W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org > March 2003

Re: Comments from the perspective of the DotGNU project

From: David Kaufman <david@gigawatt.com>
Date: Thu, 27 Mar 2003 23:39:24 -0500
To: Norbert Bollow <nb@cisto.com>, www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Cc: rms@gnu.org, coreteam@dotgnu.org
Message-id: <004501c2f4e4$03100ea0$b2095243@dopey>

Norbert Bollow <nb@cisto.com> wrote...
> Dear members of the W3C Patent Policy Working Group,
> when I read in the press release [...] "W3C Patent License
> Requirements Consistent with Open Source/Free Software Terms" [...]
> I thought that the issue ...had been resolved in the new draft.
> This is unfortunately not true.  The new draft policy still allows
> the creation of W3C standards which are impossible to implement in
> GPL-compatible Free Software.

thank you for clearly making the position of the Free Software Foundation a
matter of record, once again.  sadly it appears that the W3C may still not
"get it".  but i'll take a stab at it too, though, just so i can say i
tried, (and tried):

W3C, hear this: making a "patent policy" with the words "royalty free" in
the name, and claiming it is "consistent" with Free Software, while not
*making* it, like Free Software licenses do, legally protect the legal
freedom of everyone (here, meaning specifically: "everyone") to exercise and
enjoy their legal right to use it any way they see fit (with those "any
ways" including distributing it (to anyone (or even everyone) else)), even
with wild and ill-advised abandon, and even after modifying it to suit any
old purpose they can think of, ("they" here again also meaning absolutely
anyone) completely without restriction or obligation of any kind... without
making it such that they are *all* legally protected from those who would
attempt to legally restrict, remove, revoke or reduce any of these simple
freedoms, in short (hahhah), without making it irrevocably and permanently
guaranteed to be Actually Free to Everyone for Ever... (drum roll here...)
is like advertising, like shouting: "Free country, here! Come one, come all!
Send huddled masses!"  and then not allowing free speech in that country,
or making the "free" part a limited-time-only, introductory special, to be
replaced shortly with lists of forbidden thought, slavery to license owners,
registration of all unlicensed ideas, and, oh yeah patented innovation.  "Do
you want to think?  Do you have a license for that idea?  Did you know your
actions were based on previously patented practices?  Have you paid your
thinker's license and registration fees, your mandatory minimum idea
insurance?  has that innovation been inspected this year?"

it's like saying you're going to open up a free soup kitchen to feed anyone
who wants soup, asking people to volunteer to help, and to contribute to
your "cause", and then selling the soup.

eventually word will get out that your brand of freedom is in fact really
something Less Than Free and, gosh darn them, historically wherever people
have been faced with a choice between "Really Free" and "Free But With
Hidden Shackles And Loopholes Included At No Extra Cost", there has been a
slight tendency for them to choose to use the Really Free, in overwhelming
numbers, over the Free With Shackles and Loopholes.  even attempts to
replace shackles with chains *disguised* as merely strings have been
ferreted out.  Free Trials disguised as Free Software were soon exposed as
either Not Quite Free, Not Too Free, Not Free For Long, or Truly Free But
Only Of Freedom.  Shared But Not-Free Almost Open Source has been revealed
as merely a Glass House... anything less than 100% pure free, (and i don't
mean just "made *with* 100% pure Free", i mean Legally Freed) just doesn't
smell right to the discerning consumer, and for no explicable reason, the
Actually Free solution is the one that gets adopted.

go figure.  it's as if people just instinctively can feel in their gut the
difference between the line "here, it's free.  use it.  share it.  enjoy
it." and the line: "give me your money you small insignificant unwilling
future customer.  resistance is futile."   we pesky humans do tend to read
between the lines, despite the finely polished and carefully crafted
obfuscation of a Press Release.

it is ironic that the WWW Consortium's intellectual property policy is now
poised to specifically and categorically exclude an entire class of the
best quality of software in the world from implementing it's standards.

