comments on the working draft

While I approve of the move to refine the W3C patent policy, I
strongly disapprove of the actual refinements proposed in the working

Specifically, I reject the RAND licensing mode for W3C working groups.
My proposed amendment to the working draft is simple: Section 5 should
only allow working groups the option of the RF licensing mode.
Refences to the RAND licensing mode throughout the document should be
removed appropriately.

The basis for my rejection of RAND licensing is simple: RAND
("reasonable, non-discriminatory terms") is an oxymoron, since any
licensing terms other than RF are intrinsically discriminatory.  The
groups discriminated against are those who distribute their work
freely, and so have no need or ability to track the distribution of
their work.  Consequently, they also have no ability to recoup patent
license fees.  Such groups are free software (sometimes known as
open-source software) developers, and academic researchers.  It is no
coincidence that these groups have developed software that has figured
prominently in the development of the World Wide Web.

Other public comments have given other ways in which RAND licensing
terms are discriminatory; for example, the use of W3C standards in
very low cost devices, such as devices aimed at the non-western world.
But the preceding paragraph describes my immediate concern.

I would like to make some comments related to Section 2
("Background").  Though it is only informative, it sets the tone of
the working draft.

The working draft seems to assume that software patents are
inevitable, and that fee-based access to those patents is also
inevitable.  Thus it concludes that W3C standards will inevitably
become encumbered by software patents with license fee requirements,
and seeks to ensure that these requirements are applied in an even
handed manner.  I contend that those assumptions run counter to the
spirit of cooperative development that led to the World Wide Web, and
so the conclusions, as embodied in the normative sections of the
working draft, are also flawed.

Perhaps that most telling section of the working draft is Section 2.1:
I agree with the observations in that section, but completely disagree
with the conclusions.  For point 1: as the Web comes into contact with
the industries mentioned, the unencumbered nature of Web standards
should be carried over to those industries.  For point 2: This merely
points to deficiencies of the U.S. PTO, and I give my full support to
the efforts to make sure that the European patent office does not
share those deficiencies.  For point 3: The barriers mentioned are
essential to prevent the domination of the internet and World Wide Web
by the proprietary interests of a small number of large corporations.
For point 4: Such patents are absurd, and the W3C ought to distance
itself from them.

If the W3C allows its standards to become encumbered by RAND licensing
terms, the W3C will become irrelevant.  Either because the World Wide
Web will become dominated by the proprietary interests of a small
number of large corporations, which will have little interest in the
W3C in its current form once they have established their control
(perhaps aided by RAND licensing).  Or becuse the standards of the W3C
that are so encumbered will be rejected, and future standards
developed by the W3C will be viewed with suspicion, with other bodies
taking on the role of developing unencumbered standards for the World
Wide Web.

David Wragg

Received on Sunday, 30 September 2001 17:34:19 UTC