RAND licensing

As a longtime user and developer of applications for the World Wide
Web, I would like to register my deep concern over the news that the
W3C may allow patent-protected standards to becomme recommendations.

The W3C has long been the guardian of truly open standards. Your 
admirable slogan is "Leading the Web to its Full Potential". Implicit
in that goal, I would hope, is that the web remains fundamentally
open to all. That's why it must be clear that full W3C recommendations 
can never be encumbered by patents and royalties.

This principle is worth defending even for *all* aspects of web 
standards. I do not think one can easily separate out what is 
essential from what is not. Perhaps SVG is an unimportant standard
now, but in a few years it may be crucial. Or, imagine an obscure
encryption standard that suddenly becomes the linchpin of a
new online service. 

Likewise, the definition of "Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory" is
problematic. I cannot imagine a royalty scheme that would be an 
equal burden to Ghanaian programmers and the Silicon Valley firms. 
There are even significant barriers in many parts of the world to
incorporation of a business. And the bureaucratic element of obtaining
a license also prohibits informal implementations, perhaps done
by a lone hacker without the full knowledge of their employers. These
informal implementations have often been a great impetus to the
growth of the World Wide Web.

If the W3C wants to endorse patent-protected standards, perhaps some
alternate standards track other than full recommendation can be
created. Perhaps "Well-documented proprietary standard" can be a
mark of the W3C's approval -- and would do some good.

As I understand it, the primary goal of the W3C is to lead the 
web and services built upon it to be a vendor-blind space. This
RAND proposal seems a step in the wrong direction.

Speaking via but not for my employer.

Neil Kandalgaonkar, ActiveState
ASPN - ActiveState Programmer Network

Received on Sunday, 30 September 2001 18:26:19 UTC