W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org > October 2001

RF only, please.

From: Bruce Perens <bruce@perens.com>
Date: Mon, 1 Oct 2001 00:00:31 -0700 (PDT)
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Message-Id: <20011001070031.65800805E7@perens.com>

Apologies for the last-minute nature of this comment and for what must
be a stressful time. Before this evening, I had heard a short explanation
of the Patent Policy Framework proposal, but had not heard of the status
of the proposal or the fact that there _was_ a comment period.

Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Bruce Perens. I am the
founder of the Linux Standard Base, primary author of the Open Source
Definition, co-founder of the Open Source Initiative and Software in
the Public Interest, former Debian project leader, and long-time Linux
developer. My full bio is at http://perens.com/Bio.html .

Given the last-minute deluge of comments and today's press coverage,
it's pretty clear that the Patent Policy Framework proposal had not
been adequately publicized until today. Also, many businesses and
organizations have chosen to extend deadlines due to the effect of the
September 11 disaster.  Both the press and the people who have opinions
on these issues have had a higher priority for a while, and they simply
haven't had room for discussions of patent policy. Thus, I respectfully
request that an extension to comment be granted and publicized.

I don't believe the proposal sufficiently states the effect of
patents on Open Source. To state it simply, RAND patent licensing
prohibits Open Source implementations.

Open Source software can be freely used, distributed, and modified,
and is itself royalty-free. Open Source does tremendous social good, by
advancing the state of the art, by broadening participation in software
development, by putting technology into more people's hands and thus
reducing the "digital divide", and by providing an extremely efficient
mechanism for global collaboration. An explanation of the Open Source
Definition can be found at http://perens.com/OSD.html .

Despite the broad intellectual property protection available to them,
most software vendors go out of business without ever making a profit,
and their software usually dies with them. Internet companies are
dropping like flies in the worst tech economy ever, but usage of the
Open Source Linux operating system kernel is still growing 33% per year
[IDG survey]. Because it is often developed directly by the people who use
it, Open Source is somewhat decoupled from the problematic economics
of software development houses. It remains vital as long as people are
interested in using it, and survives its original developer. Apache is
an excellent example of this: its development was carried out by its
users directly, and of course Apache is the dominant implementation
of W3C server standards. Thus, Open Source has shown itself to be
an excellent means of carrying out _sustainable_ innovation. And of
course, Open Source has historicaly been the main driver of internet
and web technology.

By requiring "reasonable, non-discriminatory" patent licensing in W3C
standards, the W3C would actually discriminate against Open Source,
simply because the royalty-free nature of Open Source software is
incompatible with patent royalties. This would have a chilling effect
on implementations of W3C standards, restricting them only to large
companies and over-expensive software.

It's too early to capitulate by saying that RF standards may not always
"be possible" for W3C [PPF overview] and that RAND is desirable. The very
history of the Web and the Internet contradict this. For W3C to proceed
in this way simply hastens the closure of the Web and the transformation of
the medium itself, rather than the messages, into proprietary intellectual
property. That property might well be dominated by a single company
and its business partners, who seem to be the major force behind this
proposal. Given the boon to democracy that the current open web has been,
such a closure would have a negative effect on global society far greater
than the boon of short-term profits to some tech company.

W3C's duty is to push back against those who would close the web. Insisting on
RF standards is an essential component to doing so.

	Respectfully Submitted

	Bruce Perens
Received on Monday, 1 October 2001 03:00:33 UTC

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