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The Social/Political Role of the W3C

From: Brad Herman <bradh@uclink4.berkeley.edu>
Date: Fri, 12 Oct 2001 14:25:11 -0700
Message-Id: <5.0.0.25.2.20011012142229.00a56258@wheresmymailserver.com>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
To Whom It May Concern:

The W3C mission statement asserts that "By promoting interoperability and 
encouraging an open forum for discussion, W3C commits to leading the 
technical evolution of the  web."  I hope the consortium recognizes that 
the web's technical evolution also involves the legal and political 
environment it develops in.

As such, the logical question to ask sounds like: is the W3C committed to 
leading the evolution of these non-technical aspects of the web to ensure 
that the web develops towards W3C goals (including universal access, 
interoperability, and decentralization)?  Or, as the proposed RAND policy 
indicates, does the consortium abdicate its leadership role in the relevant 
social/political arena and accept the "industry" status quo, especially
on something as important as the treatment of intellectual property in 
standards?

I believe that, as one of the few democratic and non-profit organizations 
in a position to do so (and those are very important qualities in arbiting 
the future of something as important and world-wide as the web can be), the 
W3C should take an active and normative role in the development of that 
political, legal, and fundamentally social environment from which the 
technical aspects of the Web grow.

That said, I applaud the consortium's efforts towards full disclosure for 
patents essential to standards and well as its past emphasis on royalty 
free licensing of such technologies.  My strongest objections are aimed at 
the proposed provisions for RAND licensing.  As others before me have 
pointed out, this euphemism hides a direct threat to the interoperability 
(as even 'reasonable' fees will prevent adoption of RAND-licensed
technology in standards), openness (on the face of it, allowing even 
non-discriminatory licensing closes off parts of those standards), and 
decentralization that will allow the Web to continue to grow as a common 
arena for discussion and expression.

The proposed RAND-licensing mode will move the environment in which the web 
develops technically away from W3C goals like openness, interoperability, 
and decentralization.  These are values that I share and that I believe are 
still good guides to the development of the Web.  Rather than capitulate 
and accept the attitude, promoted by those who stand to gain royalties and 
power from software patents, that such patents are here to stay and
must be dealt with in web standards, the consortium should act to keep web 
standards free from such patents by refusing to allow patents that are not 
royalty-free.

Sincerely,

Bradley Herman.

Web Developer;
The University of California at Berkeley.
Received on Friday, 12 October 2001 17:26:03 GMT

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