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

The Once and Future Web

From: Michael Rose <rose@tele.dtu.dk>
Date: Wed, 03 Oct 2001 13:35:27 +0200
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Message-ID: <46953158.1002116127@rose.cti.dtu.dk>
There is a much larger issue lurking beneath the surface of this 
discussion. It is not simply about at what stage a W3C member should 
disclose a potential patent conflict. It is about whether the Web will 
remain a democratic medium or whether it will be subsumed and controlled by 
the telecom and broadcast industries. It is a fight over control of the 
medium by controlling the means of production. Patents are a weapon for 
control, but don't mistake them for the enemy.

The head of W3C's Patent Policy workgroup, Daniel Weitzner, was interviewed 
in the Register, ( http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/6/21991.html ). 
Coming from a background of work in the public interest, e.g. with the EFF, 
he has long been for a royalty free Web. When the Register asked him what 
changed he answered:

> "Number is one that overused word, 'convergence'. More and more we're
> seeing the convergence of the Web into broadcasting, consumer
> electronics, broadcasting and telecoms, and I would suggest that they've
> pretty much succeeded in RAND mode," says Weitzner.

And that brings us to the real issue - how will the Web and traditional 
media coexist? Weizner's quote appears to assume that the Web will become 
just another outlet for traditional media/electronics companies. RAND is a 
tool for making that happen.

So before we dig into the details of RAND we should be asking questions 
 - are the industries Weitzner mentions the models we want to emulate?
 - where does the Web fit into the future media landscape?
 - what kinds of convergence are desirable for whom?
 - how can we maintain a democratic and open media?

Quoting Weitzner again, from his time at the EFF,
( http://www.interesting-people.org/199307/0111.html )
> these key public interest communications policy goals must be kept at the
> forefront:
> o Diversity of Information Sources: Creating an infrastructure that
> promotes the First Amendment goal of availability of a maximum possible
> diversity of view points;
> o Universal Service: Ensuring a minimum level of affordable,
> interactive service to all Americans;
> o Free Speech and Common Carriage: Guaranteeing infrastructure
> access regardless of the content of the message that the user is sending;
> o Privacy: Protecting the security and privacy of all communications
> carried over the infrastructure, and safeguarding the Fourth and Fifth
> Amendment rights of all who uses the information infrastructure;
> o Development of Public Interest Applications and Services: Ensuring
> that public interest applications and services which are not produced by
> the commercial market are available and affordable.

Should the Web help meet these policy goals? If so, will RAND help or 
prevent the Web from addressing these policy goals?

This patent policy proposal has ramifications far beyond who, if anyone, 
should get paid for alpha channels in vector graphics. We must take up the 
real discussion now or find ourselves with no options later.



Assoc. Prof. Michael Rose
Center for Tele-Information,    Technical University of Denmark
(45) 45 25 51 72                mailto:rose@tele.dtu.dk
Off the Desktop - http://converge.cti.dtu.dk/news
'and what is the use of a computer' thought Alice 'without pictures or
conversation'     with apologies to Lewis Carroll
Received on Wednesday, 3 October 2001 07:35:32 UTC

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