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Act Now To Sidestep A W3C Patent Pitfall

timothy posted more than 11 years ago | from the this-is-not-the-santa-clause dept.

The Internet 210

Jay Sulzberger, Corresponding Secretary of LXNY (New York's Free Computing Organization) writes with a report on the ongoing fight over patents in Web standards. "In the past two years the Free Software Movement has moved W3C, the Official Standards Body of the World Wide Web, from a proposed patent policy, which would have, in future, denied us our present right to full and free use of free software to build the Web, to a policy intended to guarantee that free software may be used without fear of patent encumbrances. This move is an important victory for us. But the present proposed policy on patents has a bug that is worth fixing. The mechanism of the bug is non-obvious, except to people who have studied the GPL and certain other free software licenses. It is a bug that, if the proposal is made an official standard, would allow for patent encumbrances to be laid on certain free software in circumstances where today no encumbrance is allowed." Read the rest of Jay's commentary (below) on this devil in the details.

Here is what the Free Software Foundation says on its front page about this bug:

"The W3C 'Royalty-Free' patent policy proposal does not protect the rights of the Free Software community to full participation in the implementation and extension of web standards. Please read more on this issue and send a comment to the W3C."

Part of the effort that moved the W3C to its present position was a furious outpouring of comments in opposition to the original proposal of the Englobulators:

The fix needed right now is a small fix. But the W3C must again be reminded with what jealous vigor we guard our right to build our Web the way we have built it down to this day, using free software. The bug appears in Item 3 of Section 3, titled 'W3C Royalty-Free (RF) Licensing Requirements,' of the present proposal.

This Item allows for a supposedly free grant to use a patent to be so restricted that a piece of Web infrastructure software might be encumbered if used for some non-Web use. Since the GPL does not allow such encumbrancing, GPL-ed Web software re-purposed for non-Web use could not be legally freely redistributed. Please read the Free Software Foundation's page on this bug.

Here is the official Last Call for Comments.

If you write a comment in your own words, for repair of the bug, it will help. I shall write in, and I shall argue against adoption of the buggy sub-section. I shall also suggest an extension of the deadline for comments.

cancel ×

210 comments

Act now to get FIRST POST! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4984174)

or not

it's hard to do sometimes

Gee (0, Troll)

unterderbrucke (628741) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984181)

The lady from the Free Software movement is trying to say that the W3C wouldn't allow free software used any more. I doubt it, but too bad I can't read the article since it's filled with still more doublespeak.

ach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4984419)

Ye tried, laddie, but the fp wisnae yers te have,

Re:Gee (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4984741)

Stop spending all your time trying to get FP. Get a life.

FFII (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4984746)

FFFII SWpat working group takes action on very similar issues.

http://swpat.ffii.org

and even more important there is a very successful petition against software patents:

http://www.noepatents.org

Official Web Standards ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4984184)


Where does it say that on w3's website ?
all i can find are reccomendations

unless they have suddenly become ISO [www.iso.ch]

big fucking difference

I'll pay attention to this... (-1)

Blacklist Blacklist (629645) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984191)

when slashdot stops BANNING the HTML Validator [w3.org] and begins to use real HTML!

Until then: Bah.

HAH HAH!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4984383)

that is hilarious. i haven't tried the validator with slashdot in awhile, but i remember a ton of errors in their code.

i guess they just fear being embarassed so they just ban it.

Hats off to Jay (0)

Gortbusters.org (637314) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984204)

Hats off to Jay for fighting the good fight.

GPL is the bug. (-1, Insightful)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984205)

The GPL is not an unrestricted license.

I repeat:

THE GPL IS NOT AN UNRESTRICTED LICENSE.

If you want the net to be completely free, then not only can't portions of it be restricted as intellectual property, then it also shouldn't be restricted by a license like the GPL.

I would tend to oppose the use of a standard in which the specification is GPL'd, because in the case of a standard, I'd like commercial entities to be able to incorporate access to such a standard in their software; something they probably wouldn't do if they would be forced to open their source. This would effectively limit access to that standard to non-commercial programs.

If the author of a GPL'd work wishes to submit the protocol involved as a standard, then let him submit it as FREE. He can keep the code GPL'd, but the standard must be free for use -- even by commercial entities.

Re:GPL is the bug. (2)

Telex4 (265980) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984246)

But web licenses have different problems and agendas to software licenses. The web depends on open standards being used across the board to fully work. As soon as some parties go off and create their own proprietary extensions, and then build a considerable presence on the web, the freedom of users who don't wish to use this extension, or who cannot, is severely limited. This has been one of the problems with technologies like Flash, though happily the problems are being ironed out by Macromedia and web designers.

So you've got to ensure that commercial entities can incorporate the standards in their software, yes (I don't think anyone was suggesting the contrary; perhaps the LGPL, designed for libraries with just the sort of get-out clauses you seem to suggets by implication). But you also have to provide a strong incentive for people who extend the protocls to ensure compatability, and where it becomes necessary, to open the new standards they are creating.

Re:GPL is the bug. (2, Interesting)

DunbarTheInept (764) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984275)

A spec isn't source code. When you apply the GPL to a DOCUMENT rather than to a piece of code, all it ends up meaning is that you can't make a closed extension to that document, not that you can't use the standard it describes in commercial closed software. (So let's say that hypothetically the document describing HTTP was GPL'ed. That wouldn't mean all software implementing HTTP would have to be GPL'ed, as you seem to be trying to imply. It would mean if someone takes that HTTP-describing document and decides to branch a new version of it that has additional proprietary commands in it, that that new document would have to be GPLed.)

GPL-ing the standards document doesn't "infect" software that implements what that document describes unless you cut & paste the text of the document verbatim into that software's source code. (And, NO, saying something like, "/* This next bit of code implements part 3 of the whatsihoosit compliance document */" doesn't count as "including" that document in the code.

