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

RAND licensing and the future of W3C

From: Rufus Polson <dpolson@sfu.ca>
Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2001 14:23:30 -0700
Message-Id: <>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
	I would like to add my voice to the many protesting the idea of so-called
RAND licensing--but I would also like to point out some potential
ramifications for the W3C as an organization.  The reasons why RAND
licensing is a poor idea have been pointed out by people with a more
effortless grasp of the issues than I, and many have also objected
strenuously to what appears to be an attempt to slip highly important
alterations to the nature of what can be considered a standard by without
anyone noticing until it is too late.  I will just note that I agree with
these objections very forcefully, and move on.
	In Canada, we have an item in our constitution which outlaws actions by
the judiciary which bring the administration of justice into disrepute.  It
is a vague stricture, but an important one.  The rule of law depends on
respect for its operations--if that respect is lost, there are armed men to
fall back on, but the legitimacy of the process is gone.  This is the point
at which a country ceases to be a polity with the consent of the governed,
and becomes oppressive rulership.
	A standards body occupies a position similar to that of a judiciary, with
one exception:  A standards body has no armed men to fall back on.  Its
authority consists solely in being generally accepted as such.  The moment
this  general acceptance is gone, the standards body becomes not merely
illegitimate, but irrelevant; its standards cease to be standards.  Its
pronouncements are no longer listened to.  And once that happens, the body
will inevitably wither away, perhaps to leave mere anarchy in its wake,
perhaps to be replaced by some other body that can persuade implementors of
its legitimacy.
	The RAND licensing scheme represents a crisis for the W3C; if the W3C
accepts this idea, it will at that moment have made a crucial beginning to
the process of undermining general acceptance of its standards.  It will
have begun the slide to irrelevance in a way difficult to back out of, like
an insect stepping into an attractive-looking pitcher plant.  I strongly
urge the W3C to maintain their reputation and their honour by refraining
from taking this step.

Rufus Polson
"Our mountains are very pointy, our prairies are not
 The rest is kind of bumpy, but man do we have a lot!"
--Arrogant Worms, 'Canada's really big'
Received on Sunday, 30 September 2001 17:23:33 UTC

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