Re: RAND Licensing Concerns

I am dismayed to see the W3C moving towards endorsing patent-encumbered 
standards for the Web.
The Web is one of the greatest advances since the invention of printing: 
it is a new and liberating form of speech, and it is that speech between 
people that represents the good of the Web, rather than the technologies 
that drive the Web. 

The Web core standards are a classic example of a 'natural monopoly' 
where it is essential for the common good for speech to be exchanged as 
widely as possible. For this reason, free software should be available 
so that the widest possible audience can speak and hear that speech.

There is plenty of room for proprietary standards at the edge of the 
Web; the MIME-type framework in HTTP explicitly allows this. I have no 
problem with that, nor with patents or profit in general. But allowing 
patent-encumbered standards into the Web risks splitting the Web into two.

The Web owes much of its existence to free software such as Apache, 
which serves as the single most popular Web server, and Perl, which 
drives much of the  infrastructure of many web sites. I am writing this 
on the free, open-source web client, Mozilla.

Without adequate protection for free software, patent-encumbered 
standards will drive out free software, and fragment the Web. To prevent 
this, the W3C needs to require royalty-free licensing of all relevant 
patents for free software.

Without this protection, the W3C risks fragmenting the Web, and 
undermining its own position as the technical governing body of the Web 
in doing so.


Neil Harris


Received on Sunday, 30 September 2001 14:41:48 UTC