W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org > December 2002

Libre Patent Manifesto Ver. 0.1

From: Peter Berenyi <ber@sa.eol.hu>
Date: Wed, 01 Jan 2003 05:37:02 +0100
Message-ID: <3E12706E.BF6B43EA@sa.eol.hu>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
CC: gnu@gnu.org, "Mécs Imre" <mecsimre@axelero.hu>

I am talking to the libre software community here, not the W3C folks,
but you may listen as well. You can even learn something.

Libre Patent Manifesto, version 0.1

I know most of you in the libre software community have a strong anti
software patent stance and I can understand the reasons behind it rather
well. However, merely stating the drawbacks of software patents,
documenting the damage they have already done to the software industry
and projecting future damages has not proven effective. It is time to
stand up and fight back.

As the lobbying power of the libre software community is proven to be
too weak to prevent pro software patent legislation in a number of
regions all over the world and things are getting worse by the day, we
should consider using other means to preserve and/or promote freedom in
this important field.

The first question to ask: Is this fight about money? The short answer
is YES. Most of us make our daily living by writing and re-writing,
installing, configuring, adatpting and updating libre software to
satisfy customers' need. In this activity we believe we can deliver more
useful, more reliable and more secure systems than the competition, at a
fraction of the cost. We belive that on a level playing ground we have a
good chance to win over the competition. However, brand new Patent Laws,
specifically crafted to stop this tide of freedom are starting to make
the ground aslope by restricting our right to write, use and share libre
software for a number of applications. We have already lost some money
by losing orders because of this artificially generated Patent
Inflation, and if we do not stop this process now, we can lose even more

I ask again: Is this fight about money? The even shorter answer is NO.
It is about a way of life. Most of us could make a comfortable living by
selling our expertise to big companies. We could spend our lives on
developing and debugging closed source code for them, let them claim
their copyright for it and let them release it under restrictive
licenses; we could live in secrecy, under hierarchy, we could follow
simple directions. We would not be allowed to let anyone to study our
work or adapt it for her own needs, nor could anyone redistribute it
without prior permission to do so from our bosses, much less could
anyone outside the team we work for improve it. So this fight is not
just about money, it is about freedom. It is about the right to start
our own small venture, about the right to work alone or with close
friends while still enjoying the support of countless co-workers all
around the globe. It is about competition, about the only working model
of software development that prevents the formation of monopolies, this
way it is about technology, reliability and security at a reasonable
price, hence it is also about consumers' rights.

This said, how can we fight software patents most effectively? History
teaches us a lesson. Seventeen years ago, when Richard M. Stallman
released the GNU Manifesto, there were no software patents allowed, so
copyrigtht law applied outside its original field was the primary
vehicle of software appropriation. One could have faught this trend by
fighting distortion of copyright law itself. It would have been a noble
but fruitless venture. Instead, he took this twisted law and used it to
formulate a course of action, that restored the state of affairs
according to common sense. It did it indeed: by now we have terabytes
and terabytes of source code at our command, all released under GNU/GPL.
The beautiful catch is that any further escalation of copyright only
strengthens GPL.

I propose to do the same thing for software patents. This proposal is
not new, but I believe I have a key element that was missing from
previous attempts on the subject.

In: http://swpat.ffii.org/analysis/inflation/index.en.html

                 Generally it is believed that large corporations like
                 and Siemens are interested in extending the patent
                 because they profit from keeping small companies out.
                 But that is at best half of the truth.

                 In fact, large corporations are not those who benefit
                 from the patent system. Some smaller companies who
                 entirely on developping patents rather than products
are even
                 better fit for survival in a patent-cluttered
                 Companies like Qualcomm, Priceline, TechSearch etc and
                 many others can be a pain in the neck for Siemens or
                 and may be causing these companies to lose more than
                 can gain through software patents.

The main problem with patents that they do not come for free as
copyright does. To have a patent requires some additional work and a
registration fee. It is a real problem with people at best not really
interested in patenting anything, if not opposing the very idea of
software patents altogether.

