Will we choose profits at the expense of our students?

I won't delve into my shock at seeing how this was kept under wraps 
until just a day or two ago.  Plenty of people have expressed their disgust.

I understand software companies need to make money.  However, using 
patents to extort licesning fees after standards have been accepted and 
widely deployed is deplorable.  The W3C should NOT be using Rambus as a 
role model.  Software companies shoudl make money by coming up with 
software people WANT to use and be up front about patent applications so 
people KNWO they may be lockign themselves into a proprietary format.

As an IT professional in academia, I worry what the impacts of the RAND 
licensing scheme would have in our universities.  University budgets are 
tight.  Many groups and researchers cannot afford to spend hundreds of 
dollars on OS or other software licenses and thus look for an open 
source solution.  Do we really want to hand the keys to the Internet to 
a few conglomerates?  Do we want to put the open source community at 
risk of being marginalized because they cannot pay licenseing fees to 
include support for new standards?  Do we really want to have an 
Internet where only a single browser will work reliably due to patented 

The Internet grew out of the DOD and work by hundreds of universities. 
Internet2 is being driven by researches at universities.  The open 
sharing of code and knowledge was vital to the growth of the Internet. 
Do we really think things will improve by allowing companies to jump up 
with a patent after a standard has been widely adopted demand huge fees? 
  Imagine the disruption this will cause in academia.  Sure, 
corporations will scream loudly but will pony up the cash to avoid the 
disruption.  But many schools cannot do so - do we really want to 
disrupt our student education and research when we have to scramble to 
anotehr solution when a license issue arises?  Do we really want to 
'fork' the Internet?  Do we really want to go back to the BITNET days?

Imagine if you will an Internet that is constrained by patents.  You 
can't browse the Internet unless you use software from one company or an 
'association'.  You can't browse without paying excessive fees for said 
browser.  Academia won't be able to pay it - so they'll fork - create 
their own network based on non patented software to share information. 
But at what cost?  Yes, large software companies have made huge 
contributions to the web, the Internet. etc.  But so have researchers. 
Splitting those two apart because of patents is a dangerous prospect 
that will only hurt research and the advance of our connected life.

I have always respected the W3C as a standards body committed to 
futhering technology.  I truely believe that adopted standards need to 
be freely usable.  Software companies that want to try and develop their 
own standard are free to do so, but should have to push its adoption on 
their own.  The W3C does not need to help them.

Please resconsider your decision to make such a drastic change in your 
charter.  It flies in the face of all the time and effort developers 
have made to improve the Internet for humanity.

Mike Baptiste
Mike Baptiste            202 Hudson Hall, Box 90271, Durham, NC 27708
Director of Information Technology             mike.baptiste@duke.edu
Pratt School of Engineering @ Duke University      Phone:919-660-5404

Received on Sunday, 30 September 2001 19:29:28 UTC