W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org > January 2003

Proposed Patient Policy (Section 3 ) / GPL (Section 7)

From: Paul Lewis <paul.lewis@clara.co.uk>
Date: Tue, 31 Dec 2002 11:39:44 +0000
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Message-Id: <E18TKkK-0000PU-00@oceanus.uk.clara.net>

Dear W3C,

I am writing in the hope you will reconsider the current draft proposal 
for the W3C patient policy.  As I understand it Section 3 of the policy 
could prevent the work done by one free software volunteer from being 
freely reusable by another, due to the possibility of a restricted use 
clause.  It would appear that a volunteer might be permitted to use the 
patented work to implement a standard, but a second developer (or even 
the first one) could not then use all (or part) of that implementation 
in other derived works.  This, of course, violates the intent of the 
GPL, which is pretty much the litmus test for free software.

This would, I suspect, discourage many developers from becoming 
involved in the implementation work in the first place, since it is 
placing a limitation on their freedom to use their own work in future, 
or to allow it to be used by others.

As I am sure you are aware software reuse is the golden fleece of 
software development, and I - and many others - would not like to see 
that ability and freedom curtailed.  It would be a great pity if a 
policy decision by the W3C were to have the effect to reducing the 
reusability of software components and implementations, since so much 
of the W3C's work has been to establish and promote standards that have 
been a strong force in allowing exactly this kind of reusability.

I have always thought that one of the best things that Tim Berners-Lee 
did when creating the foundations of the world-wide web was not to 
restrictively patent his work, but rather to open it up to development, 
research and future innovation.  It is this openness and foresight that 
is currently threatened by the proliferation of software patients, NDAs 
and other legal devices, and thus that I believe threatens the future 
of innovation and the exchange of ideas within the software community.

Please help to encourage the longer view, and require any patents, if 
used in W3C standards, to be not only royalty-free, but also unlimited 
in application or in any other way.

Then, just as GPL/copyleft currently serves to protect the freedoms of 
the receiver of copyrighted work, the W3C approach to patent might 
protect the implementor or user of a patented idea from limitations on 
their freedom to benefit from the technologies derived from the patent.

Yours faithful,

Paul J. Lewis
(A concerned software engineer and free software user.)
Received on Wednesday, 8 January 2003 10:13:11 UTC

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