Offtopic?? What? (3, Interesting)

DunbarTheInept (764) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984639)

Okay, who's the moron out there that believes a post asserting a difference between GPLing of spec documents verses actual code is somehow "offtopic" under a post that's about GPLing specs infecting closed code, which in turn was under an article about GPLing spec documents? The only way to be more on-topic would be to be the person submitting the original article. But whether or not something is on-topic has nothing to do with whether or not you agree that it's true.

Is someone moderating posts at random here?

Re:GPL is the bug. (1)

RandLS (637452) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984290)

I agree with this completely. The net wouldn't exist as it does today if the GPL were used as the license of choice in "the early days". It's the BSD license that has promoted the internet as we know it, allowing commercial entities to implement standards (such as TCP/IP) without restriction.

Re:GPL is the bug. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4984310)

But...

Haven't you heard of the great businessmodel we should all use?

1) Make free software.
2) ?
3) Profit!

And just to spare everyone to spend time doing something else lets outlaw everything else.

Blah! (3, Informative)

Dr. Evil (3501) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984315)

You can't GPL a specification, that doesn't make any sense. You can GPL a document which contains a specification, but to protect the specification itself, you would have to patent it.

The GPL has nothing to do with patents, it has to do with copyright. If patents try to assert control over copy-rights, then the GPL has something to say.

If that is it, I suppose an illustration of the implementation and the problem, would be that if GIFs were part of the standard, then we could read them from the web, and generate them for the web, but using the software for non-web purposes would be restricted?

I think what they're saying here is that people could patent use of software outside the domain of the web, and use the patented technology as part of the web standard... crippling implementations of free software in such a way that they cannot evolve beyond the web. Could intranets be a problem?

I don't really get it, as a patent is a patent is a patent. There are plenty of things free software can't do now just because of patents. This may actually be to our bennefit as patent-encumbured technologies would have to shed control if they wanted to be incorporated into the web...

Insert obligatory "patents are stupid" comment here.

Re:Blah! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4984372)

Patents aren't stupid. If someone works hard ten years to make a new exciting invention they don't deserve to be ripped off right away. Thats what patents are for, protect a precise invention.

Abuse of the patent laws as we see now, that is a different story that can very well be the worst disaster the software industry could possibly be put in.

Re:GPL is the bug. (5, Interesting)

XaXXon (202882) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984346)

Jesus christ..

I hate being Mr-RMS-protector and GPL-Anti-Basher, but the amount of bad "information" and people throwing completely unrelated things around infuriates me.

As some others have tried to say, this has nothing to do with the GPL putting the idea in some sort of "forced distribution" form as the author of the original comment would have you believe.

The GPL doesn't put restrictions on the distribution of ideas, only their implementations.

Here's an analogy as I see it:

Say I'd patented the idea of drawing pictures on a computer screen, and up until now the web (and computers in general) were only text base. Yes I'm stretching, but go with me for a second. I want to put pictures in a W3C standard, but I don't want to give up my right to charge money for my one-handed picture-viewing slideshow program. I submit it to the W3C standard and say "It's okay for people to use my patented idea for free for web applications." Now someone goes and makes a graphics-enabled web browser and distributes it under the GPL. Someone else then takes that GPL code and turns it into a GPL'd one-handed slideshow program -- a right the GPL affords them. Suddenly they are in violation of my patent. But the original author of the graphical web browser didn't break my patent, and the person who modified it into the slideshow program didn't disobey the license on the web browser..

And that's the problem being addressed as I see it. Note how it has nothing to do with the GPL "virally infecting" the patented idea?

Next time, read the article (and perhaps the GPL) before getting on your little pedastal. Thank you, please drive thru.

Re:GPL is the bug. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4984413)

"Suddenly they are in violation of my patent. But the original author of the graphical web browser didn't break my patent, and the person who modified it into the slideshow program didn't disobey the license on the web browser.."

No, the modifiers was not violating the license but they DID violate the patent.

Just because you program using the GPL don't give you god-given rights to ignore all other laws and rights.

Re:GPL is the bug. (2)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984537)

And the key problem is that the recipient of said one-handed slideshow program (*ahem*) can no longer redistribute that program legally or otherwise use the patent-infriging source code. Thus the code and all the work put into it by the *modifier* who legally used GPLed code, perhaps without knowing about the patent restrictions, are now dead-ended. Useless. The infringing portion would have to be scrapped. In fact, it would be logically inconsistent to distribute it under the GPL since the referenced portion of the GPL is contradicted by the patent requirements. In other words, the software isn't TRULY GPLed, even if the original author says it's GPLed.


Quite simply, nothing in the article or the submission said anything about GPLing the W3C standard. It just pointed out a legal inconsistency between the new W3C patent requirements and the ABILITY to write your own GPLed implementation of future W3C standards.

Re:GPL is the bug. (1)

v(*_*)vvvv (233078) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984549)

the amount of bad "information" and people throwing completely unrelated things around infuriates me.

Hmm... Pick any political topic of debate. Pick any news or information source. Pick any commercial. Pick any text book in high school. Should I continue?

Information as usual if you ask me.

Re:GPL is the bug. (2)

Viking Coder (102287) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984592)

Wonderfully put.

Re:GPL is the bug. (2)

Ami Ganguli (921) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984349)

Seriously, you have no clue what you're talking about. This has nothing to do with GPLing the standard (if that were even possible).

It's about allowing the standard to be implemented using GPL'd software. That's it. Nothing about limiting non-GPL implementations.

Note that most (all?) common web protocols can and are implemented in both GPL'd and commercial software. These guys are just trying to make sure that this continues to be true.

