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

Disgust in proposed changes to W3C policy

From: Graham TerMarsch <graham@howlingfrog.com>
Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2001 11:16:21 -0700
Message-Id: <200109301817.f8UIHDQ04460@mail.howlingfrog.com>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
It came to my attention this morning that the W3C is proposing to change 
its policy regarding patented technologies and their use within W3C 

To be honest, it disgusts me to see that the W3C is even considering the 
allowance of patented technologies into future published "standards".  I 
understand that the idea of non-discriminatory licensing for these 
patented technologies has been taken into consideration, but unless the 
patent holders are planning on issuing their licenses at zero monetary 
cost to all licensees, its not going to work.

The first of the W3C's own stated "long term goals" for the web is:

	Universal Access: To make the Web accessible to all by
	promoting technologies that take into account the vast
	differences in culture, education, ability, material
	resources, and physical limitations of users on all

To now decide that you're going to allow "standards" to be published 
that contain a technology which developers must license at cost or 
inconvenience to themselves, IMHO goes against this initial first goal of 
of making things accessible to all with "vast differences in ... material 

Consider some of the things that have gotten us this far.  Mosaic was the 
first browser to "take off" and put HTTP and the Web "on the map" for many 
people.  If the people developing it at the time were to have 
been encumbered by having to pay out licensing fees for an application 
that they were planning on giving away, would it have ever been built?  
Would any of the existing open source or free software projects out there 
have really gotten their feet off of the ground if it weren't for 
published, no-cost standards?  Personally, I don't think so.

It also troubles me to look at the list of parties involved in the updated 
policy recommendation, and seeing that with one or two possible 
exceptions, the majority of those involved are all _LARGE_ American 
corporations.  What happened to "the little guy", or companies from 
somewhere other than the USA?  In the grand scheme of things, I've (IMO) 
found American companies to largely be more "bullying" and aggressive in 
their tactics to try to keep everything for themselves in an effort to 
increase profit margins, almost always at the expense of consumer rights 
or freedoms.  Is there no international viewpoint present in this 
recommendation other than perhaps ILOG and Fujitsu?


All in all, to see such a drastic move be taken from an organization such 
as W3C, is sickening.  Over the years, many have looked at the W3C and 
appreciated their ability to work towards creating vendor-neutral 
standards and working groups, where there was not a single party who 
controlled the technology or implementations of it.  To now see the W3C 
considering this change, turns everything on its head.  As a corporation, 
I can now take my proprietary technology, submit it as a W3C proposal, 
have it turned into a standard, and then sit back and reap 
royalty/licensing fees while everyone uses my technology.  But that's ok, 
I've got the W3C "seal of approval" on my standard.

Doesn't it turn your stomach, to see that in essense you're relegating the 
W3C from being a "standards body" to simply being an "approval body" for 
someones proprietary technology?  It turns mine, that's for sure.  To 
many, the W3C has been a shining light and guide in helping keep the WWW 
free (both as in "free speech" and in "free beer"), and I for one would 
lose complete faith in the W3Cs ability to be non-biased and 
vendor-neutral should such a proposed change in your patent policy be 

Should your proposed change to allow patented technologies to be included 
in W3C standards be approved, consider this message as statement that I 
will no longer consider future W3C standards to have _any_ merit 
whatsoever as I'll always be left to question whether it was simply just a 
corporation seeking approval for their technology so that they can reap 
greater licensing fees.

To change your policy, is (IMO) the same as selling your soul to the 
devil.  I believe that this proposed change goes against what the W3C 
originally stood for and how many of its members (and the world at large) 
have viewed the W3Cs role.

To close, I'll leave you with Alan Cox's closing statement, which I 
believe said it best:

	Finally we should all remember this. When patented W3C
	standards ensure there is only one web browser in the
	world, its owners will no longer have time for the W3C
	or standards.

Graham TerMarsch
Received on Sunday, 30 September 2001 14:13:41 UTC

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