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Setting Standards for the On-line Community

From: Tom Worthington <tom.worthington@tomw.net.au>
Date: Thu, 11 Oct 2001 16:44:44 +1000
Message-Id: <5.1.0.14.2.20011011161910.00a3f980@tomw.net.au>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
              SETTING STANDARDS FOR THE ON-LINE COMMUNITY
        A Comment On The W3c Patent Policy Framework Working Draft
                          Tom Worthington FACS
                   Director, Tomw Communications Pty Ltd
                         http://www.tomw.net.au
                            11 October 2001

The purpose of this document is to provide comment on the W3C Patent Policy 
Framework Working Draft 
<http://www.w3.org/TR/2001/WD-patent-policy-20010816/>. W3C should be 
commended for deciding to extend the review period 
<http://www.w3c.org/2001/10/patent-response>. While the effort to clarify 
software patient issues in web standards is admirable, the proposals for 
"Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (RAND) Licensing Mode" places at risk 
W3C's status as a standard making body and the continued development of the 
web.

Most of the proposed policy is a prudent response to an increasingly 
litigious society, in particular the requirement for disclosure provisions 
by those involved in standards development 
<http://www.w3c.org/TR/2001/WD-patent-policy-20010816/#sec-disclosure>. The 
procedure for launching new standards development activities as 
Royalty-Free Licensing Mode activities appear a reasonable response 
<http://www.w3c.org/TR/2001/WD-patent-policy-20010816/#sec-mode>. This is 
intended to prevent requests for license fees after a W3C standard has been 
finalised.

The difficulty arises with the procedure for launching new standards 
development activities with the Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (RAND) 
Licensing Mode 
<http://www.w3c.org/TR/2001/WD-patent-policy-20010816/#sec-mode>. It has 
been argued that future work could be hindered because of the uncertainty 
caused by possible patent claims and it would be better if license fees for 
use of W3C standards was known. It has also been argued that this proposal 
does not change W3C's current policy, in that W3C has never had a licensing 
policy. However, these are essentially legal responses to what is a social 
issue.

As a standard making body W3C depends on the good will of the Internet 
community to support its work. The law has proved itself inadequate to the 
task of keeping up with Internet developments. While there is an 
understandable desire for certainty by W3C, this is not possible while W3C 
is at the forefront of the development of the web. Innovations will 
continue to create legal uncertainty. This can only stop if W3C ceases to 
contribute new and innovative work.

W3C derives its authority for standards making, not from any legal status, 
nor from the commercial power of its members, but by acting as a good 
global Internet citizen. In his book "Exploring the Internet - A Technical 
Travelogue" <http//museum.media.org/eti/> Carl Malamud wrote of the 
problems by a standard maker forgets their obligations. In part W3C was 
created as a reaction to the problems with such processes. If W3C proposes 
standards that will not be widely used due to licence fees, then it will 
lose legitimacy. There will then be a need to create new organisations to 
take over that role.



Tom Worthington FACS tom.worthington@tomw.net.au Ph: 0419 496150
Director, Tomw Communications Pty Ltd ABN: 17 088 714 309
http://www.tomw.net.au PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617
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Received on Thursday, 11 October 2001 05:49:30 GMT

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