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

W3C Patent Policy: Bad for W3C, bad for business, bad for users

From: Tom Cooper <tom_cooper@bigfoot.com>
Date: 30 Sep 2001 15:28:51 -0400
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Message-Id: <1001878131.31340.5.camel@marvin>
I wholeheartedly agree with Alan's sentiments below.  Please do not
allow the web to become patent-encumbered.

Respectfully, 
Tom Cooper


To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2001 15:42:01 +0100 (BST)
Message-Id: <E15nhn7-0006Yz-00@the-village.bc.nu>
From: Alan Cox <alan@lxorguk.ukuu.org.uk>
Subject: W3C Patent Policy: Bad for the W3C, bad for business, bad for
users

"The W3C was created to lead the Web to its full potential by developing
 common protocols that promote its evolution and ensure its
 interoperability"

A lofty and great goal. A pity that the W3C now proposes to throw away
its
very reason for existence. 

And now we have a new much abused patent politics buzzword

"Non-discriminatory"

Indeed.

I think the W3C should ask itself how allowing parties to use patents to
prevent community projects for blind access is "non-discriminatory".

Tim Berners Lee created an innovative environment about sharing and
referencing data. You plan to give large companies the power to stifle
that innovation.

It says something for the sad state of W3C that the proposal in question
has been allowed to progress, carefully arranged not to be visible to
the outside world. The dates of the short consultation period do not
even appear to have been adjusted in the light of September 11th. The
proposed shortening of the consultation period also appears to violate
the W3C rules, but then I am sure you don't care. I can smell the rot
from here.

A patent-encumbered web threatens the very freedom of intellectual
debate, allowing only large companies and big media houses to present
information in certain ways. Imagine where the web would be now if only
large companies were able to use image files.

And large companies it is. I note the distinct lack of small companies
on the proposal in question. Within the ISO where the same things happen
the money simply moves in circles between big players. Accountants and
lawyers pay $100,000 sums back and forth as part of an accounting game
that they use to keep out smaller players.

I think we can also be sure that the kind of W3C members working this
little agenda have plans. I would bet on "Windows digitally-protected 
uncopyable web pages" being one of them. Of course the protection they
really mean is "against reading by non IE users".

The W3C must ask itself whether it plans to continue the vision of Tim
or  become another ITU, a bloated dinosaur that exists more as a
corporate United Nations of communication than a standards body. 

If the W3C wishes to remain relevant to the people, to the small
businesses (the other 80%) and to the future of the web then I strongly
suggest that it 
o	Requires non-disclosed patents are freely licensed for use
	in that standard for all. 

Without this a key infrastructure standard may suddenely be "owned" by a
W3C  member who intentionally kept quiet to gain "non discriminatory" -
but large - license fees. The current wording encourages patent abuse.
Licensing on a  RAND basis would only be appropriate for such a
non-disclosed patent if existing RAND licenses were on that proposal
before final consultantion. 

Regardless of the rest of the outcome all honest members will benefit
from  such a stricter policy on non-disclosure of patents.

o	Does not "approve" or "recommend" or allow its logo to be used
	on any patent-encumbered item.

To do so will tarnish the value and reputation of the W3C name and logo.
It will also create confusion about what W3C standards indicate. 
o	Restricts its activities on patent-encumbered projects to providing a
forum where such people	can work on patent encumbered projects to be
	released under their own names only. 

Here its activities would be in a consultative role, helping to guide
these bodies in areas of overall standards compliance and interpretation
of W3C goals. It is possible to further the web standardisation goal
without becoming part of those activities that are contrary to the
original goals of the W3C.

This would mean SVG became a multi-vendor consortium pushing a private
specification. But let's face it - with the patents involved - that is 
precisely what it is. It may even be appropriate for SVG work to be 
transferred to the ITU.

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.

Alan
Received on Sunday, 30 September 2001 15:25:58 GMT

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