rand licensing

I am sure others can state the case for keeping the web patent free 
better than I can.  However, I will speak out.  It is my opinion that 
the web should remain as patent free as is humanly possible.  I recall 
an ad Apple ran in 1984 for the macintosh with the girl and the 
sledgehammer.  While I have no illusions that Apple and the macintosh 
would be the next Microsoft, if they could, I believe that ad sent a 
powerful message of a dream.  That dream is being realized today--not by 
Apple, but by the web and the open source/free software movement.  How 
has this happened?  I'm sure other's can tell you the how's a lot better 
than I can, but I'll tell you the why--- it is because human beings 
thrive on freedom.  The free nature of the web, and the open source/free 
software movement which is founded on the same principles, is allowing 
people freedom to act individually, collectively, and intellectually in 
a way never before possible.  It is a revolution.  The web and free 
software represent that which is the best of the human spirit.

Let me give you my testimonial.  I am young lawyer who is somewhat 
disillusioned by my fellow professionals.  We are a wicked lot.  In my 
life, I've traveled a lot, and I have a very active interest in all 
things international.  What I've noticed is that there are literally 
thousands of the best and brightest people in the world frozen out of 
western society, frozen out of technology, and frozen out of education 
by the place of their birth and their lack of money.  All of you know 
highly motivated people, people you'd be proud to have marry into your 
family, who cannot come to the United States, or Canada, or Germany, or 
Britain, or where ever we live, or where ever they could contribute the 
most to world prosperity.  Instead, they take jobs as interpreters or 
legal clerks to Western corporations in Prague or Bucharest, and they 
feel wealthy making $1 an hour.  Some spend time hiding in bomb shelters 
in the old Yugoslavia, some flee Islamic fundamentalism-- you know the 

The ones who come to the United States end up facing another hurdle--the 
immigration lawyer---to the tune of thousands of dollars.  This is where 
W3C, the web, free software and I come in.  I'm a poor idiot, not funded 
by anyone but myself.  I've taught myself Linux, HTML, security, PHP, 
SQL, and probably a dozen lesser technologies in my free time (what free 
time, you ask--hey, I'm a govt. attorney, I reply).  And I am well on my 
way to creating a web based, ASP model, turbo-tax for visas web page 
that will allow anyone with web access to learn how to, and actually 
apply for, a visa.  I've got a business model I'm willing to risk that 
will allow many, if not all, to apply without paying anything or paying 
just enough to cover my fixed costs like postage until they have been 
granted their visa and come to America (Have you met an immigration 
lawyer that will only charge if he is successful?  I haven't).  And then 
when they pay, they are going to only owe a small fraction of what they 
would owe an immigration attorney.  It is my guess that they will get as 
good or better service than they would from a live attorney 90% of the 
time, and the software should be able to detect the 10% that really do 
need a live attorney.

I've been able to start this project (and will be able to deploy my 
first commercial site which will work only for nurses sometime early 
next year) and see it through nearly to completion only because of open 
source/free software and the freedom of the web.  If you start letting 
patents infect the web more, you are going to slowly but surely squelch 
projects like mine.  You only have to look to Redmond to see the writing 
on the wall---software patent holders are going to try and put the 
squeeze on everyone.  This will only get worse if Redmond becomes 
marginalized by free software---which is bound to happen if they squeeze 
users.  If you allow patents in your standards, you will just create 
more ways to squeeze the user, who really is a pawn in this whole game.  
Maybe that will be a good thing, as it will increase the free software 
community's desire to blow intellectual property wide open, maybe that 
will cause the E.U. to ignore patents.  But before that happens, I am 
certain placing any more patents on the web will hamper freedom more 
than it will help.

We are currently becoming locked in a war over the morality of 
intellectual property.  The web represents all that is good and possible 
because of freedom.  Microsoft and big pharmaceutical represent the 
other side.  You, at W3C, have been placed in a position of trust, and 
it is your responsibility to protect the growth of free exchange 
fostered by the web.  If you allow patents, you will have lost a 
battle.  And perhaps you will have joined forces with Redmond.  Make the 
right choice.

Jonathan Zirkle

Received on Sunday, 30 September 2001 13:21:11 UTC