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Comment on RAND patent implementation

From: Judyth Mermelstein <espresso@e-scape.net>
Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2001 21:58:26 -0500
Message-Id: <l03130305b7dd80f078ad@[216.13.52.133]>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Gentlemen, Ladies,

My apologies for this belated and hurried submission to the public consultation which ends today but, like most people who are Internet users rather than employees of the companies belonging to your consortium, I had no idea this consultation was being held until somebody e-mailed me this evening. Now I find that I have serious concerns about your new initiative and the manner in which you are implementing it.

For some years now, I and thousands of others have looked to the W3 Consortium as a worthy organization devoted to furthering the public good as well as the improvement of the Internet on which so many have come to depend. I have written to countless organizations and individuals emphasizing the importance of complying with your organization's standards to ensure that the Internet can be of benefit to everyone rather than encouraging the process by which a world-wide public good becomes privatized for the benefit of a handful of companies selling proprietary software. I have referred people especially to the Web Accessibility Initiative documents and would like to think I contributed in my own small way to the Government of Canada's decision (finally!) to start meeting at least some of those recommendations in dispensing public information.

It therefore came as a considerable shock to read that your organization has prepared a Working Draft of a Patent Policy Framework which calls for a major about-face and the abandonment of the royalty-free Internet standards which made the ICT revolution possible in favour of recognizing proprietary standards as the way of the future. I am triply shocked to see that "This Last Call period will be the only
opportunity for public comment." and ""As we have begun to use portions of the policy in the day-to-day operations of W3C, we plan to skip the Candidate Recommendation and move directly to an Advisory Committee Review of a Proposed Recommendation draft."

If I read this aright, you are not only proposing to open the door to royalties chargeable on Internet standards, making it virtually impossible for workers on open-source applications to use those standards, but have decided to circumvent your own standard procedure for developing the Working Draft into an official Recommendation on the grounds that you are already implementing the conditions which have not been approved and can avoid public discussion by arbitrary limiting the amount of input you receve from the
Internet community at large. 

I find this kind of behaviour distressing enough when it comes from the people at ICANN who presumably know no better but I certainly did not expect it from you, for whom it is so clear that the Internet would never have become the boon to humanity it has been without clear, open and non-proprietary standards. 

You must certainly be aware of the difficulty faced by those who would like to extend the benefits of Internet use to the less-privileged in developing countries, and in even developed countries like my own. People with ample disposable incomes can afford the very latest equipment and technology so that they can use their computers to download movies and shop online. People with little or no income do not form a lucrative market for manufacturers of equipment and software, or for those who sell things online to credit-card holders but for them the Internet holds the one hope of putting within reach things which the fortunate take for granted -- access to free or low-cost health information, educational materials, communication with distant family members, etc. 

Making this possible cannot rely only on the generosity of donors of high-end equipment and recent software. That generosity does not reach far enough to touch millions of people who will not (short of the Second Coming) ever be able to pay for an upgrade or new versions of programs. The greatest hope lies in initiatives to recycle the "obsolete" equipment to new users and to use free open-source software to help connect them to the rest of the world. If we genuinely have to face the prospect of a World Wide Web accessible only to those who can afford to use proprietary software (even the "free" variety which depends on owning a particular proprietary operating system and equipment meeting the "minimum system requirements" established for the affluent, there is little hope that the world-wide effort to use the ICTs to achieve at least a small victory in equalizing opportunities is not completely wasted.

I beg you to think about the wider implications of moving towards the charging of royalties and the anti-democratization of your procedures for approving standards which will have dramatic effects on those outside your consortium.

Thank you for your consideration of this important issue.

Sincerely,

Judyth Mermelstein


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Judyth Mermelstein     
"cogito ergo lego ergo cogito ..."
Montreal, QC <espresso@e-scape.net>
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N.B. A technical problem lost me much of my
outbound mail. When responding, kindly quote 
my message. If I haven't answered you within 
72 hours, please re-send your message. Sorry
for the inconvenience. /
Un problème informatique a effacé beaucoup de
courriels que j'ai écrit récemment. En me
répondant, veuillez inclure mon message. Si je
ne vous ai pas répondu en 72 heures, veuillez 
me renvoyer votre message. Je regrette 
l'inconvénient que ceci vous a causé. 
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Received on Sunday, 30 September 2001 21:59:32 GMT

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