W3C "RAND" Patent Policy Framework draft

I'm adding my voice to those which are being raised in adamant
opposition to proposed changes in W3C's patent licensing policies to
allow RAND -- so-called "reasonable and non-discriminatory" -- licensing
practices of technologies implementing W3C standards.

Though I was in fact somewhat tuned into the possibility of such changes
in a meeting with Scott Peterson of Hewlett-Packard at the beginning of
this month (Sept 1), the draft itself was not mentioned, nor did I see
specific mention of it until the past 24 hours.

First:  in light of the extraordinary events of the past month, it seems
only reasonable that the review period of the draft be extended by at
least an additional month.  Many of us have had our lives disrupted, or
been otherwise distracted.  Scott's own company had embarked on a major
transition announced Sept. 3, and the events of the 11th have been felt

Second:  there appears to have been little or no attempt by the W3C to
publicize the draft.  A Google search on "w3c patent policy framework"
doesn't return the draft itself within the first 60 results, nor any
news stories.  Prominent free software sites, including Slashdot,
LinuxToday, NewsForge, Linux Weekly News, Advogato, and others, have no
mention of the policy draft, despite its clear impacts on free software
and GNU/Linux.  A search of mainstream and technical news sites
similarly nets no announcements.  Such a failure to publicize issues of
clear public impact severely risks marginalizing W3C, and raises serious
questions of the W3C's credibility.

As Brad Templeton has noted, there's a thin line between a standards
organization and a cartel.  The W3C would be well advised to examine
itself to determine if its fundamental nature is being subverted, and
whether the intent of these actions are to divert, or destroy, the
organization.  It's a well known fact of this industry that there are
those who would prefer that standards were held by a small set of
organizations, or by only one.  This is simply not an acceptable state
of affairs.

Third:  The comments of Alan Cox, noted linux kernel hacker, are well
put.  I agree with them, and refer you to:


Simply:  "non-discriminatory" and "conditioned on payment of...royalties
or fees" are exclusive terms.

It's recognized that a large portion of existing Internet infrastructure
is based on free software.  A plurality of hosts are based on the open
POSIX architecture (Unix, GNU/Linux, and FreeBSD, and others).  The
majority of webservers (according to monthly Netcraft surveys) are based
on Apache.  Other standards, from domain names, to mail, to Usenet, to
instant messaging, are built on or include free software
implementations.  The free software model does not provide a mechanism
for fee or royalty collection as envisioned by RAND.

RAND is discriminatory to the core infrastructures of the existing

Fourth:  I note that affiliations listed for the working group include
Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Phillips, and Apple.  I see no
representation from the free software community.  Where is your
representation from GNU/Linux?  From the FSF?  From the Open Source
Initiative?  From the Apache Foundation?  From Sendmail?  If the W3C
purports to represent standards as implemented on an open Internet, it
is a sham.

I request the following remedies:

  - Discussion of the draft be opened for a minimum of one additional
    month, and preferably two months, to extend through at least Nov. 30,
    2001, and preferably Dec 21, 2001.

  - The proposed standards be widely publicized via existing discussion
    sites and media outlets, to include those mentioned above.

  - The W3C adopt a policy of requiring RF licensing of all technologies
    relating to adopted standards, exclusively.

  - That the W3C immediately submit to a review of its policies for
    announcing, publicizing, and reviewing standard drafts.  My list of
    reviewer candidates would include Ed Foster of InfoWorld, Dan
    Gillmor of the San Jose Mercury News, John Gilmore of the EFF,
    Thomas Greene of The Register, Tim O'Reilly of O'Reilly & Assoc.,
    Lawrence Lessig of Stanford University, and Brad Templeton of
    the EFF.


Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
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Received on Sunday, 30 September 2001 18:13:39 UTC