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[DotGNU]Moglen Re: W3C Patent Policy Minutes for 10/28 Meeting

From: Seth Johnson
Subject: [DotGNU]Moglen Re: W3C Patent Policy Minutes for 10/28 Meeting
Date: Sun, 10 Nov 2002 07:08:44 -0500

(Eben's comments.  BTW, I think it's clear Eben deserves
profound thanks from the community for his work here.  It
is, after all, evidently a final decision for a royalty-free
policy, contentious as that decision may be.  -- Seth)

-------- Original Message --------
Date: Sat, 9 Nov 2002 10:25:19 -0500
From: Eben Moglen <address@hidden>

Reporting on the W3C for our community raises complex issues
for those of us who are invited experts on the PPWG.  The
group is "member confidential," which means that there's an
agreement not to go beyond the  public minutes and documents
in public statements.  But member organizations, of course,
assume that they can internally discuss matters at any level
of detail they like.  Larry Rosen, Bruce Perens and I have
been somewhat constrained in what we can say to what is,
after all, the equivalent of our organization.

With that in mind, I can say that the final decision for an
RF-only policy is highly controversial within the WG, which
did not reach consensus and which resolved that large
question, and several smaller issues, on relatively close
votes.  Member organizations that disagree with the policy
are preparing their formal objections and their
presentations to the Advisory Committee.  Among the
strongest arguments they present is that even a policy
requiring technical Working Group members, or even all W3
members, to make their patent claims available RF cannot
prevent third-party patents from encumbering standards, and
that an organization that can make effective standards must
have some method for dealing with the incorporation of
patented technology.  Therefore, they say, work will simply
be done elsewhere than in the W3, and some have gone so far
as to say that they think the value of their W3C membership
should be reconsidered.  A subtext in that discussion is an
issue, occasionally heated, about whether the W3C is the
creature of its members only, or whether it has a broader
public interest to serve, and if so how the activities of
the staff and the Director should be understood to serve
that public interest.

This is perfectly legitimate politics within the W3C itself,
which must decide through the votes of its members what to
do with the recommendations of the PPWG.  It is relevant to
the recognition that even the proposed RF policy, which is
not everything that the free software movement sought to
achieve by any means, is an unstable and controversial deal
that may yet fall apart.

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