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W3C Considers Royalty-Bound Patents In Web Standards 224

Posted by timothy
from the 59th-day-11th-hour-final-minute dept.
Svartalf writes: "There's a report on Linux Today about a proposed loosening of requirements on patented technologies being submitted for W3C consideration. Called RAND, short for 'reasonable and non-discriminatory,' it basically changes the position of W3C with respects to patents. This is a real problem as all of you know, considering that we've had all kinds of fun with other 'reasonable' licensing (MP3 and GIF come immediately to mind) -- the cutoff for comments is tomorrow (9-30) so if you want to get them in do it NOW." September 30 is now today rather than tomorrow. The same issue was raised in a post yesterday as well, but many readers have submitted news of this Linux Today piece. Reader WhyDoubt points out that comments on the change are archived on the W3C's site, including this pithy comment from Alan Cox. Do you think that fee-bound patents have a place in the standards promulgated by the W3C? Read the Patent Policy Working Group's FAQ, then add your comment.
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W3C Considers Royalty-Bound Patents In Web Standards

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  • Good! (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by flex941 (521675)
    We are not far away from a company
    called Corporation. The only company...
  • by getafix (2806) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @12:34PM (#2370499)
    Well, I had already sent my comments before this appeared on slashdot.

    Please, dont just comment on this board; go ahead and send that email with your level- headed-non-profane thoughts.

    This certainly looks like a sneak-it-in approach with such a short public comment periond - especially for something this large.

    Hopefully some prudent arguments can be made to convince the W3C folks.
    • Hopefully some prudent arguments can be made to convince the W3C folks.


      Maybe a big fat cheque in a brown envelope? If, as it appears, they're playing the money game, the only way to stop them will be to give them more money than anyone else.
  • by twitter (104583) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @12:39PM (#2370514) Homepage Journal
    I think we can also be sure that the kind of W3C members working this little agenda have plans. I would bet on "Windows digitally-protected noncopyable web pages" being one of them. Of course the protection they really mean is "against reading by non IE users".

    Said after pointing out the secretive and rule violating manner this happened and rightly snearing at how this will contribute the purpose of the organization, interoperability. His prediction:

    This would mean SVG became a multi-vendor consortium pushing a private specification. But let's face it - with the patents involved - that is precisely what it is.

    And so the internet becomes TV as all are shoved out to be replace by three or four big broadcasters. Can it happen? Sure it can, just look at all the empty TV and radio spectrum. There is no technical or real economic reason the airwaves are filled with nothing but comercial noise or static. It's a problem with bad laws.

    • my comment (Score:3, Insightful)

      by twitter (104583)
      Basing your standards on patented methods will fragment the web and destroy your organization. If you succeed in forcing such debased standards on the web, your corporate masters will no longer need you. If you fail, you will be irrelevant. Either way W3C loses.
    • This would mean SVG became a multi-vendor consortium pushing a private specification. But let's face it - with the patents involved - that is precisely what it is.

      Could someone elaborate on what Alan Cox is talking about here? Is the current SVG standard encumbered by patents? Is it about to be? How? Considering how long this standard has been promoted as an open solution to the mishmash of proprietary vector graphics solutions, this would be a tragedy and an insult.
  • Loosening these restrictions is in the interests of business who hold patents.. but not in the interests of the potential future business getting into the web.. and that's the problem.

    Having a completely open stardard is definately better than having a standard with patents involved. Completely open means anyone can take it and work with it... without paying the piper.
    • The U.S. FTC is already investigating Sun, Rambus, and Unocal to see if they illegally kept patents secret while standards requiring the patents were established. It's not clear how much disclosure is necessary.

      The story was in the September 10 USA Today [usatoday.com], and September 11 Wall Street Journal [wsj.com]. I searched, but don't find a Slashdot story about it.

  • But why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Frodo (1221) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @12:39PM (#2370518) Homepage
    What I cannot understand is - why exactly they need it? Are there any Web standards incoming so complex that they need someone who will charge a fee for it and there's can be no open alternative possible? I know that almost for every proprietary standard known well enough there's an open alternative, often superior to its proprietary match. So why exactly W3C needs restricted standards? Just because someone paid for it? If so, the things are very sad indeed.
    • No. It's simply microsoft's evil that is doing it. They have patented relatively obvious ways of doing business online. And they want them to become official "standards", not microsoft "standards".

      This is why Microsoft is evil. Not becsause it's developers are evil. They are probably very nice and hard-working and creative. It's the abominable corperate abuse that makes them so repellant to any moral, computer-using human. Those of you that use and like microsoft products should stand up to this. Maybe through piracy, and other forms of civil disobedience. And if you can find and use alternatives such as linux or bsd or whatever, then that would obviously be better.

      And this one is probably stretching it a bit for you folks, but try to use mozilla and not IE. There needs to be a long term viable option to IE. I use mozilla and it does everything I need from a web browser, but IE obviously does more.
    • There are some very widely used technologies on the web, such as Java and Flash, aren't exactly Free and Open. While they're free(beer), they aren't exactly Free(speech). Fortunately, both companies business plans seem to require free software (if Sun were to abandon Java for applets & desktop use, that could change).
  • by none2222 (161746) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @12:45PM (#2370533)
    Slashdot's pathological hatred of patents is silly and immature. Patents are absolutely necessary to allow businesses to recoup their research investments.


    What you're forgetting is that the very transistors that make up your beloved computers were once patented. Without that patent, we wouldn't even be having this discussion.


    The question we should be asking is, do we want to hold back web standards by two decades to satisfy our irrational aversion to patents? I don't think we should. The consequences on the growth of the web will be disastrous if we don't take sensible steps like allowing patented technology into web standards.

    • you are mixing two different applications of patents rather freely and without discrimination.

      placing a patent on a physical device that is the result of research obviously benefits business and mankind at large. however, when one applies a patent to a protocol that is intended to be part of the fabric that allows the global human community to communicate it hinders not only that communication but other business interests from using it.

      you seem to forget that the very web board you are reading and commenting on would not exist, along with 99% of the rest of the internet, were patents accepted and applied on standard internet technologies. patents do have their place, but open network standards is not one of them.

    • by Paul the Bold (264588) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @01:02PM (#2370579)
      Yes, but the only reason the modern electronics industry got off the ground is that people blatently violated those very patents. (I heard Jack Kilby say this in a recent talk.)

      Second, the FET was patented in 1927, and it is this that makes modern computers go, not the BJT of which you speak. The original patent holder didn't make a damn dime. (Yes, it was because he couldn't make one, only design one.)

      The transistor is a staple of modern electronics because it is superior technology. The concern about the W3C is that inferior technology will become standard as corporations push for profits. This isn't very far fetched (Microsoft), and that is why we Slashdotters are worried.
    • by cornice (9801)
      This could be a step forward but I doubt it. The problem is that patents are necessary but the implementation of the patent system is broken. They cover things that shouldn't be covered. They are often too broad and often cover areas that restrict development in areas where the patent holder did very little work. Face it, patents to the greatest degree serve the law profession and big corporations with big law budgets.

      If the W3C wants to include some obscure technology that for example helps handicapped people communicate and there is no clear alternative then this may be an area where patents in standards are a good idea but I am too synical to think that this is the only time this rule would be applied. I think that a lesser technology that is free of patent entanglements is always better.
    • "Without that patent, we wouldn't even be having this discussion."

      Proove it.
    • by getafix (2806)
      The question we should be asking is, do we want to hold back web standards by two decades to satisfy our irrational aversion to patents

      The question we should be asking is, do we want to push forward web standards by two decades to satisfy our rational aversion to patents.

      Why, yes I do.

      Imagine if we had to pay someone everytime the http request was invoked, or everytime an html page was viewed - yep - that would have certainly moved things forward.

      Feel free to make your money with patents - but dont stick it in a standard.
    • by meepzorb (61992) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @01:10PM (#2370599)
      What, exactly, is WRONG with the current web standard? HOW IS IT BROKEN? It already does anything that we would need.

      Can we exchange text on the web, already, of any arbitrary type and format? Yes.

      Can we exchange images on the web, already, of any number of supported types? Yes.

      Can we run backend scripts, already, to add functionality (such as, say, to implement a discussion board?). Yes.

      Sound? Yes. Video? Yes. etc etc.

      In fact the only niches for patented 'standard extensions' all involve commerce.

      It's not very trendy to say so, but virtually all of the basic infrastructure technologies we're now using were developed at government expense. From TCP/IP to HTTP itself (Berners-Lee was on Supercollider funds at CERN when he developed it), WE paid for these inventions. Which makes them COMMONS which makes them OURS to share however we choose. Period.

      Honestly, what business does Corporate America have using cynical exploitation of patent law to co-opt what was developed with taxpayer money? Can anyone without secret (or not so secret) fantasies of being the next Bill Gates really give me a logical, non-theological reason why we should let that happen?

      I have grown so weary of even having to argue this anymore.

      :M
      • by ivan256 (17499)
        In fact the only niches for patented 'standard extensions' all involve commerce.

        And copy protection.

        In 6-8 months when someone patents a meta tag that disables the "View Source" button and disables Copy/Paste, if the PTO doesn't think it's an obvious invention send them a link to this comment.
        • > In 6-8 months when someone patents a meta tag that disables the "View Source" button and disables Copy/Paste, if the PTO doesn't think it's an obvious invention send them a link to this comment.

          Fsck that. Patent it yourself.

          Then charge Jack Valenti, Hilary Rosen, and the other pigs that run mass media $1,000,000 per use of the tag as a royalty.

          If their fucking content is so fucking precious, they oughta beg to pay you for the right to protect it like a masochist begs for the whip. You'll make billions.

