (with an NDA) however I will still lose the efficiency gains 
of open source software. Without meaning to be alarmist, I wouldn't want to be
legally forced to use closed-source software - any closed source software - to
implement a standard. Witness the massive and increasing penetration of Apache
and Linux. The former implements an open web standard, albeit not a W3C one,
and runs on 60%+ of all web servers. It is clearly valuable. We are talking
about the open source community having to make its own competing standards, and
making users either not use content in RAND-licensed standards, with the result
that the open source community will develop its own standards, assuming the
occasional ridiculously broad patents don't occur too much. W3C does not have
to repeat the mistakes made by the MPEG group and UNISYS. My interest is that
all W3C standards are implementable by anyone, even on an open-source model;
one possibility is to require that RAND licensors cannot levy a fee on open
source software, by some reasonable definition thereof, or at a pinch, make it
clear that if there is no charge made for the software, there are no patent 
fees.
c) It is suggested that low-level protocols should be required to be available
on RF basis. This is a start, however "low-level" is a rather arbitrary
distinction, that may well vary over time. For example, which of the following 
are high-level?
RDF
XHTML
CSS3
SMIL
SVG
MPEG? (yes, this isn't a W3C standard, but it illustrates my point and provides
some historical backing)
Received on Tuesday, 9 October 2001 18:04:00 GMT

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