Re:GPL is the bug. (3, Informative)

Chops (168851) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984424)

This is bunkum.
I would tend to oppose the use of a standard in which the specification is GPL'd

Bzzt -- there's no such thing as a specification that's GPLed, or at least I've never seen such a beast. Your post isn't very clear, but it seems you believe that the FSF is trying to promote standards that permit only GPLed implementations -- which isn't even close to what's going on.

The W3C has adopted a limp-wristed patent policy which would allow a patented technology X into web standards, so long as it was licensed for free use within the context of the relevant web technologies -- but no one, not even commercial entities, would be able to write software which imitated X outside the realm of the WWW. That's bad for everybody except the lawyers.

The only thing this even has to do with the GPL is that the GPL can't be applied to software which is restricted by patents in this way.

Re:Moderation on ``GPL is the bug.'' (3, Informative)

RealAlaskan (576404) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984455)

I don't usually complain about moderation, but this shouldn't be +5.

The GPL is not an unrestricted license.

True, the GPL does not remove all restrictions which copyright law imposes. How is that relevant to the matter at hand? The matter at hand (I think) is whether we should ensure that standards are implementable by free/Libre software.

I would tend to oppose the use of a standard in which the specification is GPL'd ...

The GPL doesn't really make sense when we're talking about something like a document. That's why the FSF folks came up with their free document license. Again, there seems to be no connection to the matter at hand. Now look at the next paragraph:

If the author of a GPL'd work wishes to submit the protocol involved as a standard, then let him submit it as FREE. He can keep the code GPL'd, but the standard must be free for use -- even by commercial entities.

This seems to confirm the confusion that the earlier lines hinted at. This talks about restrictions on the text of standards, rather than restrictions on the use of standards.

This post seems to me to be off-topic. It is tangentially related, perhaps, but it definitely doesn't advance the discussion.

It might be considered inflammatory, and it almost seems to be deliberately confused, as if it were intended to provoke impassioned responses. In short, it has a smell of troll, or simple ignorance. Now, look at the moderation:

Moderation Totals: Insightful=3, Informative=1, Overrated=1, Total=5.

Three insightfuls and an informative? Moderators, if you don't know, don't moderate. Somebody with some mod points should tack on a couple more Overrated's, too.

A copyright licence is NOT a patent licence! (5, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984465)

Let me try to make it clearer with an example. Ford owns the copyright to the Ford cars. But that doesn't mean that Toyota can't also make a Toyota car.

But if Ford has a patent required for making *any* car (e.g. a component or standard required by law), Toyota is screwed.

This is about patents in internet standards which would prevent any GPL implementation. I don't understand what you're trying to say. Is ISS illegal because Apache exists? NO. But would Apache be illegal if Microsoft/ISS had a patent on HTTP? YES!

Kjella

-1 Overrated (2)

Alsee (515537) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984506)

You don't know what you are talking about.

The GPL does not in any way restrict standards.

It is patents appearing in standards that restricts the use of standards.

-

Re:GPL is the bug. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4984518)

You are mistaking protocol for source code. The GPL may impose some how-tos on how the code is shared/distributed, but has no bearing on protocols or inventions. Apples and oranges, my friend.

The GPL has no effect on patents. The W3C recommendation, on the other hand, restricts the way the GPL allows (or restricts) redistribution.

Re:GPL is the bug. (2)

zurab (188064) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984541)

I think you didn't read and/or fully understand the issue.

I repeat:

I think you didn't read and/or fully understand the issue.

This is not about GPL, any specific license, etc. This is about standards that have been defined by W3C being patentable in non-web use.

A simple example, as I understand would be
- W3C adopts a method for special content delivery patented by company A as a standard
- W3C policy states that this standard is now freely implementable by anyone for use via web (item 3) only
- W3C isn't involved in non-web delivery;
- Hence, company A is free to claim its patent rights for implementation and distribution of its patented delivery method via e-mail, file sharing client, instant messenger, etc.

Now, you may agree or disagree with the submitter or the FSF, but taking a shot at GPL isn't warranted because that's not what is at stake. You have completely missed the point.

Re:GPL is the bug. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4984603)

Hello, you got the "GPL isn't TEH FREE LISENSE!" part right, but you really need to make a personal attack on RMS to make your anti-GPL rant complete. Perhaps you could call him a communist? I haven't heard that one in a while.

Re:GPL is the bug. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4984616)

man, can people _please_ stop giving these stupid "i don't like the GPL, because i want to be able to sell other people's work" arguments ?

Let me get this straight... (2, Interesting)

DevilM (191311) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984212)

The FSF wants the W3C to force anyone wishing to use a patent as part of a web standard to give a royalty free license to everyone no matter what the use of the patented technology including non-web software. I don't see how non-web software is any of W3C's concern. Nor do I see how the FSF forcing this issue is going to make the web world better.

If the FSF wants all software free, great! But, let's not waste everyone's time fighting in the wrong forums.

Re:Let me get this straight... (5, Informative)

DeLabarre (236800) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984260)

No, what the FSF wants is for the W3C standard to be defined in a way that GPL'ed software can comply with. If complying with the W3C standard requires the use of any restricted software technology, then there might not be compliant GPL browsers and servers, and everyone loses.

If the patent owners don't want to release their IP, then the patented technology shouldn't be part of the standard. Period.

Re:Let me get this straight... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4984461)

No, thats not correct, don't the moderators read the article?

The W3C require that patents can't be used at software that implements the standards for web purposes while the FSF wants that removed so that they can use patented technology whereever they want to.

The FSF are wrong here, they don't have any moral right to demand that they should get royalty free access to patent-protected technology _outside_ the web if not specifically allowed by the owners.

