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

A response to Microsoft's carefully worded letter

From: Eric M. Hopper <hopper@omnifarious.org>
Date: 18 Jan 2003 07:19:53 -0600
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Message-Id: <1042895993.1834.10.camel@monster.omnifarious.org>
> While the open source software community, like the commercial software
> community, has and continues to contribute to the development of the
> Web, in part, by creating and supporting Web standards, these
> communities do have different relationships with the W3C.  As you
> consider whether or not a RF-only policy is the right patent policy
> for the W3C we hope you will not only think about the pros and cons of
> such a policy but why some parties are issuing a call to arms to
> individuals who may have little engagement with the W3C other than to
> comment on this patent policy.

The problem here is that the decisions of the W3C affect a much wider
group than merely the people who actively engage in it.  In particular,
many Open Source developers do not have the time or inclination to
engage a standards body.  It entails many hours spent doing something
other than developing software.  This, in fact, is the reason people
like Bruce Perens and Eben Moglen behave the way they do.  They know
they are representing a very large number of people who would not
ordinarily be represented.

I would go so far as to say that the activities of these legions of
under-represented people have done more to advance and cement web
standards than the activity of all of the rest of the W3Cs members
combined.  What the write-in campaigns that Microsoft complains about
really are is all the people who actually make the web work adding in
their voice to the normally corp heavy (because they have the resources
to spend on standards body participation) W3C.

> We urge the W3C and the Advisory Committee to evaluate the precedent
> setting RF-only nature of the proposed patent policy in the context of
> whether or not it will enable the W3C to remain a good forum for
> developing web standards.  If RF only, without reasonable exceptions
> is adopted and leads to key consumers of web-based standards, such as
> consumer electronics and telecommunications members, going elsewhere,
> will the core web standards continue to be developed at the W3C? Will
> those web standards avoid the patents of those enterprises no longer
> participating in the W3C process? Will those standards be used as the
> foundation for other standards? Given these concerns and questions the
> W3C should be cautious about adopting this RF-only policy backed by
> some vocal parties whose primary interests are unrelated to the W3C's
> ability to continue to develop widely adopted web standards.

If they want to go off in their own little world and develop a
technology nobody wants and uses because it isn't a part of web
standards as a whole, and is wrapped up in so many ridiculous patents
that it will only be a single vendor implementation anyway, do we care?
The various misguided attempts by the telecom industry to make a web it
could control have largely failed.  I don't think they'll do much better
on their own.  It's time for them to swallow their desire to make the
web a corp playground and participate as equals with the actual human
beings here.

Though, the alternative licensing idea is interesting.  The way
Microsoft words it, it would just be an opportunity for the corp-heavy
W3C to randomly spring stupid things on the whole community.  I may be
willing to pay some corporation a lump some for a patent that is then
guaranteed to be royalty-free from then on.  But no patent that has any
kind of continuing royalty charge or restriction-of-use clause in its
licensing is acceptable to me.

Good luck,
-- 
The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they
be properly armed.  -- Alexander Hamilton
-- Eric Hopper (hopper@omnifarious.org  http://www.omnifarious.org/~hopper) --

Received on Saturday, 18 January 2003 08:22:19 GMT

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