W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org > September 2001

Universal freedom of expression

From: Carsten Svaneborg <Carsten.Svaneborg@mpip-mainz.mpg.de>
Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2001 16:56:13 +0200
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Message-Id: <E15ni3l-0006S5-00@alpha12b.mpip-mainz.mpg.de>
From http://www.w3.org/People/Berners-Lee/FAQ.html
> Q: Is it true that you have had mixed emotions about,
> if I may, not cashing in on the Web?
>
> Not really.  It was simply that had the technology been
> proprietary, and in my total control, it would probably
> not have taken off.  The decision to make the Web an open
> system was necessary for it to be universal.  You can't
> propose that something be a universal space and at the
> same time keep control of it.

This in a few sentences captures what is the essence of
the world-wide-web. The web is a common for all people,
not controlled by commercial interests. This is why the
web and the internet has had such an transformative effect
on all levels of society.

The w3c should strive above all to keep the principle
of the web as a universal space for free human expression,
for this is what makes the web such a powerfull means of
reshaping humanity by creating a medium for free and
unrestricted communication between people beyond social,
national, or religious boundaries.

This will not restrict companies in licensing and
implementing patented technologies, but it will keep the
essence of the web, the w3 standards, open for all
people irregardless of whether they pay a company for
browser software, or use a free (as in both speech and
beer) open source browser.

The existence of open source browser technology with a
functionality comparable to commercial alternatives is
especially important in poor and undeveloped countries,
where the price of an commercial operating system + browser
is an huge barrier of entry to the information society,
and patent tainted web standards would only increase this
gap. Nor should a democratic government ever use a non-free
standard or protocol when communicating with their citizens.

Closed patented standards can not be implemented in open
source programs. And just as open protocols and standards
are important in creating a common communication media so
are free software (http://www.fsf.org) and open source for
allowing people to use the medium, with software they have
the freedom to modify and share with others.

I have no doubt that it is very difficult to formulate a
standard that does not infringe on some of the numerous
overly broad trivial software patents that have been
granted in the US and Europe. However, the open nature of
the web is much more important than a standard.

Let the commercial interests fight about which solution
becomes a defacto standard, but do not give a patent
tainted standard the w3c's blessing.

Patents are granted by the society with the purpose of
furthering innovation by giving a temporary monopoly on
the industrial application of the innovation. A monopoly
leads to short term increased prices, which is detrimental
to society, but this should be offset by the long term
benefits by the publication of the innovation and it's
release after the monopoly period has ended. At least so
the patent rationale of the industrial age goes.

I think this would be a good time to scrutinize whether the
same is true for software patents in an information society,
the numerous examples overly broad trivial patents suggest
the society are paying the cost of software patents, but
without getting the extra innovation, that patents should
yield in return. (See http://www.researchoninnovation.org/online.htm).

The most obvious cost of software patents so far would
indeed be tainted web standards, and that is a cost so
high that it is not worth paying by anybody.

-- 
  Best regards Carsten Svaneborg
  Theory group at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research
  http://www.mpip-mainz.mpg.de/~svanebor
Received on Sunday, 30 September 2001 10:59:14 GMT

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