          And if you get the patent and they don't cough up the dough, sue 'em into the stone age. Obliterate the fscking RIAA and MPAA in a trillion-dollar lawsuit, and the world'll still be a better place.

          • I would patent it myself if it were a patentable invention. I'm not saying that I couldn't get a patent.. I'm just saying that legally such a patent should be invalid.

            It is obvious to anyone who is skilled in the art of network and security programming that you would have to set up a server that would authenticate with the browser to ensure that the browser supported a protection flag, and then send the document containing the flag. It is also obvious that the browser would have to disable any functionality that would allow digital copying of said content upon reciving a document with that flag (or tag or whatever). It is also obvious that the technology could be implemneted as a plugin to existing browsers.

            Since I can pull all of that out of my ass, and it's here for everyone to see, it is unpatentable... unless such a technique for copy protecting web sites or similar network distributed documents is already patented. Even then I would argue that it's still obvious, but the case would be less clear cut...
    • by LatJoor (464031) <latjoor@@@hotmail...com> on Sunday September 30, 2001 @01:13PM (#2370609) Homepage
      Trasistors are hardware, not software. The issue here is software patents and open standards.

      The whole point of an open standard is that anyone can implement it. If we allow the use of patents in open standards, then they cannot be implemented by just anyone, you need a license, or a whole bunch of licenses, to implement it. Furthermore, as far as I understand it companies aren't legally obligated to license a patent to any particular party, so if they decide that they don't want you, in particular, competing with them they might decide not to license it to you. All it takes is one company on the list to do this and you can *never* implement that "open standard."

      We should expect this to destroy the usefulness of open standards and bring a big step back to the days when software companies had total control over your computing experience. The Internet itself only exists because of the adoption of an open, non-patented standard, TCP/IP. Imagine if Microsoft, for example, had a patent pending on TCP/IP, where would we be now? Every little Internet app author would have to fork out cash to them, probably on a yearly basis.
    • Hi,

      you wrote:

      > The consequences on the
      > growth of the web will be disastrous if we don't
      > take sensible steps like allowing patented
      > technology into web standards.

      Do you have any evidence supporting your claim that Internet growth would be hindered? I mean, it's exactly the opposite: Historically, there have been <b>no</b> patents regulating the use of web technologies and almost everyone would argue that this <i>allowed</i> the web to become ubiquitous.

      With regards to your "transistors claim": one might argue that I have a computer now because the patent on transistors finally expired and computers can be constructed without paying royalties for those, thus empowering me to own a computer even though I'm not exactly wealthy. And that without the patent, we might have had personal computers much earlier.

      And why should patents be necessary to recoup research investments? I thought product sales of the finished/improved product are what's necessary to recoup the costs. Time to market (together with the experience gained by being the first) can be much more preventive of cheap imitators than patents. So, while patents are possibly helpful[1] to securing investments, they are certainly not "absolutely necessary".

      Yours Malte #8-)

      [1] I doubt even that, since most inventors/innovators can't afford to even enter the market because all the base technologies everyone needs are patented and only established players with patent-exchange agreements are able to compete, not newcomers faced with prohibitive royalty costs.
    • What you're forgetting is that the very transistors that make up your beloved computers were once patented. Without that patent, we wouldn't even be having this discussion

      That's ture, but not the point here.
      The point it that I still can build a computer with radio tubes if I wanted to.

    • I'm sorry, but this is utter nonsense, especially when talking about software patents.

      XML started being a hot subject, say, 4 years ago? And today there are thousands of lines of non-patent-encumbered code out there for people to build on -- the shared body of knowledge grows every year, not every 17 years after patents expire.

      The consequences on the growth of the web will be disastrous if we don't take sensible steps like allowing patented technology into web standards

      I'm assuming that's not just a troll, but what possible web related precedent can you give for thinking that? In particular, are you claiming that various innovations won't happen without patent protection, or that patented innovations will happen and that web standards will be the poorer without them?

      Please check out this study [researchoninnovation.org] for some interesting reading. I invite you to find contrasting views that aren't filled with corporate rhetoric.

    • What you're forgetting is that the very transistors that make up your beloved computers were once patented. Without that patent, we wouldn't even be having this discussion.

      Wrong. At least this is an profable statement in in scietific understanding at least thus "not right".

      The field effect transistor FET was long patent before even the first transistor was build. The patent holder didn't see get a penny.

      I'm not 100% sure how it was with the "classic" PNP transistor. As far I know it was mainly developed by military, they survive pretty well without patents :o)

      On the other hand I've a *very* *very* old book at home about radio technology. It was prior to transistor age, times where all was done with tubes. In on of the last chapters they made an *outlook* to the future of radio technology. One thing they spend several pages was a new effect than when put to speical negative loaded needles, into a strange material (the p material) they could gain intensification effects by this setup. At this times nobody yet understood why and how. but the effect was already known, without an patent. I personally doubt that today electronics would look any different without, how as the same with your postulate this is not proofable so at least also "not right" :o)
    • Slashdot's pathological hatred of patents is silly and immature. Patents are absolutely necessary to allow businesses to recoup their research investments.

      This is an opinion that you share with many in business that has never actually been proven. Patents do allow large businesses to make money, that much is certain. In particular, large businesses can ignore the patents of smaller businesses, who cannot afford the legal fees to protect their patents. Meanwhile, investors simply wont invest in a small company unless it has patents, which forces us all to gain them, even if we dont believe in them.

      So, please provide some evidence before you spout off calling us silly and immature.

      I have read reports that when the www came on-line in 1993 that innovation and development flourished in Europe, however patent filing suffered because everyone could claim some part of the innovation. That is, greater communication caused innovation, not patents. Now, many company's aware of this, actively prevent communication, so that they can get patents. Therefor, patents are preventing communication, and therefor, patents prevent innovation.

      The idea that patents are to encourage people to invest is debunked by the number of patents that are awarded for incredibly obvious things. The stantard arguement against this is "its only obvious because you've seen it already". However I have direct personal experience where we have come up with a solution to a problem and found later that it was patented. That is, we have had a problem, and solved in a very obvious and easy way, and found that someone got a patent for it last year. I have seen patent's where the innovation is a new using of two existing standards where that use was actually documented in the standards!

      However, even if we managed to smarten up patent judges, to remove the awarding of obvious patents, I still believe that patents are not neccessary to protect investment. The arguement for patents is that someone can spend a bunch of time and materials creating a new design, which someone else then comes along and copies. However, this idea is not real. The most difficult aspects of some of our inventions have not been patented, because they cant be, however a competitor will find them hard to copy without expending the same effort.

      Finally, copying a thing does not invalidate the investment of the original inventor, because the inventor knows why it was made that way, while the copier only knows how. If someone copies our product, it will take them many months to do so, and at the end of it, we will be rolling out version two. They, however, will not have the understanding to make a version two of their own, and will have to wait for ours to copy.

      Patents are a tool of investors. It makes the people with the money the most important, not the people with the ideas, or the people who would benefit from them. Getting rid of patents will improve the quality of life of everyone. End of story.

    • by ClarkEvans (102211) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @01:53PM (#2370714) Homepage
      First, the parent post is not flame bait. It is a different opinion; which I happen to think is flawed, but this is besides the point.

      Patent law exists to "promote the sciences and useful arts". It does not, nor should it exist to "allow businesses to recoup their research investments". This is natural-right thinking which is explicitly rejected by the founding fathers via the constitution.

      The biggest problem with patent law is that it is now the providence of big business and lawyers; when it was originally there for "inventors". Patent mechansim is not very accessable by the general developer... else we would have far less patents since the PTO would be more up-to-speed with what is "obvious". The PTO also pays it's evaluators poorly. I can get over 6 figures in the marketplace, but the PTO could only offer me 40K beacuse I don't have a masters (and then it'd be 50K or so, 60K for a pHd). How can we expect the evaluators to know what is obvious if (a) they arn't practitioners and (b) they are underpaid.

      I'd rather have a "patent duty" like "jury duty" be put out for average developers... where they are paid at the prevaling wadge for ONE YEAR of service, after which they return to the market. Now, this would help prevent those big companies from patenting stupid stuff...

    • do we want to hold back web standards by two decades to satisfy our irrational aversion to patents?

      Yes.

      The consequences on the growth of the web will be disastrous if we don't take sensible steps like allowing patented technology into web standards.

      FUCK the "growth of the web." I'm not willing to sell true, free, open standards down the river for some vaguely defined interpretation of "growth of the web."

    • Absolutely! Recouping research costs is a must. But this needs to be limited to actual research done for creations that are actually new, unique, and non-obvious. Way too many of the patents issued by an overworked and apparently incompetent USPTO is actually hampering business. Research now runs a high risk that the results may result in threats or litigation from other patents that don't even meet the requirements to be issued a patent.

      The fact that there are valid patents, as you hold up one for a transistor, does not mean that all others are equally valid. The vast majority did not promote technology. If issuance of patents were limited, as they should be, to true advances in technology, we wouldn't be having this discussion now.

      Web standards and internet standards did amazingly well without using technology that was encumbered by patents to get us to the point we are today. If the very beginnings of the web were built upon patent encumbered technology, we would not be having this discussion, because there would be no slashdot.org and there would be no web. The reason for this is because there would have been no free/open source development of the web to make it happen. What we might have instead would be 2 or 3 proprietary online providers who would be charging high prices for access and even higher prices to place content. There would be no peer to peer communication at all except through those central providers. And in that world we'd would be sitting there thinking we are so advanced. But the true advances come when tens of thousands of great minds work on the technology, not a few corporations.

      I'm not opposed to the patent system, or even software patents. I'm simply opposed to those which are obvious, and would have been done very soon by someone else anyway. The majority of patents are things that thousands would have, or could have if asked to, solved on their own. Some corporation doing "a little inventing before the need" to ensure they get the patent is not advancing the state of the art, but just their own profits. That hurts the rest of business.