W3C's domain is the web and they can't possibly make demands of what kind of patents people have outside the web.

Re:Let me get this straight... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4984707)

AC troll. The parent poster is correct, and your post is semi-nonsensical.


The W3C OUGHT TO require that if something is submitted as a standard, the submitter provides unlimited use licenses to any relevant patents. The companies have a right to proprietary IP, it just doesn't have any place in an Internet standard. Period.


The FSF doesn't take the position that they have the moral right to demand royalty free access to patent-protected technology, UNLESS that technology is part of a W3C standard. If a company wants their technology to be blessed as an Internet standard, they should relinquish patent rights on it, or provide an unlimited, non-terminatable license for use.


Of course W3C can't make demands of what patents company's have. They can however make it their policy that in exchange for the official W3C blessing of standardization, the relevant patents (i.e. the ones used by the standard) have to be licensed freely for reuse. If the company doesn't want their damned technology standardized, they don't have to submit it to the W3C, and they can keep all the patent rights.

Re:Let me get this straight... (5, Insightful)

Fastolfe (1470) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984277)

The issue is that some "web" technologies (e.g. HTML) can easily find themselves in other areas (e.g. HTML e-mail). With the licensing phrased the way it is now, a "web" standard can be made free and beautiful, get entrenched as a de facto standard, but then everyone wanting to extend that into other related technologies would suddenly have to pay out the nose for patent royalties, which neatly excludes most all free software. This is the situation we are trying to avoid.

Wouldn't it suck to have to pay out royalties for technologies like SOAP because HTTP had patent encumberences that were only ignorable when dealing with the web?

The Internet is not the Interweb, and though the W3C is a "web" pseudo-standards body, they need to realize that their recommendations tend to extend well beyond the web and need to plan accordingly. A standard that's deliberately crippled so as not to be extensible is generally a bad standard.

Re:Let me get this straight... (2)

Elwood P Dowd (16933) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984790)

Um, I think that's wrong too.

If I understand correctly, and I may not, it's worse than that. Imagine a new patented standard, STDML. The patent holders say, "You may use my patents, but only on the web."

Now it is against the GPL to use that standard at all, since there is a restriction on the reuse of the code. No GPLed software would be able to use the standard in any form, on the web or otherwise.

This isn't just a problem with philosophy. It's a very practical problem. Many Free Software folks are not of the RMS opinion that everything can and must be GPLed. We just want them to be able to play on the same field as proprietary and "Open Source" folks. This locks them out.

Re:Let me get this straight... (2)

RickHunter (103108) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984905)

The other thing to remember is that "web standards" tend to be widespread, and get used in other things. Take HTTP, for example. Or HTML, or XHTML. Or URLs. Or Javascript. (See Mozilla) There's lots of places where "web standards" were found to be more universally useful than just browsers.

And, completely independant of the GPL issues, this stands to block that, restricting the scope of patented standards to web browsers. This excludes any sort of automation, or even web servers!

Better yet.... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4984463)

why patent software at all? I don't understand why software is patentable to begin with. It's like patenting lumber for use as a construction material.

In Canada, software is not patentable unless it has a specific application as part of and inherit to a mechanical system. For example, the software that controls a factory robot can be patented, but only as part of the complete robot system. This is a common sense approach to software patents, in my opinion.

The other problem with software patents is the modular nature of many programming languages. It will get to the point that programming will be very difficult as patents will cover any eventuality that a program could produce and call it a "technology".

Re:Let me get this straight... (2)

KjetilK (186133) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984494)

I tend to agree. While it is my opinion that software patents should not be granted, and I think that may be TimBL's position too, it is not the W3C's mission to reform a flawed Intellectual Property policy.

Also, W3C needs to be a bit careful, as it does run the risk of getting run over by the big patent-holders. Those have a lot of power in the market place. Probably, we should be happy with what we've achieved, W3C is currently pretty much the only big industry consortium that doesn't have a RAND policy. For off-web applications, it seems Linus' position of ignoring the patents is the only viable route.

And, BTW, just to make sure people hear this: W3C is not a standards body. It is an industry consortium and has never claimed to be a standards body.

BTW2, it has been posted before [slashdot.org] but has apparently now been made worthy of the front page.

Re:Let me get this straight... (4, Insightful)

Chops (168851) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984557)

It's important because, time and time again, this sort of pedantry has morphed over the years into an enormous deal. There was a pretty bitter battle a few years back over gzip; many people wanted to use LZW, a patent-encumbered compression technology, because it was good and easy, and it was in use all over the place. "The patent doesn't matter," they said, "For Christ's sake, they use LZW in GIFs." Others were extremely concerned about the legal implications this might have down the road; fortunately, the pedants won, and years later when Unisys started firing around lawsuits left and right, GNU/Linux companies did not find themselves on the receiving end of any of them. There are a few other examples, but in general it is now agreed that it is a Very Good Thing for free software to be compliant with the letter of patent law.

Unfortunately, web software which uses patented techniques simply can't be free software; its code cannot be redistributed without restriction. I think the thing the FSF is most afraid of is that people will implement patented techniques in GPLed web software and Not Worry About It. That would be bad. One scenario I can imagine is this: A developer sues a GNU/Linux vendor for royalties on his patent-encumbered web software, because the GPL can't be applied to patent-encumbered software, and hence the vendor is redistributing it without a license. Technically, the developer is correct.

It seems you don't care much whether free software is available; fair enough. I like having free software, though, and so the situation where (a) technology X is a widely-used standard (web or otherwise), and (b) it is illegal to write free software which implements technology X, seems as odious to me as it does to the FSF.

Re:Let me get this straight... (2)

Lonath (249354) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984755)

I don't see how non-web software is any of W3C's concern.