But if it is already an ongoing business to develop only patents, not
products, it should be even more profitable in the present twisted legal
environment to also quit developing anything and only finance and manage
other people's patentable ideas for a fixed (possibly rather high)
percent of prospective income. True, this kind of business seems to be
absolutely improductive, even for the naked eye, but it should work,

Having said this, I propose:

Let us encourage the development of a business infrastructure described
above and use it to secure as many Libre Software Patents as possible.
Let this business infrastructure do the hard work and let it pay the
registration fees as well and let them have (most of) the prospective

By a Libre Software Patent I mean one which grants an irrevocable and
unrestricted rolyalty-free license for Libre Software implementations,
but which requires royalties to be payed for any other application by

I also propose a further conditional royalty-free license for all
parties who either do not have software patents themselves or if they
have any, those are all unrestricted RF licensed patents or Libre
Software Patents in the present sense. This additional license is
revocable as soon as said party gets a single software patent that is
not licensed for unrestricted RF use in libre software. I can see the
possibility of a loophole (by cross-licensing) in this construct, so it
may be a further requirement that said party should not even implement
any non-free third-party patents in its products in order to be eligible
to this license.

I also propose a policy regarding standards bodies like W3C. We should
grant to anyone an RF license for all Libre Software Patents, but with a
"field of use" clause, limited to implementations of Recommendations
issued by said Standards Body, and only to what is required by the
Recommendation, as long as this Standards Body only issues
Recommendations dependent on either unrestricted RF Patents or Libre
Software Patents. As soon as a single Recommendation is issued which is
dependent on any other patent, this license is void, and the Standards
Body has to negotiate all Libre Software Patent it is interested in with
its respective owners.

In this context "Libre Software" means a software that is licensed in a
way that

1. it can be used for any purpose by anyone
2. anyone can study it and adapt it to one's own needs
3. anyone can redistribute it without special permissions
4. anyone can modify it and freely redistribute the modified copies
5. in order to satisfy 1-4, the source code should be distributed along
with the software

That's it.

We will also need a good online database of all Libre Software Patents
to be able to monitor any possible third party infringement.

I think this kind of policy would make large corporations interested in
closed source software development to turn around and do all the hard
lobbying work against pro-software patent legislation for us. As soon as
they start seeing the money rather go than come, they will have no other

In the meantime, the LSP (Libre Software Patent) while protecting the
interests of the libre software community, would not do much harm to the
wider industry, certainly not more than the GPL itself. For while GPL'd
code can not be used in proprietary software at all, an LSP can be used
that way, provided the implementor negotiates a license fee with the

I also think, that although this proposal has much to be improved, it is
already something to be taken very seriously.

Copyright Peter Berenyi, 2002

This document is published under GNU/GPL Ver. 2.0. You can use it for
any purpose, you can study it and adapt it to your needs, you can freely
redistribute copies of it provided this copyright notice is preserved
and finally, you can improve it and release your improvements to the
public under GNU/GPL ver. 2.0 or later, as described in

Back to the present W3C Patent Policy issue. You see, meme-complexes
like the one above are readily come to mind. If they replicate fast
enough to have a decisive influence on the course of history is another
matter. It depends entirely on the environment in which they find
themselves. For example if you would adopt section 3.3 of the present
draft of W3C Patent Policy (the one concerning the "filed of use"
restriction), it would give them a jump-start. Once such a process is
started, it is next to impossible to stop it. It grows exponentially
until (external) limits are reached.

Considering the history of W3C, I do not think you really support a
patent policy that would prevent GPL implementations of web standards. I
believe there should have been some external pressure for you to even
consider such a thing. But you could perhaps educate your masters about
the likely consequences of such a policy. If they realize that they
would not be perfectly happy with it, they may even release the

www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org from December 2002 By Date

GPL patent grant for 19 patents

Patent Policy Working Group
Royalty-Free Patent Policy
Section 3.3

W3C Current Patent Practice

SFS Position

BSA Responds to EU Software Patent Directive Adoption

Protecting Information Innovation against the Abuse of the Patent System


Peter Berenyi
Systems Administrator
email: ber@sa.eol.hu
mobile +36 20 411 0580
Received on Tuesday, 31 December 2002 23:37:07 UTC

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