    • Slashdot's pathological hatred of patents is silly and immature. Patents are absolutely necessary to allow businesses to recoup their research investments.


      What you're forgetting is that the very transistors that make up your beloved computers were once patented. Without that patent, we wouldn't even be having this discussion.

      Transistors are an implementation detail! Nowhere in information interchange standards, will you ever see that a computer is required to use transistors.

      If businesses want to use patents to recoup their investments, either as part of their implementation of standards, or as part of their fully proprietary non-interoperable products, that's fine. But it shouldn't ever be required by a so-called standard.

      The question we should be asking is, do we want to hold back web standards by two decades to satisfy our irrational aversion to patents?

      Do we want to hold back web standards by two decades due to foolish lack of aversion to patents? Part of the reason that web browsers haven't advanced much in the last 7 years, is that we've had too much monopoly -- the "big two" browsers. Occasionally better browsers would appear, but unless they spoofed, server-side scripts would detect them and tell their users that they need to downgrade to Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer. Patents will only make that worse and reduce the size of the playing field even further. There's no better way to kill innovation, than to tell people that they are legally prohibited from doing something. And that's exactly what a patent does.

  • "fun with other 'reasonable' licensing (MP3 and GIF come immediately to mind)"

    I don't think those two are a very good example of patent problems. They are not really problems at all.

    You can use them and licens them in that case, thats the costs of using other peoples work (the work involved in reseaching&developing them). Otherwise you can develop your own formats. You are perfectly free to chose.

    The real big problems is obvious patents, and even worse to broad patents. Those really are huge problems and will get even worse.

    You don't happen to implement gif by accident but there are horribly broad patents out there locking up whole categories of software/businessmodels.
    • When they started out, they were used freely. Everyone used gifs, then the patent issue was brought up after they were in wide use, and we were over a barrel. We do not want to be grasping our ankles when the next patented technology sneaks by us.
      • What you call "wide use" was the very small by modern standards online world of CompuServe and independant BBSes. Unisys started enforcing their patent by 1990, if not earlier, BTW.

        The WWW userbase is 1000x bigger than that (at least), and if the GIF licencing thing was really a huge problem (even BBS land), somebody could have easily whipped up an open replacement. I saw the discussions back on the BBSes, and the conclusion was "Nah, we'll just have our vendors pay the fees."
  • by Anonymous Coward

    First off, I actually agree with a lot of what he said in his statement. However, I think he would have had a lot better chance of getting the point across if he hadn't invoked the specter of evil corporatization, and maybe left the Microsoft bashing out.

    There are many valid points he could have made without sounding so reactionary. Must have been taking lessons from RMS, yeesh.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 30, 2001 @12:55PM (#2370559)
    This was bound to happen sooner or later. The same thing happened years ago with HTML 3.2. W3C had HTML 3.0 spec which had some neat things and was trying to bring sanity into demented HTML that browsers at the time were "implementing."

    For reasons never disclosed to public, browser vendors didn't want to implement HTML 3.0. Except free browser projects, but their users were minority and the development resources were really small.

    Then, one day, HTML 3.2 was revealed to the world. In terms of features it was a downgrade from HTML 3.0. In terms of sanity it had none, because it merely "standardised the current state," according to W3C. That explicitely excluded free browsers which implemented parts of HTML 3.0 and were going to implement more, but W3C never cared about them.

    There never was a public discussion about HTML 3.2. After the publication the amount of flames from the free world on W3C lists was enormous. Unlike flames on Slashdot, where flamers rarely know anything about the subject of their flame, this was flaming from the people who knew everything about the subject. And it was going on for months. I don't think Slashdot flames ever managed to reach the level of revolt HTML 3.2 produced.

    And now it's happening again. Surprised? You shouldn't be.

    You see, W3C is a vendor consortium and vendor consortiums take care about interests of its members. That's why they exist.

    • You radically overstate the status of the document formerly referred to as HTML 3.0. This was never a standard of any kind. It was Dave Raggett's proposal for a next generation of HTML.

      I was chair of the HTML Working Group (IETF) back then, and I was amazed how many people perceived Dave's labeling of that document to be gospel. His document never had any consensus behind it of any kind, and it was not widely implemented. He coded it in his prototype browser, and emacs-w3 implemented it of course, along with every other feature suggested by anyone. :-)

      BTW, HTML 3.0 was *not* an attempt to bring sanity to the demented browser implementations. Raggett's document predated the dementia.

      After we finished the standardization of HTML 2.0 within the IETF, that Working Group was shut down, and I joined the W3C group, to help with the standardization of HTML 3.2. Yes, it was unfortunate that the effort moved into an organization which was open only to corporate members. However, there was a very substantial need to get the major browser vendors to agree on *something*, and that process was clearly just not going to happen in IETF meetings.

      By this point, HTML 3.0 was old news. Not even Raggett was pushing it anymore. It was a nice doc, and way ahead of its time, but it should have been titled something a bit less pretentious.

  • Well, this is just another example of how the Internet is turning from a geek haven to a capitalistic corporate marketing tool. We all knew it. We all saw it coming. Did anyone think that pirating software, MP3's, cracking corporate networks, posting slanderous comments on message boards and all the other normally-socially-inacceptable behavior would last forever?

    The Internet was a frontier, and now it's being settled. So you know what that means? Find a new frontier!

    I mean, once they start making movies like "Hackers", you have to know that it's over =)
    • so you advocate turning the internet into the digital equivalent of Ham Radio?

      under this paradigm, a new frontier requires an entirly new technology.

      I don't see it yet, unless it is something like th computerization of telepathy and the Aklashic records [joke!]

  • It's not too late... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 30, 2001 @01:00PM (#2370571)
    Go read Cox's comment then look through some of the other comments on the site.Try to work out something sensible to say, then say it; there are already over 150 comments from this month, all (as far as I can see) overwhelmingly against this policy.

    Obvious angles on it:

    • Cox's quote from the W3C: "The W3C was created to lead the Web to its full potential by developing common protocols that promote its evolution and ensure its interoperability"
    • The authors of the RAND proposal are: Microsoft, HP, Philips, Apple, and a couple of w3c people. The W3C is NOT acting for the benefit of the web user here.
    • Software patents in themselves are debatably useful/ethical. Their place in so-called open systems like the internet is not a subject that deserves conversation beyond the word 'no'.
    • This has gone through as quietly as possible so far - could it be that there's a little underhandedness going on here?
    • Is this just a proof that the W3C is inadequate and needs replacement by a truly open standards body? If this passes their opinion is quite clearly worth nothing.
    • The existence of patents causes a huge imbalance between corporate and open developer. In the current climate, it makes the technology entirely unusable, legally, for the latter group.Do you want to freeze open/free software development entirely out of the w3c's concept of the internet? What am I asking... of course you do, corporate buttkissers.
    • This is a disgusting potential misuse of the W3C's position. Quite simply, they are in a position of responsibility and should know better.
    • Has the W3C entirely forgotten their original ideals, to see standards compliant software and free, open, usable Internet? Like Alan Cox said, I can smell the rot from here.
    • Patents, in the final analysis, give the corporation power over the people. They can relicense, they can enforce, whenever, whatever, and however they see fit. Patents are a force that could quite well serve for silencing dissenters and giving the power for expression on the Internet only to those with the power to pay. Do not follow the rush to put a price tag on the net; try to remember why we're here and where it really came from. Had the net been closed source in the first place it would no doubt have died the death of most proprietary efforts; too expensive, and tightly controlled by bureaucratic bastards who can't get their thumbs out of their arses for long enough to get any actual innovation done. We don't need it, we don't want it and if the W3C endorses it, then damn them like the corporate sheep they're rapidly becoming - a standards body should not be so visibly a puppet to somebody@microsoft.com.
    • Patents, in the final analysis, give the corporation power over the people.

      That is simply absurd. The whole point of patents is to give people power over corporations. How do you think it's possible for an inventor to invent something without a big company just stealing it and "cutting out the middleman"?

      This FUD about patents really needs to be brought under control. Patents are the friend of the little guy. Just because big entities have the same rights as little entities doesn't mean the rights are bad.

      • That's delusional. Patents serve only to tip the scales to the party with the most money/lawyers. They might have been created to protect the small businessman, but all you have to do is open your eyes and see how they are really being used. Corporate interests own hundreds of thousands (millions?) of patents. What do you think they own them for? For someone called "Reality Master" you don't seem to have much of an understanding of reality.
        • Patents serve only to tip the scales to the party with the most money/lawyers.

          That's certainly the conventional (Slashdot) belief, but it's frankly not true. Patent attorneys will often work on a contingency basis if you have a real case. Prove it to me: Show me a patent that was filed by a little guy that was "smashed" by a big guy.

          I can easily show the opposite. Heck, let's look at the Stac lawsuit against Microsoft [base.com]. They won $120M lawsuit against MS, and they we're a tiny company.

          Corporate interests own hundreds of thousands (millions?) of patents. What do you think they own them for?

          They own them because they invented something first. What difference does it make how big an entity is if they invent something novel? I repeat: Big interests have the same rights as small interests. Personally, I don't think someone should lose rights just because they get larger.

          Now, software patents are a different deal, because we've had a lot of abuses of the system by trying to patent prior art. But that's a problem with how patents are granted, not patents themselves.

          (And here is my opportunity to be controversial): The only reason many Slashdotters are against patents is because they want to steal other people's ideas, not because they are worried about corporations stealing the little guy's ideas.

          • That's certainly the conventional (Slashdot) belief, but it's frankly not true. Patent attorneys will often work on a contingency basis if you have a real case. Prove it to me: Show me a patent that was filed by a little guy that was "smashed" by a big guy.