Hmm what is the Web anyway? If I have a 127.0.0.1 loopback on my computer am I a network of 1? If I am using a web browser and my link goes down can I still use the "patented technology" while I am not connected to the Internet?

Can I use the technology to do things using cell phones or PDA's which may not actually be connected to the Web sometimes or always?

Considering how transparent most network access is, I don't see how to draw a line between Web and non-Web software since the same piece of software could easily be used in both situations.

Reducto Ad Absurdum: Your k3wl browser with that neato (applet/script/program) running in it has to constantly check to make sure the Internet connection is up, and if the connection drops, it forces the (applet/script/program) to stop running for no other reason than it stopped being a "Web app"? OTOH, if it still is a "Web app" that can use this abstract thought patent, can I just hook my computer up to the Internet once then disconnect it forever and declare that all programs are "Web apps" and therefore ignore any Web-only restrictions on these abstract thought patents? How long does a "Web app" keep being protected after the connection drops?

If you put it like that... (2)

ubernostrum (219442) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984797)

Then it sounds bad. But think of it another way:

Internet standards published by the W3C are meant for everybody in the world to adhere to and use; that's the point of having Internet standards. Now, what good are those standards if some people can't adhere to them because the standard requires the use of royalty-encumbered patented concepts? If you want everybody in the world to adopt your idea as a standard, you have to give them access to it...

Badly needed background... (3, Informative)

persist1 (111477) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984214)

Also of note:

Working Draft, W3C Patent Policy [w3.org] ...

Abstract:

The W3C Royalty-Free Patent Policy governs the handling of patents in the process of producing Web standards. The goal of this policy is to assure that Recommendations produced under this policy can be implemented on a royalty-free basis.

World summit on Information society and IPR guys. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4984768)

Bruce Perens startet some rumor at IETF as well. Patents are bad for software. Therefore patents on software have to be abolished and IPR be trown out standard groups. IPR people are now very strong at ICANN. We have to enter the plattforms before it is too late. Next year there will be a world summit on information society in Geneva.

How cool is RiscOS? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4984215)

Someone please reply and tell me how cool RiscOS is. PLEASE.

gaddam (0, Offtopic)

FFON (266696) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984221)

wtf did he say? i'm from georgia me no understand

Re:gaddam (-1, Troll)

FFON (266696) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984241)

fuck off

Rationale for NOT submitting a comment: (1, Flamebait)

Meat Blaster (578650) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984235)

The radical growth of the Internet has been achieved largely because of the freedom of its developers to use the tools they felt necessary to implement the services that have become standards. While it is true that Free Software to a large part has been helpful to the process, I feel that forcing developers to avoid technologies that are patent-encumbered will promote the Free Software agenda at the expense of freedom: freedom to create the very technologies that allowed Free Software to thrive in the first place!

Isn't this an example of putting the cart before the horse? Free Software is great and all, but true freedom comes from not handing control of everything to one faction... something I would think would be obvious to other supporters of open source software. A monopoly over the Internet is just as bad in the hands of OSS developers as it would be in the hands of Microsoft.

Re:Rationale for NOT submitting a comment: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4984367)

A monopoly over the Internet is just as bad in the hands of OSS developers as it would be in the hands of Microsoft.

Anyone can take OSS software, change/rebrand it, and re-release it as their own. It is impossible to have a monopoly in this sort of situation. MS could take phoenix, re-brand it as IE and there is nothing we could do about it. OSS developers don't have a monopoly on anything. Anyone can give stuff away for free!!

MS the devil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4984666)

Yes, but they would also be forced to freely distribute the sorce code for IE and the rest of the system, since MS by their own words claim it to be an integral part of the OS.

MS has already taken some code, that was under the BSD lisence. Unfortunatly, the BSD lisence allows for anything. No need to release the code.

How is that insightful? (4, Insightful)

chriso11 (254041) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984375)

>A monopoly over the Internet is just
>as bad in the hands of OSS developers
>as it would be in the hands of Microsoft.

How? Tell me how that would be worse... If OSS dominated the web, you would be able to use any OS to access the web, and not have to pay for it. People would be able to not worry about strange patent limitations and being sued for single-click patents. The GPL places no restrictions on content created on the web, so anything on the web would be on the web in such a scenario. Any company that wanted to make a closed source application would not be prohibited, or secretly (or blatently, as the case may be) shut out of the standards committee.

So tell me how the web would be worse if it were dominated by the OSS instead of MS. Or shut up.

Re:Rationale for NOT submitting a comment: (1)

Stonefish (210962) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984449)

Patents are monopolies for a limited time span granted by the government.

The reason that they should not be incorporated into standards is that the standard gives the owner of the patent a huge financial boost and companies lobby to have their components as a mandatory or functional part of the standard.

Companies with techniques that are good enough are still free to implement and license technologies in a manner that can create a defacto standard or approach another standards body that does not have this requirement.

Good techniques don't need a standard their own excellence drive adoption!

Re:Rationale for NOT submitting a comment: (2)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984650)

Honestly, this isn't a great idea. There is a reason to make a stink here. I think RMS is a smelly nutjob as much as the next guy, but sometimes he's a correct smelly nutjob.


Look at MP3s. MP3s have patent encumbrances that make them fundamentally incompatible with the GPL. Thus a company like Red Hat cannot legally use and distribute MP3 player software under the GPL without getting sued (unless they pay license fees to Thompson or whoever it is that has the MP3 patents). The proliferation of Free Software (and other free-as-in-herpes tools) for using MP3s are the primary reason that MP3 has become such a widely adopted standard. The Free Software community helped make profits for a company that obfuscated what their patents claims until their standards caught on, then tried to rape money from everyone who touched it.


