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Comments: the "field of use" restrictions

From: DFox <dfox@dfox.org>
Date: Tue, 31 Dec 2002 20:16:42 +0100
To: <www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org>
Message-ID: <DFEFKGBHNDEHOFAALIJJEEJFCDAA.dfox@dfox.org>

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 Policy.

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.

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 is to then create proprietary
industry-specific tools, GUI, OS/Specific user interfaces,
or any other "non-web" tools for which these is No Freedom,
for which only the patent owner may legally develop and sell
solutions, and for which the users, the users' 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 by simply *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,
the users, by restricting only the rights of those who would
seek to further restrict or control the complete freedom
rights that the developer intends, 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
own, control, license and otherwise restrict the use of the
high quality best-practices ideas, and 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 ensure exactly that those property rights are
ensured.

Thank you in advance for your consideration to this matter.
Sincerely,
--
Aleš "DFox" Hakl
dfox@dfox.org
http://www.dfox.org

Received on Tuesday, 7 January 2003 10:16:59 GMT

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