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

W3C Royalty-Free Patent Policy

From: Russell McOrmond <russell@flora.ca>
Date: Thu, 14 Nov 2002 16:43:04 -0500 (EST)
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Cc: General Copyright Discussions <discuss@digital-copyright.ca>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.44.0211141606350.1478-100000@calcutta1.flora.ca>

  I am glad that the W3C has decided to take a strong position on this
issue. I can only hope that various domestic governments may eventually
ignore special economic interests who are seeking inappropriate expansion
of copyright (to computing interfaces) and patents (to business models and

  I would make a further suggestion to the discussion.  Often a standard
is only recognized as a standard if there are two compatible reference
implementations.  A suggestion to solidify the royalty-free patent policy
might be to have the W3C require that one of these reference
implementations be Free Software.  This would then provide a background to
ensuring that any legal impediment against a Free Software implementation
of a W3C recommendation cause the reason for the impediment to be excluded
from a W3C recommendation.  Software patents are simply one recognized
legal impediment to Free Software implementations.

  In this respect, I question the following:

"3. may be limited to implementations of the Recommendation, and to what 
is required by the Recommendation;"

  Once a reference implementation is released to the public in the form of
Free Software, is it really reasonable to expect that source code to be
limited to the purposes as stated in the Recommendation?  I am not a
lawyer, but I suspect that this requirement might violate many Free
Software licenses as it relates to derivative works.

  A RF license that gives special consideration to royalty-free software
may be appropriate as a comprimise.  IE:

"3. may be limited to implementations of the Recommendation, and to what
is required by the Recommendation;  This would only apply to
royalty-bearing implementations, and not any software under a recognized
Free Software or Open Source license".


"9. The RF license shall be made available by the licensor as long as the 
Recommendation is in effect.

10. If the Recommendation is rescinded by W3C, then no new licenses need 
be granted but any licenses granted before the Recommendation was 
rescinded shall remain in effect."

  Once a Free Software implementation is released, how can it be revoked?  
This wording suggests that there would be legal impediments to possible
usages of derivative works. Making previously released Free Software an
infringement on a patent is a considerably dangerous landmine.

Note: I realize that some members of the W3C seem to be in the business of
setting software landmines to protect themselves from legitimate
innovation and competition, but it would be great if the W3C created a
"Landmine Treaty" for software.

 Russell McOrmond, Internet Consultant: <http://www.flora.ca/>
 See http://weblog.flora.ca/ for announcements, activities, and opinions
 Most recently in Toronto: Copyright or Wrong? http://www.rabble.ca/rumble/
 ALERT! ISP Licensing!  http://weblog.flora.org/article.php3?story_id=273
Received on Thursday, 14 November 2002 16:52:43 UTC

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