Quite simply, nobody needs patents on things like SVG, HTML and so on to compete as a commercial company. If they tell you they do, they are lying. On the other hand, Free Software (at least GPLed software, and that's one of the most common Free Software licenses out there) CANNOT EXIST if standards are patent-encumbered under the current proposal. Realistically, your proposal that patent-free standards would give a monopoly to OSS developers is outrageous and unbelievable on the face of it.


Why can't the companies compete on the merits of their products, and if they want a proprietary, patented format for something, let them have it, but there's no need for the W3C to codify it as a standard and thereby endorse it. If they need proprietary intellectual property, let them patent supporting technologies that somehow complement the standard, not the technology that forms part of the standard itself.

Re:Rationale for NOT submitting a comment: (5, Interesting)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984968)

The right place to make a stink is with governments. We've gotten the best policy that we can get from W3C without having the members walk off to another organization that lets them do what they want with their patents. I worked on this policy for two years (somewhere between 1/4 and 1/8 time), along with Larry Rosen of OSI and Eben Moglen of FSF, and got the best deal I could for the community. Let's please not blow it.

Bruce

Re:Rationale for NOT submitting a comment: (2)

Chops (168851) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984687)

The radical growth of the Internet has been achieved largely because of the freedom of its developers to use the tools they felt necessary to implement the services that have become standards.

Joe: Hey Hank, watch my service compress voice traffic using mpeg technology!

Hank: No, no, Joe! Don't do that!

(Richard Stallman bursts through the wall of the office, ten feet tall and snarling viciously)

Stallman: Who did it? Who's the dirty cur who's putting patented technologies into web services on my internet?

... etc. etc. I'm sure you can see the fallacy: the developers are, as always, free to walk the minefield of patented technologies if that's what they want to do -- it's just that nobody should be forced to do so, which is exactly the situation which exists when an officially sanctioned standard includes techniques which can't be legally used in some circumstances.

Free Software is great and all, but true freedom comes from not handing control of everything to one faction...

Err... yes, that's it, I see... if we let free software implement web standards legally, then the OSS "faction" will... seize control, or ... like the Bolsheviks... uh, could you explain it again?

2001 Oct thread link (5, Funny)

miltimj (605927) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984266)

Ah yes, that thread has a lot of great points threaded throughout... such as:

And those are taken from just the top 22 posts in the list...

WWW and the GNU GPL (1, Troll)

Milo Fungus (232863) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984281)

It's interesting to think that Tim Berners-Lee at one time was pushing CERN to release all of the code for the World Wide Web (like http and html) under the GPL. He explains in Weaving the Web [w3.org] that some of the vendors seeking to capitalize on the Web (like Netscape) were concerned about the viral nature of the GPL. How much different would the web (and the world) be if the Web were part of the GNU project instead of in public domain? (I realize that releasing under GPL does not make a project part of GNU, but if the Web were GPL'd, would anyone use it outside of GNU?)

I think GNU is great, but I'm really glad the Web is what it is.

Re:WWW and the GNU GPL (1)

quinticent (230886) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984480)

Microsoft uses GPL code, Sun, AOL, the US government, put your favorite fortune 500 company here. If I GPL a web browser it does not mean every web browser has to be GPL'ed only that web browsers that use my code need to be. A compeating web browser need not employ any of the GPL code and may release under a non-gpl licence. Having the programs GPL'ed does not impead the use of the standards behind them. A new licence would have to be crafted in order to make a standard GPL like since the GPL refers only to software (note there is a seperate licence for releasing documentation in a GPL like way). The web would not be much different today had its components been GPL'ed. For the most part the web's components have been developed as if they were GPL'ed (source staying in the open). The rare exception to this was up until recently (with the release of Mozilla) web browsers which because of its proprietary start is plauged with incompatibilities, even with strong standards in place.

Re:WWW and the GNU GPL (5, Informative)

Zeinfeld (263942) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984503)

It's interesting to think that Tim Berners-Lee at one time was pushing CERN to release all of the code for the World Wide Web (like http and html) under the GPL.

That is not quite right, we never relased any code under the GPL. We released the libwww code as public domain, it is not GPL, it is not BSD, it is public domain.

When GPL was being discussed it was in the context of 'make it free', the GPL was rejected because it did not make the cern code free in the ways we wanted it to be free. We explicitly wanted browsers to be included with computers as a cost free part of the basic operating system. Remember that at the time (91) Mosaic had not even appeared, let alone Netscape. The point is that Tim never wanted the viral aspect and dropped the GNU angle as soon as it was explained to him.

In the end the public domain route was in large part dictated by political expediency. Explaining GPL or BSD to cern management would have taken a lot more time and led to more opportunity for confusion. Putting the code in the public domain was something they could understand - it had already been done with much of the CERN libraries.

The mistake that was made was public domain rather than BSD. If we had gone BSD then Mosaic would have been required to state that it used CERN code (60% of the Mosaic code was code from CERN used without attribution). That in turn would have meant that IE would have a credit. As it was the mainstream media did not recognize Tim as the true father of the Web until about 1996, and then only as a result of a major PR campaign led by MIT.

I would certainly advise researchers to use the BSD license in their code. I would strongly advise against the GPL if you want your ideas to be taken up by industry.

Re:WWW and the GNU GPL (1)

KjetilK (186133) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984528)

Huh? I've read that book a couple of years ago, and I can't remember any such discussion... I don't have it here, but anyway, all I remember is that TimBL wanted to release everything to the public domain from the start, and he emphasizes strongly that this was what made it take off. I may be totally off now, I admit...

It is time to outsource the development... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4984294)

...to India! Where there are no patent encumbrances to worry about and the labor is skilled and cheap.