            I was not implying that "little guys" who can actually afford the patent process are smashed by big companies. I'm talking about huge [ibm.com] companies [canon.com] who can afford to build up patent war chests [ibm.com] in order to intimidate competition from entering the market.

            Not to mention the various [ascrs.org] groups of patents [i-sis.org] that have the capacity to hurt real people [cbsnews.com].

            Sure, bad patents [bustpatents.com] can be overturned one at a time, but this often requires lots of money and lawyers too.

            (And here is my opportunity to be controversial): The only reason many Slashdotters are against patents is because they want to steal other people's ideas, not because they are worried about corporations stealing the little guy's ideas.

            Not really controversial--this is the standard corporate party line. Actually, many of us belive that ideas cannot be owned [usewisdom.com], and thus cannot be stolen. It's no surprise our corporate government doesn't share this viewpoint.
            • that have the capacity to hurt real people [AIDS drug patents]

              It's so ironic that people complain about AIDS drug patents, when the drugs wouldn't exist at all without the ability to patent them. Patents are possibly the single greatest single saver of lives in the history of mankind. You simply could not spend billions of dollars to develop 1 successful drug and 100 failures if Joe's Drugs down the street could simply copy your research and cut out your ability to make a profit. People really need to look at the big picture, rather than these simplistic, emotional views.

              Actually, many of us belive that ideas cannot be owned [usewisdom.com],

              I know. It's a very naive and dangerous viewpoint.

              and thus cannot be stolen. It's no surprise our corporate government doesn't share this viewpoint.

              Ah yes, the old "corporate government" argument. If something is good for business, then it must be automatically bad for everyone "else" (as if everyone is not affected by what is good or bad for business).

              Well guess what: It's not just "big money" that cares about this issue. There are a lot of us who can look at the big picture. The fact is that it takes a big company and big money to develop many types of inventions. If there was no protection, then those inventions simply would not be invented, because there is no seed money to develop them.

              • You simply could not spend billions of dollars to develop 1 successful drug and 100 failures if Joe's Drugs down the street could simply copy your research and cut out your ability to make a profit.

                Er, yes you could. It's called government funded research. Which, incidentally, is what produced the Internet - and what underwrote much of the basic and long-term research that many corporations profit from today.

                • Er, yes you could. It's called government funded research. Which, incidentally, is what produced the Internet...

                  No, that's what produced the Arpanet. The Internet that we know today, meaning the investment and development of high speed lines, is a product of private enterprise.

                  and what underwrote much of the basic and long-term research that many corporations profit from today.

                  Certainly we have a body of research that was created from public investment. It's not a question of whether you can get research from public investment, it's a question of efficiency. For example, no one doubts that the government could produce a "universal automobile" to compete with the major car companies. However, no one also doubts (that is sane, that is) that it would be a huge space-station-style, unbelievable disaster.

                  Research works the same way. Most of research feeding at the public trough is absolute crap designed to 1) line the pockets of the researcher, and 2) secure their reputation. There is a simple reason for this: public research has very little incentive to actually produce anything useful, like research in, say, a drug company.

                  All this said, I think there is a place for government funded research. There is a lot of very long term research that won't get done very well privately, like basic physics research. It's still inefficient, but it's better than nothing.

                  Both public and private research funding have their place. Public research is better for long-term basic research, and private research is better for actually producing practical results, efficiently.

      • As always, I must commend you for being a noble and upright citizen. That's one of the things that I like about you: how much you really believe in America and what I call "the system". :) Your optomism is a refreshing contrast to slashdots pervading pessimism.

        Too many slashdotters, have the silly attitude that "the man" is trying to put them down. How utterly crazy, considerring that most of these guys make more money than ordinary Americans like you and I could ever think about.

        I find the idea that patents give corporations power over "the masses" as laughable as you do. If you look on the patent data bases you will find that about 4 out of 5 patents (85%) are owned by individuals and small "garage" companies. Only 10% of the patents are owned by companies with over 100 employees.

        Thanks for going against the flow of slashdot and being honest. Even though it might hurt your karma, it is far better to speak up for truth!

        • The whole point about patents is that it costs a lot of money to get one. Paying patent lawyers to do reserch, etc. to make sure your product is unique and deserves a patent isn't cheap. For the majority of the "little guys" this is just not feasable. Thats why corporations (Lots of money) have an advantage over the little guy (no money).
        • How utterly crazy, considerring that most of these guys make more money than ordinary Americans like you and I could ever think about.

          You're the one who's crazy. Do you think that Ballmer says to himself, "Oh, I've made enough money to last a lifetime, I'll let Microsoft tank now - no need to worry about small upstarts cutting into our profits". No. CEOs always want to make more money, however much they've already made. If they get all Kumbaya-ish they'll be deposed by the shareholders.

      • Patents, in the final analysis, give the corporation power over the people.

        That is simply absurd. The whole point of patents is to give people power over corporations. How do you think it's possible for an inventor to invent something without a big company just stealing it and "cutting out the middleman"?

        This FUD about patents really needs to be brought under control. Patents are the friend of the little guy. Just because big entities have the same rights as little entities doesn't mean the rights are bad.

        I notice you don't distinguish between moronic software patents and rather more innovative non-software patents. However, even quite innovative software ideas are dubious candidates for patenting. The idea of a spreadsheet wasn't patented, and as a result we have many free and cheap spreadsheet applications, and competition encourages innovation (although the situation is not so rosy now with the increased dominance of Office). If there was only one spreadsheet company for 20 years, we'd have to like it or lump it (including their legalised monopoly pricing).

        The answer to the innovation argument is simple (at least in the software arena). Companies already fund research which they expect their competitors to be able to capitalise on. (Haven't you ever heard of patent cross-licensing agreements? Now how can you argue this isn't ganging up on the little guy?) Where no company is willing to do research, the government can do it - if it's that important.

        And by the way, no-one has a moral right to make a profit via a government-mandated artificial monopoly. The idea that copying someone's idea is depriving them of their "rightful" profits is nonsense. No-one has a right to unlimited profits.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    "The W3C was created to lead the Web to its full potential by developing
    common protocols that promote its evolution and ensure its
    interoperability"

    A lofty and great goal. A pity that the W3C now proposes to throw away its
    very reason for existence.

    And now we have a new much abused patent politics buzzword

    "Non-discriminatory"

    Indeed.

    I think the W3C should ask itself how allowing parties to use patents to
    prevent community projects for blind access is "non-discriminatory".

    Tim Berners Lee created an innovative environment about sharing and
    referencing data. You plan to give large companies the power to stifle
    that innovation.

    It says something for the sad state of W3C that the proposal in question
    has been allowed to progress, carefully arranged not to be visible to
    the outside world. The dates of the short consultation period do not even
    appear to have been adjusted in the light of September 11th. The proposed
    shortening of the consultation period also appears to violate the W3C
    rules, but then I am sure you don't care. I can smell the rot from here.

    A patent-encumbered web threatens the very freedom of intellectual debate,
    allowing only large companies and big media houses to present information
    in certain ways. Imagine where the web would be now if only large companies
    were able to use image files.

    And large companies it is. I note the distinct lack of small companies on
    the proposal in question. Within the ISO where the same things happen the
    money simply moves in circles between big players. Accountants and lawyers
    pay $100,000 sums back and forth as part of an accounting game that they
    use to keep out smaller players.

    I think we can also be sure that the kind of W3C members working this
    little agenda have plans. I would bet on "Windows digitally-protected
    uncopyable web pages" being one of them. Of course the protection they
    really mean is "against reading by non IE users".

    The W3C must ask itself whether it plans to continue the vision of Tim or
    become another ITU, a bloated dinosaur that exists more as a corporate United
    Nations of communication than a standards body.

    If the W3C wishes to remain relevant to the people, to the small businesses
    (the other 80%) and to the future of the web then I strongly suggest that it

    Requires non-disclosed patents are freely licensed for use in that standard for all.

    Without this a key infrastructure standard may suddenely be "owned" by a W3C
    member who intentionally kept quiet to gain "non discriminatory" - but large -
    license fees. The current wording encourages patent abuse. Licensing on a
    RAND basis would only be appropriate for such a non-disclosed patent if
    existing RAND licenses were on that proposal before final consultantion.
    Regardless of the rest of the outcome all honest members will benefit from
    such a stricter policy on non-disclosure of patents.

    Does not "approve" or "recommend" or allow its logo to be used on any patent-encumbered item.

    To do so will tarnish the value and reputation of the W3C name and logo. It
    will also create confusion about what W3C standards indicate.

    Restricts its activities on patent-encumbered projects to providing a forum where such people can work on patent encumbered projects to be released under their own names only.

    Here its activities would be in a consultative role, helping to guide these
    bodies in areas of overall standards compliance and interpretation of W3C
    goals. It is possible to further the web standardisation goal without
    becoming part of those activities that are contrary to the original goals
    of the W3C.

    This would mean SVG became a multi-vendor consortium pushing a private
    specification. But let's face it - with the patents involved - that is
    precisely what it is. It may even be appropriate for SVG work to be
    transferred to the ITU.

    Finally we should all remember this. When patented W3C standards ensure
    there is only one web browser in the world, its owners will no longer
    have time for the W3C or standards.

  • by greenfield (226319) <samg+slashdot@unhinged.org> on Sunday September 30, 2001 @01:01PM (#2370576) Homepage
    No one should be surprised by the change in patent information. Look at the membership structure of the W3C. We can compare it to the membership structure of the IETF, a group I think everyone would consider open and "free."

    First, in the W3C, membership is only offered to organizations. In the IETF, all individuals can participate in the Working Groups; any individual can generate a RFC.

