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Re: W3C should drop bespoke licenses, adopt CC0 + OWFa instead (was Re: HTML License Options for Discussion)

From: Aryeh Gregor <Simetrical+w3c@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 1 Apr 2011 13:04:57 -0400
Message-ID: <AANLkTinKPXEe84k1Hk=-Wv2+EK+L6-_18+K37uCGP0Xm@mail.gmail.com>
To: Jonas Sicking <jonas@sicking.cc>
Cc: Tantek Çelik <tantek@cs.stanford.edu>, Maciej Stachowiak <mjs@apple.com>, "public-html@w3.org WG" <public-html@w3.org>, PSIG Group <member-psig@w3.org>
On Thu, Mar 31, 2011 at 11:55 PM, Jonas Sicking <jonas@sicking.cc> wrote:
> Even if W3C claims a very tight
> copyright on the specification, the standard can still be forked in at
> least two ways:
> 1. Write a completely new specification document, without copying any
> text from the W3C specification. Copyright doesn't provide any
> protection of the technical algorithms or constructs defined by the
> standard. It just prevents content from being copied.
> 2. Write a "diff". I.e. anyone can write a document that says "I
> define My-HTML to be the W3C html specification, but with the
> following changes to the parsing algorithm: ...". In this case no text
> is copied and thus no copyright restrictions broken.

IANAL, but it is not the case that a work that copies no actual
content cannot ever infringe copyright.  For instance, authors retain
control over translations of their works, even though technically no
particular word has been copied.  Organizations such as the FSF and
SFLC argue that extensions or plugins written for software will
commonly qualify as derivative works, and so must be GPL-licensed if
the original work is GPL, even if they copy no actual code.  A diff or
rewrite of a spec would not *necessarily* be immune from copyright
infringement if it was based on the original spec.  If it was
reverse-engineered from the implementations themselves instead of the
specs, I don't think there's any possible way the W3C can claim
ownership, but that's immensely time-consuming, and impractical to do
in a clean room (i.e., getting someone to write a spec replacement
without ever having read the original spec).

But trying to prevent forking is a way of demanding that the W3C be
the place to discuss web-related standards, nowhere else, even if
implementers find another venue to be superior.  This is contrary to
the W3C's goals of advancing the web.  If the W3C were to ever be
unsuitable for developing a particular standard, then the standard
should not be developed there unless the W3C is able to address any
issues to the extent that the spec authors will *willingly* use the
W3C -- without having to be threatened with copyright infringement.
Otherwise the W3C is acting as an impediment to progress, not a

The only way to guarantee that the W3C is as good a place to develop
standards as possible is to establish open competition and allow other
venues to provide innovative advantages in developing standards, even
if those standards were started at the W3C.  That is the only policy
that will advance open web standards as much as they can be advanced
-- even if that's sometimes at the expense of the W3C.  The W3C's goal
needs to be to advance web standards, not to advance itself.  Trying
to prevent forking is unmistakably a policy designed to advance the
interests of the W3C, not the web.
Received on Friday, 1 April 2011 17:05:50 UTC

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