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A Call For Cooperation Against Web Patents

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Ben Henick

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User since: 24 Jan 2000

Articles written: 9

Those needing background on this matter should read href="" target="patentWin">W3C Extends Comment Period for Patent Proposal.

"We must indeed all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately." - Benjamin Franklin, 4 July 1776

Crying in unison for an open Web

I have published an essay suggesting that the W3C needs to hear objective feedback from a wide variety of people if there is to be any hope of mitigating or stopping the possibility that future Web standards will need to be licensed.

We all play a part in marshalling the response.

Most Evolters have a professional interest in the Web. However, there are many others who will be hurt if the W3C Patent Policy Framework continues to chug along without significant changes.

The possiblity of licensing fees being charged for standard Web technologies has become very real, and those fees will have to paid by someone, somehow.

Who will take the hit? The Web depends on participation from a wide variety of people - developers, creatives, software publishers, infrastructure and presence providers, end users, clients, governments, and others.

If you can perceive yourself as belonging to a group that would be negatively affected by licensing requirements for Web standards, post your concerns.

Tell any others who likewise may be affected to do the same.

What it would mean to "hang together..." or "hang separately"

The Web "community" needs to organize in the face of the W3C's actions. The necessary action can be described in stages:

  • First, to try and stop the process;
  • Second, to present a palatable alternative to what is being proposed if the process cannot be stopped;
  • Third, to promote cooperation across the Web "community" in the event that the Patent Policy Framework is approved without significant changes.

The last of these outcomes especially needs to be prepared for. In the event that patented technologies are allowed to be made into W3C Recommendations, four things might happen, singly or in combination:

  • The W3C will be marginalized much as it was during the "Best Viewed With" era of the mid-Nineties;
  • A schism will result as Open Source Software and proprietary software interests create competing technologies;
  • Those asked to foot the bill for licensing will refuse to do so, creating a technology vacuum that a well-coordinated group of Web developers and software developers will be well-situated to fill;
  • Microsoft and other large companies will establish sanctioned monopolies over critical elements of the everyday Web, minimizing further the ability of Web users and developers to "vote with their feet" as a response to inadequate or restrictive software.

I would recommend thelist as an excellent place to organize, and plead that you encourage your friends and colleagues to offer their participation.

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