    Second, in the W3C, membership costs either $5000 or $50,000. IETF membership is free. It does cost money to attend an IETF meeting, but that cost is around $500; well within the reach of any serious developer.

    Control of working groups in the IETF (and the IESG) is based on technical ability or desire. In theory, you don't really have to be a prior participant in the IETF to run a working group. (But it helps. A lot.) In the W3C, you must be a member (paying $5000 or $50,000), in order to run a WG.

    In the IETF, decisions are made on rough consensus. In the W3C, decisions are also made based on consensus with elaborate procedural systems. It's interesting to compare and contrast the amount of procedural information on the W3C's web site versus the IETF's web site.

    In general, all IETF working material is open and accessible to the public. You can read RFCs as they are being written; you can read, post, and comment on IETF mailing lists. W3C working material is not open to the public.

    Companies may ask if the IETF is unfriendly towards business. I do not think this is the case. Look at Cisco. Cisco has certainly participated in the IETF; they are very involved in the development of several IETF standards. However, Cisco still has the ability to develop their own proprietary protocols and still has the ability to make secret agreements with other companies.

    In short, membership in the W3C has always been primarily by businesses. In fact, there is no way for an individual to join the W3C. Anyone surprised by an extreme pro-business slant of the W3C is not really familiar with the W3C's nature.

    [You might wonder why companies don't control the IETF as much as they control the W3C. My theory is that the W3C works on items much more relevant to the end user. A mass-market consumer is much more amazed by SVG than they are by packet switching. Companies have a strong interest in controlling what the mass-market consumer sees.]

    (Refs: W3C Membership [w3.org], IETF Web site [ietf.org])
    • No one should be surprised by the change in patent information. Look at the membership structure of the W3C. We can compare it to the membership structure of the IETF, a group I think everyone would consider open and "free."

      Indeed. One must also remember the shakiness of the control that the W3C has over Web standards - if Web developers and Browser developers choose to ignore the W3C then their leverage simply disappears.

      Therefore, if the W3C does indeed allow this recommendation to become a standard, then I propose a solution:

      Ignore them.

      If Web and browser developers need to advance the state-of-the-art in Web technology, then do it through the IETF standards process rather than the W3C.

      I do not like the idea of a balkanised web, where IE (following the W3C standards) must be treated differently to every other browser (following the hypothetical IETF standards), but, in a sense, this is what we already have on the Web, so there is no great loss.

      If IE users find themselves unable to view... oooh, the 20% of the web that might follow these IETF standards, then Microsoft will soon change its tune, much as the push towards CSS-styled web sites has helped IE's CSS compliance. Who knows? In the meantime it could even be an excellent way of reducing the dominance of IE in the browser market.

      So go ahead, W3C, make these changes in your patent policy. It will only spell the end of any control you have.

      • Well said. And if any and all are free to submit RFC's to the IETF, I propose that unless the W3C pulls their heads out of their asses, all current W3C standards be submitted in RFC format to the IETF. Smells like a code fork to me.

        Of course I have little or no understanding of the copyright issues involved in this case. Would this be possible?
    • True, IETF is very friendly towards business. To the point of letting patented stuff [sigmasoft.com] get into IETF standards.

  • copy of my comments (Score:2, Interesting)

    by inicom (81356)
    My comments as send to the PPWG:

    Hello,

    I've just read the Patent Policy WG FAQ and I have grave concerns about the
    world wide web consortium pursuing this avenue.

    The value of the W3C is dependent on the value of the standards it
    promulgates. The value of those standards depends on their widest adoption by
    the global internet community. Adoption by the internet community is
    dependent on the ease and value of implementing those standards.

    As a member of the internet community since 1984, I've seen a few standards
    come and go.

    As an inventor with a few patents, I know exactly what the value of patents
    are. Companies and individuals do not go through the work of obtaining
    patents because it is fun, or inexpensive. They do so with the intention of
    profiting from them before they expire.

    Allowing patented technologies to become w3c standards will benefit no one
    except the patent holder. Having the internet community given the choice of
    supporting w3c standards and paying license fees or developing non-patented
    pseudo-standards will result in a plethora of divergent and redundant
    standards in use. The value of the w3c will go into the toilet.

    I urge you to disband the working group and abandon this policy from
    consideration.

    regards,
    Dr. Andrew E. Mossberg,
    Chief Technical Officer, Asoki Corporation
    Chief Information Officer, CruisExcursions.com
    President, Inicom, Inc.
    Director, Fuzzy Theory LLC.
  • Feel free to re-use.

    As a professional software developer making a living from being able to
    develop platform-agnostic applications for the web, I am extremely alarmed to
    see the W3C's proposed stance on patents & standards. With the proposed
    changes in place the web will become more and more a showcase for large
    corporations and will extinguish the independence and innovation that have
    made the internet freely accessibly to anyone with a web browser (of any
    flavour) and a dial-up account.

    Indeed, with the proposals in place the web risks becoming a tool of a few
    corporations (I think I don't need to list them specifically) and innovation
    will largely be shut down. After a while, the W3C itself will cease to be
    relevant, and I can hardly believe that is what is intended.

    I urge you, therefore, to reject these proposals and show your organisation to
    be one of integrity to the ideals of Tim Berners-Lee et al; be proud that you
    are not just another tool of big business.

  • by shaunak (304231) <shaunakNO@SPAMgmx.net> on Sunday September 30, 2001 @01:22PM (#2370639) Homepage
    RAND, in Hindi means 'Prostitute'.
    Kind of a fitting title (?)
  • by sourcehunter (233036) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @01:23PM (#2370644) Homepage
    I think that the W3C incorporating a "non-discriminatory" license to patents does just the opposite -

    Lets take a look at open source, shall we?

    According to a Netcraft survey (http://www.netcraft.com/survey/) taken in July 2001, 60% of the internet's web servers STILL RUN APACHE. The reasons for this? It is fast, cheap, and secure. The reason it is all three of these is it is OPEN SOURCE. If the W3C began considering patented technology for standards, and incorporated those standards into core web systems (example: secure, uncopyable web page) then, if that technology uses some server-side component, Apache, the LONG TIME leader in web servers, would be LEFT OUT IN THE COLD and hence, discriminated against.

    Granted, that may the whole point for this move - the authors are from some of the largest IT companies in the US - Microsoft (well, their IP law firm), Apple Computer, and HP. That's fine. It is also counter to the goals of the W3C.

    (quoting from http://www.w3.org/Consortium/#goals)
    "W3C's long term goals for the Web are:

    1) Universal Access: To make the Web accessible to all by promoting technologies that take into account the vast differences in culture, education, ability, material resources, and physical limitations of users on all continents;

    2) Semantic Web : To develop a software environment that permits each user to make the best use of the resources available on the Web;

    3) Web of Trust : To guide the Web's development with careful consideration for the novel legal, commercial, and social issues raised by this technology."

    So unless the W3C wants to become a hypocrisy and a joke, either this proposal has to go, or the original goals have to go. I'd hate to see the goals change. W3C has provided an amazing service to the web community, and if its goals change, I'm afraid that service would cease to exist.

    Don't get me wrong - I am a small business owner and as a small business owner I understand the value of intellectual property as much as if not more than a large company. If my business model is based on my IP, then with it I make money, without it, I fall into the (if I'm not mistaken) 95% of companies that close their doors within the first five years of existence. HOWEVER, I don't think that STANDARDS should be based on patented technologies unless the patent owner freely licenses it to anyone who uses the standard.

    • It has been brought to my attention by an AC that I misrepresented the Netcraft survey.

      Sixtey percent of HOSTNAMES that provide an http service that they polled used Apache, not necessarily 60% of the physical number of SERVERS.

      This does not change my argument in the slightest.
  • ha ha (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    <philb:#slashdot> the idea of boycotting an organisation that thousands of web developers ignore every day is quite funny
  • Just fired this off, feel feel to copy:

    Dear Patent Policy Working Group:

    As a software developer who works with W3C standards on a daily basis, I urge you not to loosen the W3C policies regarding consideration of patented technologies. Open standards must remain just that - open to _all_, regardless of ability to pay.

    The "reasonable and non-discriminatory" concept is a red herring. As we strive to extend the benefits of digital communication to the entire world, it should be clear that in a world where patent laws and financial resources vary widely, the only "reasonable and non-discriminatory" fee structure is zero.

    Thank you for your consideration.

    Tom Swiss

  • by bero-rh (98815) <bero&redhat,com> on Sunday September 30, 2001 @01:27PM (#2370651) Homepage
    Feel free to reuse the parts you like... It's intentionally mostly free of Microsoft- or patent-bashing (you know who will make the final decision...)
    Unfortunately I didn't see Alan's reply before writing up mine, he surely has some points I should have included.
    Anyway:

    I believe the adaption of possibly non-royalty-free standards by W3C would
    be a fatal mistake. Please take the time to consider the implications:

    • Non-profit organizations or individuals, such as open source developers, can no longer implement the w3c standards, effectively making browsing the web from open source operating systems impossible.

      Right now, projects like Konqueror, Mozilla, Lynx, Links and even your own Amaya are doing a pretty good job - but they can't continue if they have to pay to implement the next set of standards.
    • Non-profit projects aside, it will also be much harder for a new company to get started because the barrier of entry will be much higher.
    • The Internet got where it is solely because it is based totally on open standards.

      If you have been on the net long enough, you will have noticed that all attempts to create a similar infrastructure based on closed "standards" have ultimately failed (e.g. Europe Online) or turned to open standards, basically becoming an ISP and an internet portal (AOL,
      Compuserve, MSN)
    • Consider what happened with the unisys patent and compressed gif graphics. When unisys started wanting royalties for gif pictures, pretty much everything on the net had to be converted, even though gif was never officially endorsed by w3c.