Patent lawsuits are stupid, but... (-1, Troll)

unterderbrucke (628741) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984301)

Fuck this. I'm a lawyer, and it chafes my ass to see this godman stupid patents lawsuits made over and over again. But, let me ask you this question: How many lawsuits do you think you saw in the Soviet Union?

I mean it. Lawsuits are a sign of freedom. They're a sign that the government has decided to leave as much as possible to the free market and the law of contract and tort, and not to come in with a big wet fucking nanny agency. Which of course still generates work for lawyers through a regulatory practice, but less open and less honest work.

Would you rather Big Fucking Brother came in and spent fifty fucking years drawing up a piece of legislation on your thorax precisely specifiyng what information could and couldn't be collected? All stuffed with pork, and with a big-ass federal agency to enforce it? Or would you rather this was decided in terms of general principles of tort and property, in an open court?

Well, I've got news for you, dickhead, the second method involves lawsuits. And those lawsuits have to be argued by lawyers. And that means that lawyers get rich. Check out the alternative any time you grudge us our big fucken' payoff. We don't get stock options, you know.

If the woman has a case, she will win. If she's whining like a bitch, she won't. End of. It's like a free market, only it's better than a free market because the smartest lawyer with the best argument always wins. How many other industries are there where the best product always wins? Not software.

Lawsuits are freedom. That's why we have so many in America, and they have so many government agencies in Europe.

Also, anonymity on slashdot lets me cuss anonymously like this. Keep up not giving out account info Taco, and anoymous cowards.

Re:Patent lawsuits are stupid, but... (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984328)

And yet, in the Soviet Union lawyers where paid by the state and didn't charge people to represent them.

Re:Patent lawsuits are stupid, but... (1)

markov_chain (202465) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984475)

You are not anonymous! Your name is unterderbru... oh.

Never mind.

Re:Patent lawsuits are stupid, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4984513)

Haven't I seen you before [slashdot.org] ???

Go sue somebody (so they can feel "free"), and stop posting on slashdot!

Oy Slashdot! (5, Interesting)

The Bungi (221687) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984311)

This sudden interest in the W3C and open standards and unencumbered software and patent free and, etc. etc. is quite interesting.

Considering you intentionally block the W3C validator [w3.org]

I can't help but think that's about the stupidest thing /. has ever done (though I may be wrong). I mean, what's the point? Lame jokes about the crappy output of your Perl scripts got you down? How about fixing it instead??

Re:Oy Slashdot! (5, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984904)

Also considering that the people who serve in the W3C patent policy working group are slashdot regulars, and Jay is not. Folks, Jay Sulzberger does not understand the issues and has no authority whatsoever to speak on this topic. The community representatives who worked on this policy for two darned years, cetainly Larry and myself and possibly even Eben, think we got the best deal we could possibly get. Sure, we had to make compromises, sometimes we have to. If we don't take this deal and force them to give up all rights to their patents, the patent holders will walk off of W3C and make standards in an organization that allows them to charge whatever they royalty they ask for use within the standard. We will have lost. Please write W3C and say you approve of the current policy draft.

Bruce

Typo alert (2)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984927)

First sentence should say "Jay is not in the working group." Also excuse the typos, I was typing this pretty quickly, attempting to do damage control as fast as I could.

Bruce

good call (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4984325)

The key point is that something could be added to say konquer, under free roalties, but when other authors use the code for other purposes down the road not necessaraly W3C-indorsed they could be guilty of patent infringement because the patent licence in the GPL code has too many conditions!

I think it is wise to keep patents off the core web tech! Nothing prevents patented technologies from being used. This only prevents patents used to create an artificial barrier to entry via high cross-licenses or submarine patents.

It may slow the pace of web technology growth, but it ensures the field will always be level for new and exciting entries!

I think people didn't get it yet (4, Informative)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984326)

So I'll paste a bit from the fsf site:

Here's a detailed step-by-step example that shows how this problem could play out:

Programmer P downloads the Konqueror web browser, receiving it under terms of GPL.

P learns of a new web standard that requires exercising a technique for parsing URLs that is patented by Corporation C. C has licensed the patent under an RF, non-exclusive license, but with a "field of use" restriction that says the license can be used to "implement the standard". The standard, as it turns out, covers only what browsers must do with URLs, and says nothing about the server side or clients that aren't user browsers.

P implements this technique in Konqueror, and seeks to redistribute the modified version on his website so that other users can benefit from Konqueror now complying with the standard. If he does, he is bound by the GPL under copyright law, because he is redistributing a modified version.

However, he knows full well of a condition on that code that contradicts the GPL (violating Section 7) -- namely, he knows that C's patent license prohibits folks from taking his URL parsing code and putting it into, say, a search engine. Therefore, under GPL Section 7, he is prohibited from redistribution.

You might think that he can simply assign his copyright to the existing copyright holder of Konqueror let distribution happen from that source. They could distribute under GPL, but they would be granting a self-contradicting license. Nothing (to my knowledge, but IANAL) prohibits someone from distributing copyrighted works under licenses that make no sense and are self-contradictory. However, it is certainly true that those who receive distribution of the works are stuck and can't undertake further distribution or modification themselves.

The way I understand it is that it can create a weird situation. Suppose I write code to parse Yahoo pages to extract information from them. Suppose that Yahoo uses some technology licensed in this way on their site. Now they can stop me because it's not a web browser.

Re:I think people didn't get it yet (1)

persist1 (111477) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984561)

Again, earlier posters have already pointed to the possibility that the FSF is putting the cart before the horse here...

IANAL but in any event code is protected by copyright, and ideas are protected by patent. Doubtless someone with good IP law chops can skewer that statement, but that's the general outline, hmm-kay?

Let's suppose that I come up with a universal site taxonomy (just the concept, mind you). I can patent that. (Not that it'd be worth a damn, goodness knows LIS experts gave up on those projects a long time ago.)

