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Contribution to W3C consultation

From: Charles Stewart <cas@linearity.org>
Date: Thu, 11 Oct 2001 14:09:47 -0400
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Message-ID: <20011011140947.A42924@achilles.linearity.org>

I am a post-doctoral researcher in computer science at the Technische
Universitaet, Berlin[1].  My applied interests include especially the
following: 
 1. Fine grained interoperability between Java and UNIX/C.
 2. Distributed computing.
 3. Visual programming

In each of these areas, standards developed by the W3C and technologies
developed in the open source community make crucial contributions to
projects in which I am involved [2].  Thus it is of practical
importance to me that relevant standards developed by the W3C do not
discriminate against open source developers.

I am concerned about the IP policy proposed, currently working draft
"W3C Patent Policy Framework" [3], which would allow W3C standards to
depend upon patents.  The original proposal has been modified in
respect to permitting W3C standards to depend only upon patents that
are "RAND" (Reasonable And Non Discriminatory, defined section 4 of
[3]); while I agree with the reasoning that a RAND-based IP policy is
clearly superior to the IP policy vacuum that exists now [4], I do not
think the proposal as it stands now is acceptable, since, as
demonstrated by Bruce Perens [5], RAND is incompatible with the Open
Source definition, unless it is also "RF" (ie. standards may only
depend upon Royalty Free patents, also from [3]).

I have followed with close interest the debate on this proposal, both
due to my personal interests described above, and due to the clear
importance of the role that open source projects have played and
continue to play in putting innovative WWW technologies into practice.
Whilst my strong preference is for an RF-based IP policy, I understand
that this alternative will face difficult challenges in finding
acceptance.  I think, however, even the discriminatory effects of a
RAND-based policy would be alleviated if:

 1. "RAND" was either
     (i) Changed to include an exemption for open source projects,
     under all or a reasonable subset of licenses that satisfy the
     open source definition [6].
  or (ii) renamed to something that is not misleading as to the fact
     that what is now called RAND is discriminatory to open source
     projects.  I suggest "RAWLD" (Reasonable And With Limited
     Discrimination).

 2. There was a preference for RF-only proposals over RAND/RAWLD
    proposals.  In particular, the W3C should formally recognise a
    distinction between core and niche technologies, and insist upon
    RF-based patents only in core projects.

 3. There is a process introduced whereby an especially-formed open
    source interest group is able to include an appendix to any
    discriminatory W3C standards, commenting on:
     (i) possible monopoly risks of relevant patents.
     (ii) possible unencumbered alternative technologies.
    The content of this commentary should not require the approval of
    the W3C membership or of the participants proposing the standard;
    if necessary the commentary would read as a `dissenting opinion'
    to the standard.

I think it would be a mistake with serious adverse consequences for
the mission of the W3C for a RAND-based IP policy to be adopted with
no attempts to be made to alleviate its discriminatory effects.

I thank the W3C for extending the consultation period, and I look
forward with great interest to the results of this process.

Dr. Charles Stewart
Technische Universitaet, Berlin


References
A copy of this letter is available at:
  http://www.linearity.org/cas/letters/W3C-RAND-consultation

[1] Academic home page: http://www.linearity.org/cas
[2] Such as the following development projects and 
  (a) The AGG project: http://tfs.cs.tu-berlin.de/agg/
  (b) XML based representtions for graph transformation:
      http://tfs.cs.tu-berlin.de/projekte/gxl-gtxl.html
  (c) The GenGEd project: http://cs.tu-berlin.de/~genged
  (d) The NLGR system: http://www.linearity.org/linear/papers/wp1.ps.gz
[3] W3C Proposal: http://www.w3.org/TR/2001/WD-patent-policy-20010816/
[4] Argued in the second objection to the original draft:
      http://www.w3.org/2001/08/ppwg-fo1-14Aug2001.html
    Bruce Perens is the principal author of the Open Source Definition.
[5] Peren's argument: http://www.advogato.org/article/348.html
[6] A summary of open source licenses can be found at:
      http://perens.com/OSD.html
    The set of licenses should be compatible with major open source
    projects such as Apache and Mozilla.
Received on Thursday, 11 October 2001 14:09:48 GMT

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