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

Effect on Mozilla etc

From: Robert O'Callahan <roc@cs.cmu.edu>
Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2001 16:21:56 -0400
Message-ID: <3BB77EE4.5090809@cs.cmu.edu>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
I'm writing this as a Mozilla contributor. The W3C needs to understand 
that for any free software project, any patent licensing terms that 
require payment of royalties simply cannot be met, "discriminatory" or 
not. Endorsment of RAND-licensed, patent-encumbered standards will 
cripple projects such as Mozilla, Konqueror, and Apache --- not to 
mention the kinds of free software packages such as expat, libwww, 
PerlCGI and so on which have done so much to drive innovation on the Web.

Some people suggest that if the W3C adopts this proposal then free 
software projects will be no worse off than they are now, given that 
certain companies are already promulgating patent-encumbered Web 
"standards". In fact free software projects will be worse off for two 
reasons:
1) As long as the W3C refrains from endorsing encumbered standards, 
there is an incentive for the developers of standards to either avoid 
using encumbered technology or grant royalty-free licenses to the 
encumbering patents. This restraining effect will cease once RAND 
licensing becomes acceptable. It will become much more likely that a 
given standard will rely on patented technology, even if there are 
viable unencumbered alternatives.
2) W3C-endorsed standards are more likely than proprietary standards to 
be viewed as requirements by customers and developers. Free software 
projects will no longer be able to meet these requirements.

Others suggest that the point is moot because the SVG specification may 
already be encumbered. It seems hard to avoid the conclusion that this 
proposal is designed to legitimise what has been happening with SVG. 
However, the correct response is to admonish and correct past 
misbehavior --- even if that means rejecting SVG --- rather than to 
retroactively endorse it.

At the very least, it would be courteous for the authors of this 
proposal to outline how they expect this proposal to affect Web-related 
free software projects. If their goal is to kill such projects --- or 
they just don't care --- then so be it, but please be honest about it.

(As an aside, I would like to echo others' suggestions that adoption of 
this proposal will guarantee the W3C's irrelevance in the medium term. 
Once small companies and free software developers are driven away, the 
W3C will become just one of many other short-lived corporate alliances.)

Rob
Received on Sunday, 30 September 2001 16:29:16 GMT

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