it's even more ironic is that the World Wide Web itself, (and only to a
lesser degree, the Consortium) owes it's very existence to this particular
class of software, namely Free Software (and to a lesser degree, other open
source software).

the epitome of irony is that this comes, as a direct result of pressure
placed on the W3C organization by corporations which have large financial
stakes in owning and controlling standards, in trying to make intellect
their legal property, and deny it to those without the funds to license,
rent, buy or otherwise *pay* the corporation for the privilege of
daring to think or act upon a thought to which they have laid legal claim.

it's so ironic because without these corporations lobbying legislators to
create, and without them paying their lawyers to protect, extend, and
enforce their notion of ownership of ideas, the Free Software Foundation
would never have been able to use those very enforceable and very legal
concepts to empower an author to make his work totally and legally
free --free of licenses, restrictions, royalties and rules.  free to be used
by any person for any purpose their own freedom of thought can conjure.
these freedoms that only come with Free Software are guaranteed by the very
same ironclad laws which guarantee corporations all their rights of
ownership, their rights to forbid copying, to restrict distribution to
licensed dealers, and to restrict even the amount of *time* during which you
may potentially enjoy the few limited rights they let you borrow, with
respect to "their" intellect that is their "property".

those very same corporate interests that have now successfully lobbied
lawmakers to actually outlaw that certain specific *knowledge* of *how* one
*might* theoretically open the flimsy locks they place around their
property, without their key, those very same interests whose insatiable
greedy profiteering was the exact *cause* of the entire Free Software
Movement, now pressure the W3C to become a thin front company for their
agenda.  we are not impressed, except perhaps with the irony.

i submit that as corporations further their attempts to lay siege to our
minds, to attempt to take and hold ground in and around our innovations, and
to conquer and occupy the lands of our ideas for the sole purpose of
licensing back to us the right to act upon those ideas, they will only
further the cause of Free Software, which is nothing more than freedom of
thought and they'll highlight even more the folly of thinking that
intellectual property can ultimately be anything more than a really quite
amusing oxymoron.

the web exists today because every human who tried it, saw that it's
ultimate and irresistible value was as the most powerful medium for
*sharing* ideas that has ever existed.  nearly unlimited mass reproduction
of human ideas, in the form of ordered ones and zeroes can, with computers,
be reproduced at a cost now fast approaching zero and, with the internet,
that product can now also be distributed nearly instantly and worldwide
effortlessly.  it's not a superhighway we use to "go somewhere today", it's
a super-pipe we all increasingly drink from.  and the nourishment we derive,
the knowledge, the communication and especially the community, is not
something that can be metered, measured, subscribed to, owned, licensed or
billed for in monthly installments.  all of these cancerous financial
mechanisms obstruct the flow of information and Free Software is the
organism that has evolved to bypass the obstruction, and heal the aggregate
mind of the organism we call the human species.

the W3C exists as a result of the widespread use of Free Software and Free
standards on the internet, not the other way around.  it can choose to honor
it's genesis or turn it's back on it as it must.  if is remains part of the
solution, it will grow and flourish, and to the exact extent that it serves
the human community in it's need for free flow of thought and idea, it will
grow and flourish, as it has in the past.  but of course, conversely, to the
extent it begins to fall under the control and influence of corporations, to
that exact extent that it contributes to the problem, it will suffer a loss
of relevance, membership, become perhaps better funded but severely
undernourished, and ultimately wither on the vine die.

</opinion of="one man">

> Since the DotGNU project is committed to using the GNU GPL, this
> means that whenever a W3C standard is patent-encumbered [...] we
> would have to quickly create a competing standard and actively
> lobby against widespread adoption of the [W3C] standard

and this will be the reaction of every other Free Software project,
developer and (eventually) user who uses, relies on, and derives benefit
from Free Software as well.  standards, being ideas, need to be freed.



David Kaufman <david@gigawatt.com>

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Received on Thursday, 27 March 2003 23:39:30 UTC

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