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

I believe RAND is a bad idea

From: Tobias Gloth <tobias@gloth.net>
Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2001 15:29:35 -0400
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Message-ID: <20010930152935.A592@ntwrks.com>
Dear members of the W3C,

It has come to my attention that the W3C intends to change its policies
regarding patents and licensing in a significant way. I believe that the
proposed changes, in particular the RAND licensing scheme are a bad idea
that might do great harm to the internet community at large.

It is my belief that the growth of the internet, driven by the WWW, came
about because things were free.

Internet enabled software, and foremost browsers, have been, for the
most part, available free of charge to the user. Some software companies,
like Microsoft and Netscape, gave their browsers away for free to many
users to gain market share and name recognition. Mosaic was implemented
in an academic environment, and finally browsers like Konqueror are
being developed by the free software community, often with no or no
significant financial backing.

Now, the interoperability of many web servers and clients is a great
thing for the customer. It is made possible only by open standards, set
forth by an accepted authority, the W3C. It fosters competition, for the
best of the technology and the community at large.

But similarly, the W3C depends on this diversity. If only a select few,
or only one company would be able to implement the internet standards,
this/these companies would be in very strong position to enforce changes
to the web standards, or even render the W3C obsolete by plainly ignoring
it. I don't have to elaborate further on why this is a bad thing.

And this is where the proposed RAND licenses come into play. In section
five, it states that such a license "may be conditioned on payment of
reasonable, non-discriminatory royalties or fees". These terms are very
vague at best. This provision will, in practise, lock the financially
weakest developers of web software out. At first, this will be free
software, which is also "free as in beer" and simply does not (try to)
generate any revenue needed to pay for royalties. Once this has happened,
the term "reasonable" will slowly and over time change more towards what
large corporations consider reasonable, and will lock out smaller
companies. And, as pointed out earlier, the end of this development might
be marked by an obsolete and weak W3C falling by the wayside.

It is my firm belief that the W3C needs to determine what its purpose
really it. To quote your homepage:

   The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) develops interoperable
   technologies (specifications, guidelines, software, and tools) to lead
   the Web to its full potential as a forum for information, commerce,
   communication, and collective understanding.

But, in your background overview regarding the suggested policy changes,
it states that:

   However, as the Web comes into contact with the telecommunications,
   broadcast media and consumer electronics industries, the tradition of
   patenting technology from those industries will likely be carried
   over to the Web.

It is true that the said companies would like to grab control by means of
patents and inevitable litigation and intimidation. But the W3C is still
a body of the web community and for this community. This is not the time
to surrender the very nature of the W3C!

Thanks you for your consideration of this view.


                       Tobias Gloth - tobias@gloth.net

Hail, Worm of Morgoth! Well met again! Die now and the darkness have thee!
Thus is Turin son of Hurin avenged. (Turin to Glaurung)
                                             - JRR Tolkien, The Silmarillion
Received on Sunday, 30 September 2001 15:28:54 UTC

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