      The problem becomes much bigger once someone starts charging royalties for something that is even a w3c standard (imagine some company finding
      a reason for charging royalties on the a href= html tag).
    • There are already open formats for almost every purpose out there. If, for example, you can't get a guarantee that the SVG format will never require royalties, create/use an alternate standard. For an alternative to SVG, starting from Kontour (http://koffice.kde.org/)'s XML based vector graphics format comes to mind.


    I can understand the reasoning behind allowing RAND; yet I think it will cause far more trouble than it's worth.
    Please reconsider.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Corporations "stole" our television airwaves that the government gave to the people and they will "steal" the internet and turn it into a pre-packaged homogonized entertainment device. Remember cant let the people get smarted we might actually figure out what Monsanto and Disney are doing to us and many others in the world, wouldnt want that now would we.
  • by ClarkEvans (102211) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @01:43PM (#2370693) Homepage
    The progress the W3C has made in the past *without* giving in to royalty-burdened patents has been absolutely fantastic.

    It is not like there is a lack of innovation here.
    Why fix something that's not broken? Money should not be the focus of the W3C... bringing the market to maturity and ensuring competition (and thus innovation) should be its goal.

    Patents are wisely justified under the U.S. Constitution to "Promote the Sciences and Useful Arts" and are not justified under any sort of natural-rights or right to compensation logic. One must ask if the patent process is indeed satisfying its goal. If not, then institutions such as the W3C should not be rushing to support the implementation of restrictive mechanisms that are not needed.
  • I'm ignorant here... but could someone explain what happens when a patent is contested? Can one ask for a trial by Jury of Peers? I can imagine how a patent would fool most laywers or lay people... but a jury pool of practicing programmers; this may be a different story, no? Also, I was wondering what happens when you win? Can you get damages? Against who?
  • by dlaur (135032) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @02:06PM (#2370745)
    Don't post here - send them an email instead! (Or do both!) I put in my 2 cents (since I don't know what else to do...)

    There were only 7 comments archived in August and merely 9 in the month of September... until yesterday! Way to go guys! (I have to assume that Slashdotters helped pummel them with comments.)

    You can see everyone's comments here:

    http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-patentpo li cy-comment

    Last time I looked there were 250+ comments! Fortunately, most of them were opposed to incorporating patented technology into W3C recommendations.

    • This is the VERY reason why I sent the news item in to /. in the first place.

      Above all,

      1) Keep your post rational and coherent- no flames please.
      2) If you don't have some partially formulated argument of the forms that have been moderated up on here or use the link to archives to get ideas on the good ones- don't be overly verbose and keep to the point.
      3) Try to avoid undue Microsoft or corporation bashing. Some have said Alan Cox' letter had too much hyperbole- read closer, it's actually part of his arguments and fits with the reasoning (Realize that over 2/3 of the comittee that formulated this proposal are from big corporate interests such as Apple, Microsoft and HP.). Having said this, much of the best arguments in this vein have been said already and unless you can come up with better ones, I'd avoid it because it will seem like hyperbole or ranting.
      4) Try to spell-check things! Some of the stuff is embarassingly mis-spelled in some of the letters.
    • by jdaly (120407) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @07:10PM (#2371706)
      Since the publication of Adam's article on Linux Today, and the Slashdot listing of the article, many have written to voice disagreement with the current Working Draft of the W3C Patent Policy Framework.

      For those of you not familiar with how W3C works: W3C puts documents out for public comment, announces them, and is obliged to respond to questions and critiques. This document was no different; in fact, not only was the document announced on the W3C Homepage six weeks ago, the WG produced both a FAQ and backgrounder, and the announcement was carried on a variety of syndication services which rely on RSS feeds.

      As many of you may have missed the August announcement of the draft, I include the links here for your reference. I would ask that you consider reading these documents as "item 0" in Adam's "What you can do" list.

      Announcement: archived with date at http://www.w3.org/News/2001
      FAQ: http://www.w3.org/2001/08/16-PP-FAQ
      Backgrounder: http://www.w3.org/2001/08/patentnews
      W3C Patent Policy Framework: http://www.w3.org/TR/2001/WD-patent-policy-2001081 6/

      For more information on how W3C works in general, I invite you to read the W3C Process Document:
      http://www.w3.org/Consortium/Process/

      As of now, many comments sent to W3C's Patent Policy Comment list simply say, "Don't!" By responding in this manner, writers give the Working Group nothing on which to build a constructive response or to consider. Should you decide to comment, I suggest here what you can do to help W3C make the most of your comments, and help it be in a position to act on them:

      1. Read the draft itself. (You may find the FAQ and backgrounder useful.)
      2. Provide your comments directed at specific sections of the draft with which you object.
      3. Ask questions where you find the language of the draft itself unclear.
      4. If you make philosophical objections, please base them, at least in part, on your reading of the draft.

      W3C welcomes all comments - critical and otherwise - on its documents. I would say though, that the preference is for substantiated comments. This type of comment leads to action; at the very least, they demand consideration on behalf of the Working Group, as well as a thoughtful response.

      Best regards,

      Janet Daly
      Head of Communications, W3C
      • Janet's comment is perhaps best attributed to the LinuxToday forum, where it's gotten several more replies. Several were even cross posted to the W3C comments list:

        It's been pointed out that most of the comments say substantially more than the "Don't" which Janet mischaracterizes them to be. And also that the short-circuiting of the W3C process in this case is atypical and suspicious, particularly when combined with the way notice for this fundamental change was slipped under everyone's radar.

    • I looked at the archive [w3.org] just now:

      August 2001: 7 comments
      September 2001: 755 comments
      October 2001: 330 comments - and it's only 10/2/01.

      Keep those cards and letters coming!

  • My Comment [w3.org] to the www-patentpolicy-comment list [mailto]

    We can sit here and talk about it all day, or we can do something...

    -jerdenn

  • If you do embedded software development, I urge you to fight this! Here's the comment I sent in:
    As an embedded software developer, I find this proposed shift in the policies of the W3C on patent-encumbered standards quite disturbing. Some of the projects I work on have embedded HTML browsers, and due to the environment in which they are used I cannot always turn to a commercially provided solution for what I need to do. If I have to patent check every feature I try to place in my equipment, then I will simply not be able to place any new features in my equipment. And as the Web moves from standards-based documents (HTML) to non-standard documents (PDF, MS-DOC file, etc.), the utility of the Web as a platform to be built upon will be diminished.


    Please, reconsider this peril-laden action. Require ALL W3C standards to be either completely patent unencumbered, or require all patents to be released for use by anybody without royalty for the purposes of implementing a W3C compliant app.



    I see this crap every day of work: I cannot turn around without stumbling over a patent license that prevents me from supporting a standard. I work in the land mobile radio market. Look at the big player in this market: Motorola. They own most of the patents on the standards, and so they can pretty much prevent any competitor from gaining a foothold in the market. If you want to have a system that works correctly, you buy Motorola repeaters, Motorola consoles, Motorola mobiles, and Motorola test equipment. Try to integrate a Racal, E.F. Johnson, or Kenwood system, and all the places Big M violated the published standard break everything.

    Open standards aren't just a good idea, they are the ONLY WAY to make a system that everybody can play in.

  • Yet another time in which we're sending a flurry of email at the last minute with dubious effect. It would have been much better to begin sending in comments sometime between now and back in 1999 when they started deliberations on this. Is there no web site/group that actually keeps tabs on these things? We need to start the discussion at the beginning, or at least as soon as possible rather than 12 hours before time is up.
  • IETF IP policy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by leonia (246522)
    In fairness, it should be noted that many IETF
    standards are also encumbered by patents. See http://www.ietf.org/ipr [ietf.org]

    Some patent holder grant the rough equivalent of
    RF licenses, others RAND licenses. Only the latter
    is a requirement according to RFC 2026.

    One interesting difference, however, is that one
    needs at least two independent, interoperable
    implementations, both of which have to have exercised the licensing policy, to advance a document from Proposed to Draft Standard stage.

    (For reasons unrelated to IPR issues, most recent
    IETF RFCs are Proposed Standards, not Draft
    Standards.)
  • My response .... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zangdesign (462534)
    By allowing patented technology to become an officially recognized standard, you essentially favor the creator of the patent in such a manner as to drive all business in that technology to a small group of vendors. The only official standards should be those that are open and freely available to all users.

    For example, GIF should not be a recognized standard, because of the encumbrances by Unisys. The PNG standard is a much better choice because it does not base itself on one company's technology and can be adopted by all. The software used to create a patent can be trademarked, copyrighted, etc., in the author's mannter of choosing, but it does not restrict the file format itself. The PNG format will never undergo the kinds of hassles various authors of GIF-related programs due to Unisys entanglements.

    A consequence of recognizing patented technology is that the W3C runs a severe risk of appearing biased in favor of one company's standard. This will open the W3C up to lawsuits by those whose technologies failed to make the standard. Even the argument of technological superiority would not hold up in court because there is no way to empirically prove that one technology is better than another for all applications.

    Thank you,

    signature follows, etc. etc.
  • The comments are over 520 on the list and growing by 1-3 a minute.

    Remember:

    1) Keep the stuff to clean, coherent comments- no flames or ranting. They won't listen to either.
    2) Focus on the issue that any royalty structure is, by it's very nature discrimintory, and that they contradict themselves in the proposal several times.
    3) Focus on the issue that a substantial part of the Internet is powered by open source software that will be unable to pursue implementing things because of the licensing issues.
    4) Remind them that they exist for the purposes of ensuring that the WWW doesn't become balkanized- which this would do.
    5) Spell-check things if at all possible- there's some embarassingly mis-spelled stuff sent in by some important figures.
  • I understand that people are a bit carried away by their fear of patents. So far, most submissions only reject the idea of patent-based Web technology, but fail to mention severe defects in the protocol outlined in the draft. This is a bit unfortunate because these concerns will be dealt with at the political level (at which the the decisions has already been made in one direction or the other), and the problems at the technical level remain if the draft is implemented despite the political opposition.

