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Patents and the W3C

From: Seth Johnson <seth.johnson@realmeasures.dyndns.org>
Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2001 22:01:56 -0400
Message-ID: <3BB7CE94.8A45AC6B@RealMeasures.dyndns.org>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org, C-FIT_Community@realmeasures.dyndns.org, Patents@liberte.aful.org, FairUse@mrbrklyn.com, DMCA_Discuss@lists.microshaft.org, rms@gnu.org, love@cptech.org, nylug-talk@nylug.org

Forwarded from DaveNet.  *PLEASE NOTE!!*  Please send a note to the W3C
Patent Policy list mentioned below, TODAY, THE FINAL DAY for comments.

Seth Johnson
Committee for Independent Technology

-------- Original Message --------
Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2001 17:45:27 GMT
From: dave@scripting.com (DaveNet email)

DaveNet essay, "Patents and the W3C", released on 9/30/2001; 10:41:48 AM
***Patents and free Internet standards

The World Wide Web Consortium, W3C [1], is the keeper of many important
Web standards including HTML, XML and HTTP.

The W3C is a consortium [2] of companies of all sizes. My company,
UserLand Software, is a member. We agree on a common philosophy -- a
level playing field, interoperation between software, and choice for
users and developers. That's the foundation that the Web was built on,
it's what kept the Web ticking through the dotcom lunacy.

Now several large companies, led by Microsoft, Philips, Apple and
Hewlett-Packard, are trying to become the platform vendor that the
Internet never had, and imho that's totally counter to the charter for
the Internet, and therefore, the W3C.

We may not have the support of the US government in re freedom for
developers, but at least we can shame the abusers, force them back into
hiding, lest their customers and partners get wind of their greed.

I'm sorry that I tuned in to this so late -- with the confusion around
the WTC disaster, we need more time to investigate and build public
opinion, but the deadline for comment on this [3] change [4] is /today.

***Software patents

Software patents are bad. Period. Investment in new practice happens
without them, and choice is essential for progress in our art.

The economics of software favor small independent developers, patents
change that. To develop in the world these companies envision, you'd
have to have their legal and financial resources to create and publish
software. No more small developers. Not good for anyone but the
shareholders of the BigCo's -- and long-term it's not good for them
either. Where do you think the BigCo's get their ideas? Heh. We've seen
what happens when monopolies take over, utter stagnation. Keep them on
their toes, let them constantly worry about competition from left field.
The W3C used to help us, now they're talking about switching over to the
dark side.

Further, I believe that none of these patents will stand up to a First
Amendment test. The line between software and speech is non-existent.
The act of writing software is very much like writing a short story, a
novel, or a news story. I could add a line of code to this piece (I do
all the time) and reading the page on the Web could cause code to
execute on our server (it does) and then, where is the line? If I write
about something that Microsoft or Apple have a patent on, can I explain
the idea with a demo? Technically I could often do that. And if the law
stops me, where is the First Amendment of the US Constitution? (In the

In an open letter to Stephen King, I wrote on 7/24/00 [5]: "To put it in
analogous terms for writers, imagine if you couldn't write a story
because Dean Koontz had already written it. What if the idea were as
basic as Boy Meets Girl? That's what's going on in another creative
space, software."

***Bigger picture

There's also a new law pending in Washington called the SSSCA [6],
which, if passed, would also shut down the independent software
developers, to benefit the entertainment business. I'm sorry that I
can't cover this in detail, there aren't enough hours in the day. In the
meantime, a general statement follows.

To our government, we're turning the resources of the Internet to watch
and report on all aspects of the current crisis. It's a national
priority to both improve security /and/ preserve freedom. We have new
power to inform, more people who think are turning to weblogs. I support
the US and our President because of the threat to our lives and way of
life. However, don't use this time of crisis to shut down free
industries. We're helping because it makes sense, but these changes do
not make sense, and they will not pass without observation by informed


The W3C was a source of courage in re software patents, and it appears
they're caving in. If you think, as I do [7], that patents have no role
in the future of Internet standards, please make your point of view
heard. The deadline for comments is today.

Here's a page [8] that explains the proposed change at the W3C.

If you're a W3C member, or know one, please spread the word.

Freedom in software development is the issue, and it's rare that we get
a chance to support it so clearly.

It's time to speak up in favor of freedom.

Dave Winer

[1] http://www.w3.org/
[2] http://www.dictionary.com/cgi-bin/dict.pl?term=consortium
[3] http://www.w3.org/2001/08/16-PP-FAQ
[4] http://www.w3.org/TR/patent-policy/
[5] http://davenet.userland.com/2000/07/24/doYouKnowStepenKing
[6] http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,46655,00.html
[7] http://www.scripting.com/images/2001/09/30/letterToW3c.gif
[8] http://www.openphd.net/W3C_Patent_Policy/

(c) Copyright 1994-2001, Dave Winer. http://davenet.userland.com/.
"There's no time like now."
Received on Sunday, 30 September 2001 22:01:03 UTC

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