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Comments: the "field of use" restrictions in Section 3 Item 3 of the proposed W3C Patents Policy

From: David Kaufman <david@gigawatt.com>
Date: Tue, 31 Dec 2002 15:22:17 -0500
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Message-id: <008201c2b10a$50779a00$b2095243@dopey>

    Patent Policy Working Group
    World Wide Web Consortium

    David Kaufman <david@power-data.com>
    Power Data Development
    87 East 21st Street
    Bayonne, NJ 07002

Re: W3C Patents Policy, Section 3 Item 3 "field of use" restriction

I'm writing to add my voice to those calling for the removal of the "field
of use" restrictions in the current wording of the proposed W3C Patents

As a web developer, I rely on *truly* free software each day for the
operation of my business.  I choose to use only Free Software, as defined by
the Free Software Foundation (www.fsf.org), and not merely the more broad
range of other "open source" software because, to remain competitive in this
industry, I must be free to modify and redistribute software without legal
restrictions, in order to deliver secure and reliable products and services
to my customers.

The freedom to modify and redistribute software should not be restricted to
the so-called "web" or even "the Internet" as fields of endeavor, because
the business use of the web and internet themselves are hardly relevant when
not tightly bound to the context of a particular business, industry, field
of study, or some other narrow area of human endeavor.  Neither "the web"
"the internet" exists in a vacuum, any more than any other medium such as
print, television or radio.

Patents allowing so-called free software that is restricted to the internet
would be more harmful than helpful to (most of) the single field to which it
*is* limited, the web.  Why?  Well, how could internet software written for
a bookstore not be construed as being used in *both* the internet, and the
publishing industry?  Therefore future W3C patented software and protocols
that are freely modifiable and redistributable only to the "web" or internet
industries would be neither freely modifiable nor redistributable when an
online publisher, for instance, uses these to create an OS-specific GUI
application, that is protocol-compatible with their web site, built using
not-completely-free tools.  A non-web application that allows their staff to
edit books in their database would be merely a publishing industry
application, or a database application, that the patent owner might decide
to license restrictively for developers to be allowed to *let it* talk to
the website using a W3C-patented storage system, communications protocol,
file format, or even, Amazon taught us, any simple-but-patented idea!

Such a situation would create a loophole for economical opportunism that no
corporation could or would resist driving their delivery trucks through.

Companies would soon be rushing to W3C patent applications, protocols and
other software ideas (which should *never* be patented in the first place)
(think: Amazon-One-Click) and use the W3C's reputation to market these
products as "free and open" in order to lure developers and create a large
installed base of users who were mistakenly led to believe that these
tools were in fact Free (as in freedom) and that any company's developers,
including their own, were free to use them to extend and enhance their use
and enjoyment of the software, when in fact, those freedoms would be quite
restrictable by the patent owners.

The obvious second step that corporations would take would then be to create
proprietary industry-specific tools, GUI, or OS/Specific user interfaces, or
any other "non-web" tools for which these is No Freedom, and for which
*only* the patent owner may legally develop and sell solutions, and for
which the users, the users' own programmers, and the entire "third-party"
developer marketplace, must pay hefty licensing fees to compete, or possibly
be simply forbidden from competing at all.

The GPL prevents this unfortunate situation by placing no restrictions
*whatsoever* on the modification
and redistribution rights granted to everyone, except one sensible one: no
one may circumvent freedom bestowed on the software by the GPL license
simply by *redistributing* and placing a *more* restrictive license on the
redistributed version.  This sole limitation closes the legal loophole of
control of ideas, and protects the rights of the developers and the users,
by restricting only the rights of those who would seek to further restrict
or control the complete freedom that the developer intended, and this is
why the GPL is used and championed by so many developers such as myself.  It
keeps freedom free.  Any lesser license is vulnerable to the completely
legal theft, control and exploitation of ideas.

I urge the W3C and the Patent Policy Working Group to consider this matter
seriously, and take the position that is best for the users and developers
of the large body of excellent and truly free software that has made the
internet what it is today.

Please do not create a W3C-sanctioned loophole that must by it's very
existence be exploited by the natural profiteering tendencies of normal
competitive corporations which *must* bow to competitive pressures to profit
by trying to legally control, own, license and otherwise restrict the use of
the high quality best-practices ideas, industry standards and other
intellectual property that the W3C develops.  These should remain the
property of the public, not of corporations, and only a Free Software
Foundation approved license can protect those property rights and ensure
that they remain safely held in the public trust.

Thank you in advance for your consideration to this matter.  Sincerely,

David Kaufman <david@power-data.com>


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Received on Tuesday, 7 January 2003 07:19:56 UTC

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