    For example, errors in the definition of an Essential Claim leave many, many loopholes. An example: If some patented technology is included in the later stage of a Recommendation, a patent owner can, in full compliance with the W3C procedures, obtain a patent without the need to disclose it. And that's not the only error. Basically, the patent holder decides which patents to reveal and which to hold back, and W3C cannot do anything about it. This makes most of the draft meaningless.

    My submission was wirtten hastily, so it's probably full of typos,strange thoughts and lack of facts, but if you are interested nevertheless, it's available at: http://www.s.netic.de/fw/w3c-patent-policy-2001-09 -30.pdf [netic.de]

  • by Gerv (15179) <gerv@@@gerv...net> on Sunday September 30, 2001 @06:20PM (#2371587) Homepage
    If this becomes the official Patent Policy of the W3C, even current standards (CSS 1 and 2, HTML 4) are not safe from retroactive patent encumbrance.

    Section 5.3 of the policy provides for the possibility of re-chartering an existing Working Group under a new Licensing Mode (i.e., given that no-one would have an incentive to change it the other way, re-chartering an RF Working Group as a RAND Working Group.)

    The Patent Advisory Group (the drafters of the new policy) can initiate this process and (albeit after approval from the Director), all the members get thrown out and have to be re-nominated, and *licensing commitments made by Working Group members under the older charter are void.*

    In other words, if the e.g. CSS Working Group were dissolved and reconsituted in this way, companies could start charging licensing fees for the patents they hold on current CSS standards - either under RAND, or (worse) by withdrawing from the process completely and licensing under discriminatory terms.

    Who has CSS patents, and who would they like to discriminate against?

    Gerv
    • Current standards aren't safe _because_ of the current (a.k.a. nonexistent) W3C patent policy.

      As it stands right now, any company could come up with a 'torpedo' patent and lay claim to CSS or HTML or SVG. In fact one company has already "patented" the combination of W3C XForms and W3C XML signatures. When this happens, everyone looses.

      At least with a written policy, no company can claim ignorance.
  • As many others I too have lost confidence in the ability of W3C to direct the evolution of the Web.

    HTML 3.0 and MathML are but two examples of how the corporate nature of the W3C has led to the delay and/or abandonment of sound technical proposals.

    If you are interested in charting a new path for the web join the World Wide Web Standards Group (W4SG) [uwaterloo.ca].

  • by samantha (68231) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @07:07PM (#2371700) Homepage
    Something this important should have been brought up here over a month ago. To not hear about it until literally the last day is very surprising and disappointing. What happened? Some of the documents on the W3C site are dated last modified on 8/10/2001.

    That said, I believe we should raise bloody hell. We can't afford to have the standards for the Web become closed and proprietary. I know of no way patents can be enforced without also closing the source of implementations. This is absolutely unacceptable. It is also unacceptable that basic software technology is owned as "property".
  • I think Douglas Adams described this "public comment" period best in "The hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy":

    Mr Prosser said: "You were quite entitled to make any suggestions
    or protests at the appropriate time you know."

    "Appropriate time?" hooted Arthur. "Appropriate time? The first I
    knew about it was when a workman arrived at my home yesterday. I
    asked him if he'd come to clean the windows and he said no he'd
    come to demolish the house. He didn't tell me straight away of
    course. Oh no. First he wiped a couple of windows and charged me
    a fiver. Then he told me."

    "But Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning
    office for the last nine month."

    "Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see
    them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn't exactly gone out of your
    way to call attention to them had you? I mean like actually
    telling anybody or anything."

    "But the plans were on display ..."

    "On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find
    them."

    "That's the display department."

    "With a torch."

    "Ah, well the lights had probably gone."

    "So had the stairs."

    "But look, you found the notice didn't you?"

    "Yes," said Arthur, "yes I did. It was on display in the bottom
    of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a
    sign on the door saying Beware of the Leopard."
  • The well of ideas (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Skapare (16644) on Monday October 01, 2001 @04:18AM (#2372758) Homepage
    Ahmed had wasted his first wish foolishly, and his second wish
    just to undo his first. Now he had one more wish remaining and
    he was determined to do it right this time. He was now determined
    to do something for others instead of for himself. He saw the
    suffering in his desert town. There was only one well in the
    town, and it was frequently drying up, or so everyone was told by
    the old man who owned it. The old man charged a handsome price
    to drink from the well; only on the days it was flowing.

    "I wish ...", he said as he paused, thinking carefully to make
    sure he did not make yet another mistake, for he had no fourth
    wish with which to correct any mistake. "I wish for a well which
    shall flow abundantly at all times, and provide water for all the
    people, and cannot be owned by anyone, or taxed or otherwise held
    for any ransom."

    The genie acknowledged his wish and promptly vanished, never to be
    seen again. Now he wondered if he would have what he wished for
    as he emerged from his small tent to find a noise near the center
    of town. So he went to see what this was.

    When he arrived at the center of town, he saw before him a sight
    never had anyone seen in any desert town before. Right in the
    center of town there was a might gusher of water springing forth.
    So much water that it was flowing down one of the streets and went
    flowing out into the desert for a mile before drying up.

    No one had known that it was Ahmed who had wished for this. Even
    he was unsure that it was his wish that had brought such a bounty.
    He told no one. Surely they would not believe him anyway. But
    his real desire was for his town to prosper and be happy, and so
    it was. And so, Ahmed was happy.

    For 10 years the well did flow. Night and day it did flow. The
    trade routes across the desert changed over the years to come by
    way of the town. The people had built a great trough to make it
    so a thousand camels could drink from the water at the same time.
    No one had even seen a hundred camels at one time before the day
    the great well sprang up. Now there were hundreds of traders and
    thousands of camels. The more that drank from the well, the more
    it gushed forth.

    No one paid for any water, but the people of the town became rich
    anyway, because so much trade came by that everything else was
    being bought and sold. The town prospered greatly, and even Ahmed
    had become richer than his very first wish had made him.

    Why was the old man digging a new well? He had toiled on it for
    two years, he and his six sons and twenty grandsons. They already
    had one well that flowed only some, and now another? But water
    did come from his new well regularly, but only one bucket at a
    time as before. Why was he doing this, Ahmed wondered.

    Another year had passed and not only was the town prospering, but
    even nearby towns which had no magic wells were also prospering
    just because the trade routes were larger than they ever had been.
    Ahmed travelled to see the wonders of his magic well and how it
    had affected all the people in so many towns. There was plenty
    of trade through all the land, and so many new things to be traded
    that even Ahmed could not have imagined to wish for had he even a
    thousand wishes.

    Ahmed had travelled for almost a year in his land and was now
    returning home to his town which was now thirty times larger than
    it was many years before. He looked forward to sleeping again in
    his house, which had replaced his small tent. But as he arrived
    home, he saw what he could not yet imagine.

    A long line of people had formed in front of the well the old man
    and his family had dug up. He was bring up water from his well,
    and charging more for this water than he had ever charged before.
    And the people were paying for it. Ahmed came to one man in the
    line and ask why? The man said "I must drink, and here is the
    place for water."

    "What of the great magic well?" Ahmed asked, careful to not say he
    had wished for one that would flow forever. "Is it not flowing?"
    "It is" the man in line said, "but it is poison".

    Terrified, Ahmed rushed into the center of town only to see the
    well still gushing forth, but no one drinking of it, nor anyone
    watering their camels, nor filling their flasks. Walls had been
    built up around it. As Ahmed approach the well to check the water
    someone recognized him and came to him and warned him. "Over a
    thousand people have died after you left." he said. "The poison
    is slight, but if you drink more than one drink every two days it
    will cause you a horrible sickness, and if you continue, you will
    surely die, as did my wife and half of my children."

    "How did this happen?" Ahmed demanded to know. "The old man who
    has the other wells, it must be he who has done this." came the
    terrifying answer. "He came to the well one day with a small
    golden chalice and filled it, then poured it back in and laughed."
    The man continued, "that day two thousand became sick, and the
    next day three hundred people and three thousand camels died."

    As the years went on, the great well did continue to flow. It did
    not stop, not even in the greatest of droughts and famines. The
    old man now had three wells from which he sold water, and owned
    almost all the land in and around the town. No one was allowed to
    dig new wells. Most of the traders stopped coming. Few people
    remained in the town. The riches had come to an end, except for
    one family. The old man now had three wells and they flowed as
    well as any well normally did. His business was brisk, and it
    made him and his family rich. He was even richer than he was in
    the time of the great well. But no one else was.

    But soon the town dwindled to just a few people. The old man had
    passed away, and most of his family moved on to other towns in the
    land. Two of his sons stayed, but without the traders coming in
    such numbers as during the great well, even they were no longer
    prospering.

    Ahmed was thirsty, and grabbed two coins and went down to the well
    still run by the old man's two sons. "One drink" he asked, as he
    held out his hand offering the two coins. "Sorry, the well is not
    flowing today. Come back tomorrow and bring four coins." Ahmed
    wondered if maybe he should just take one drink from the magic
    well. But he knew he could not do that as often as he needed to
    drink.

    And Ahmed soon moved away to another town, not wanting to even see
    the great well anymore, for it was such an ugly sight.

    Today, the ideas of the thousands are the great well of bounty
    that flows into our technological economy. We all prosper from
    such a well, but no one prospers above the others. It is shared
    and we all prosper equally in our own way. Those who would want
    to change things so the well flows only for them would seek to
    stop the well from flowing. Since they cannot stop it, the best
    they can do is poison it. Everyone prospers when everyone shares
    in that prosperity. Poison the well of ideas, and the prosperity
    only comes to those who have the poison. But even their level of
    prosperity, while more than the others, will diminish.

    So many patents do not serve to advance ideas, but only serve to
    corner markets. Most patents do not bring water to the well, but
    only poison it.

    Technology runs at such a pace the patent office can no longer do
    the things it needs to do. The patent office just leaves it up to
    the courts to decide which is valid and which is not, so they will
    just issue all but the most obviously duplications. Few ever get
    taken to court because the cost of doing that is so high. Patents
    may be intended to advance the science and the arts, but today
    they are not doing this at a level anywhere near what should be
    expected from the number issued. One of the greatest advances we
    have seen in the last several years, the internet, has advanced
    the science and the arts with virtually no patents at all.

    Unpoisoned ideas are what makes us all prosper, and when we all
    share in that prosperity, then it is the greatest prosperity.
  • Another agrees with Alan Cox.

    For those who don't want to dig through the whole W3C proposal, here
    is their basic justification for this idea. In the spirit of Noam
    Chomsky, I have attempted to translate what they are really saying. I
    think the agenda is pretty clear.

    <w3c> The sine qua non of the Web revolution is the open standards
    environment on which the Web is built and continues to grow. The
    Web's open technical standards have developed through the open,
    collaborative process created by the World Wide Web Consortium. As
    Web technology has become more commercially critical and the impact
    of software and business process patents are felt more strongly in
    the Web development arena, W3C believes it is necessary to adopt a
    more comprehensive policy and process for addressing the
    relationship between the open technical Recommendations developed
    by W3C and patent rights held by both W3C Members and others.
    </w3c>

    <translation> "sine qua non" means "something absolutely indispensable
    or essential." (source: www.m-w.com) But the W3C can, in just two
    more paragraphs, show us that this revolution is now over and the
    new standards will be "nil sine numine" (nothing without the divine
    will). We know who the divine are and it's not you and me.
    </translation>

    <w3c> The root of the challenge posed by patents in any standards
    arena is that participants in a standards body will be unwilling
    and unable to work collaboratively if, at the end of the process,
    the jointly-developed standard can only be implemented by meeting
    licensing terms that are unduly burdensome, unknown at the
    beginning or even the end of the design process, or considered
    unreasonable. At the same time, many Members invest significant
    research effort in the development of their own intellectual
    property portfolios, so are concerned about protecting and
    benefiting from proprietary technology they have developed or
    acquired.
    </w3c>

    <translation> Michele Herman (Microsoft), Scott Peterson (HP),
    Tony Piotrwoski (Philips) and Helene Plotka Workman (Apple) and
    others who form the W3C can't work together on an open standard
    because they really would rather patent the technology. In fact,
    sometimes one of them even stabs the others in the back at the last
    minute by saying "Thank you for helping us develop this standard
    and for helping us promote it. Now guess what. We've got it
    patented! Ha Ha Ha!"

    What they want to do is get each other to agree ahead-of-time that
    this or that standard is going to be patented. They'll probably
    take turns deciding which company gets to own the patent. To
    justify this, they say, it's expensive to do this research.

    I'm sure research like this is expensive, but if expensive research
    is worth it, the market will accept it and make it a defacto
    standard. If the research is patented the research has to be even
    more valuable to the public or it won't be accepted as a
    standard. But no argument is given to the effect that we will get
    more or better research done if that research comes with the
    blessing of the W3C. They just want to get paid for the research
    they are doing. That's not objectionable, but trying to get paid by
    hijacking a previously open standards body has the ugly smell of a
    meat packer bribing the USDA.
    </translation>

    <w3c> In developing a new patent policy for W3C Activities, our goal
    is to affirm the Web community's longstanding preference for
    Recommendations that can be implemented on a royalty-free (RF)
    basis. Where that is not possible, the new policy will provide a
    framework to assure maximum possible openness based on reasonable,
    non-discriminatory (RAND) licensing terms.
    </w3c>

    <translation> When our large coporate partners give the signal, we
    will march in step, salute, and endorse a patented technology as
    part of a standard.
    </translation>

    <w3c> The second decade of the Web has already demonstrated that
    patents will be a factor in the ongoing development of the World
    Wide Web infrastructure. A variety of factors suggest that the Web
    will be increasingly affected by the patent process. The Patent
    Policy Working Group (PPWG) has identified the following
    significant factors:

    Convergence: The Web had its origins in the personal computer
    software industry, where patents had seldom been a factor in
    development dynamics. However, as the Web comes into contact with
    the telecommunications, broadcast media and consumer electronics
    industries, the tradition of patenting technology from those
    industries will likely be carried over to the Web. Rise in patent
    issuance: Patent offices, led by the U.S. PTO, are issuing patents,
    especially in the software sector, at record rates. Experience of
    Internet-related standards bodies: A number of standards bodies
    including W3C, IETF, the WAP Forum, and others, have encountered
    potential barriers to acceptance of standards because of licensing
    requirements perceived as onerous. Popularity of business method
    patents: Beginning with the State Street decision in the United
    States and continuing through high-profile litigation between
    Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com, business method patents have
    become increasingly significant factor in the ecommerce
    marketplace. These factors make it clear that the W3C must have a
    clear and effective policy to address the inevitable increase in
    patent issues that will come before individual Working Groups and
    the Membership as a whole. </w3c>

    <translation>
    Beyond the traditional software companies, lots of other big media companies also want patents.

    Developers don't accept standards that have LARGE patent fees
    associated with them. (We'll try to give them ones that have
    smaller fees)

    Wow, there are lots of software patents being issued - some of them
    are really idiotic. This is a gold mine we don't want to miss out
    on.

    It's funny. None of this is a logical argument for their
    position. They are simply stating what is going on the
    industry. Companies like to patent.
    </translation>

    <w3c> Importance of interoperability for core infrastructure, lower
    down the stack: Preservation of interoperability and global
    consensus on core Web infrastructure is of critical importance. So
    it is especially important that the Recommendations covering
    lower-layer infrastructure be implementable on an RF
    basis. Recommendations addressing higher-level services toward the
    application layer may have a higher tolerance for RAND terms.
    Better disclosure: A clear process, to which Members are committed
    and/or bound to ensure better disclosure of essential patents as a
    condition of Membership, is vital. Access for general public (not
    just Members): Licensing terms for essential technology should be
    available on a non-discriminatory basis to W3C Members and
    non-Members alike. Working Group flexibility: One patent licensing
    framework may not be appropriate to every W3C Working
    Group. Therefore, Working Groups should have flexibility to specify
    minimum licensing terms as part of their work. These intellectual
    property rights requirements should then become the basis for
    Advisory Committee and Director review of the resulting
    specification.
    </w3c>

    <translation> These vague and unenforceable guidelines will protect
    the process from getting out of hand.

    Our member companies won't screw each other by keeping silent about
    their patent intentions until the end.

    We'll let the public comment, but we can ignore what they say.

    Each working group can rewrite the rules whenever they want.
    </translation>

    The W3C is sowing the seeds of their own destruction. What we are
    likely to get are lots patents of not all that great commercial
    appeal. If a company has an idea for a patent with lots of commercial
    appeal, they won't put it in the W3C which might restrict the royalty
    fee they can charge. If something is truly revolutionary, it will
    follow normal patent routes. The market will decide. If something is
    less than truly revolutionary, these companies will try to get the W3C
    to endorse it and hope that that will fool people into using it. Then
    they'll spring the royalty fees on us.

    Then we'll all hate the W3C and it will become a large rotting useless
    body. The web will "mature" like other technolgies where innovation
    happens as often as it did in Europe during the middle ages.

  • by xiox (66483)
    Okay, it's after the deadline, but in mailing list [w3.org]

    Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2001 23:51:42 -0600 (MDT)
    Message-Id: <200110010551.XAA04108@aztec.santafe.edu>
    From: Richard Stallman <rms@gnu.org>
    To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
    Subject: W3C patent policy

    If the World-Wide Web is indeed to remain "world-wide", it must not
    depend on restricted standards. The W3C cannot prevent others from
    developing or using restricted standards, but it should not lend its
    name to them.

    Therefore, the W3C should adopt a policy that all important standards
    must have free patent licenses (and thus allow free software).
    Perhaps there are some standards for specialized kinds of
    business-to-business communication which are sufficiently unimportant
    that it may not be disastrous if they are patented. These standards
    do not really deserve the term "world-wide", but they may still be
    worth the W3C's attention. But standards that really are of
    world-wide importance must be free.

    The "back-door RAND" problem pointed out by Adam Warner is especially
    crucial. When the W3C decides that a certain standard ought to be
    patent-free, no circumstances should be allowed to annul that
    decision.

    Aside from these substantive changes in policy, the W3C should also
    stop using the term "reasonable and non-discriminatory", because that
    term white-washes a class of licenses that are normally neither
    reasonable nor non-discriminatory. It is true that they do not
    discriminate against any specific person, but they do discriminate
    against the free software community, and that makes them unreasonable.

    I suggest the term "uniform fee only", or UFO for short, as a replacement for
    "reasonable and non-discriminatory".

  • Here's what I think really happened. Some W3C members have probably been pushing for years to allow their patented technologies into standards. The sensible people used to just say "no", but under increasing pressure, they decided to let the "proposal" be drafted, then decided to see what the public thinks. The public completely shuts it down. Now they can say "nobody wants this" and have actual proof of this statement.

    I want to know who the smart cookie was who came up with that! It's kinda brilliant.

From Sharp minds come... pointed heads. -- Bryan Sparrowhawk

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