Any code libraries I might write by way of implementing that concept are protected by copyright.

So that takes care of the patent-vs.-copyright issue.

But Microsoft owns the patent on CSS you say.

That's right, because that's a system - an idea mind you - for representing presentation information, in this case as part of a Web document.

If I write a stylesheet, I own the copyright on that stylesheet. Microsoft nominally owns the underlying technology.

Given the scope of W3C Recommendations, it would seem to me that example posited above is stretch.

Besides which, let's suppose that Co. X comes up with a standard and puts it on the W3C Recommendation Track.

What's to stop them from writing one patent with scope limited to the Web, and another with scope limited to another medium/environment, and so on?

For the W3C to discourage such an approach to IP rights would rigtfully result in howls of protest from likely generators of IP...

...And ultimately that is what the FSF is demanding they do.

Feh.

Re:I think people didn't get it yet (2)

J. Random Software (11097) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984838)

Not quite contradictory. If you write code that depends on a patent license that's only sometimes available, and then you license your code under the GPL, you've granted me the right to redistribute it iff there are no encumberances. Straight out of the tarball, your source is encumbered (and can't be redistributed), but if I remove the patented code I can redistribute whatever remains.

It's a little bizzare that even if there's a large community who could use the software without restriction (if the patent didn't apply in some countries, for instance) I can't redistribute even just to them if use anywhere by anyone is restricted. I suppose there are a few loopholes that closes, though.

Re:I think people didn't get it yet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4984851)

However, he knows full well of a condition on that code that contradicts the GPL (violating Section 7) -- namely, he knows that C's patent license prohibits folks from taking his URL parsing code and putting it into, say, a search engine. Therefore, under GPL Section 7, he is prohibited from redistribution.

No, a patent license doesn't prohibit you from reusing code in a search engine, for example. You are absolutely free to use the code. However, you are also responsible for any consequences of doing so. You can use GPL'd code to steal money from a bank - if you do this, you don't violate the GPL, but you go to jail if you get caught. You can use GPL'd code to implement a patented technique - if you do this, you don't violate the GPL, but you may have to pay license fees.

hmmmm,, (1)

sickboy_macosX (592550) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984356)

Everyone knows that W3c and WIPO and those organizations are micorosoft whores. If they try to ban free software I say we kick Microsoft in the nurts and make a Linux only run network, using nothing but free software. (I know this not a realistic goal, but hey i can dream eh)

This would prevent any Open Source implementation (2)

Carl (12719) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984364)

It has nothing to do with the GPL. According to the current W3C proposal a RF patent license may restrict the field of use. So it could say that no royalty fee is needed if the standard is used in one specific way, but as soon as you do anything different you need to pay royalties anyway (the example given is implementing such a standard for the Konqueror browser for use on the Web and then someone changes konqueror so that it also works on the normal file system (or anything you can make a IOSlave for, something konqueror is really good at btw). But if you are not free to use the software for any use it isn't free (or open) at all!

For example the Open Source Definiton says:

6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor

The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the program from being used in a business, or from being used for genetic research.

Rationale: The major intention of this clause is to prohibit license traps that prevent open source from being used commercially. We want commercial users to join our community, not feel excluded from it.

case for change (3, Insightful)

Yi Ding (635572) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984389)

The point he is trying to make, in my case, is that companies may, under the current policy, use the said clause to specifically sabotage a GPLed piece of software that is trying to implement a standard.

An example of this would be if a commercial corporation (call it company X) comes up with a new piece of technology (call it WWW++ for here), which instantly becomes a hit. So, there is a big push for WWW++ to become a web standard, and company X agrees that they have the write to us WWW++, but only in terms of web development. However, since this is incompatible with the GPL, what this would mean is that anything trying to implement WWW++ cannot be licensed under the GPL. Therefore, singlehandedly by making a popular web standard, a company can say that this web standard cannot be used under certain licenses. We all know companies which would like to do this.

What is being proposed instead, would take away that clause. It would not harm commercial implementations of the standard at all. In fact, commercial implementations would even benifit from the removal of the clause because it would give them more freedom of action. What the removal of the clause would do is ultimately give developers more freedom to work with the next generation web standards, to foster the kind of innovativeness on the part of the developers without having to constantly looking for patent violations, and to continue the tradition of the free web as much as possible.

Re:case for change (2)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984994)

No, they may not stop any GPL software this way. If you are worried about a patent in a piece of GPL software, put that subroutine under the MIT license, which does not have the patent language of the GPL. Eben Moglen, the attorney for FSF, was the one to suggest this.

If we don't let the patent holders charge for things unrelated to the standard, they will just walk off of W3C and we will have lost, because they will be making their standards in an organization that lets them do whatever they want as far as royalties are concerned.

Bruce

It is not a small issue and not a bug (5, Informative)

Zeinfeld (263942) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984392)

Contrary to what the FSF is saying the issue is neither trivial nor a bug.

This Item allows for a supposedly free grant to use a patent to be so restricted that a piece of Web infrastructure software might be encumbered if used for some non-Web use.

The issue for me as an architect (I have written IETF, W3C and OASIS standards) is that I don't necessarily own all the IP that I need to address a problem. If I need to get an IP owner to donate their property for the common good my job is easiest if I have to ask for as little as is necessary for the particular purpose.

Equally when I hold the IP I see little point in giving away more than I need to for the purpose of the Web specification even though my company does not regard patent licensing as a revenue stream. The point is that I might need some IP held by a party that deals in the non-Internet world. I will have an easier time negotiating a license for Internet use if I have some bargaining chips.

The FSF reading on the situation is 100% about their ideology and has nothing to do with real needs as far as I am concerned. Open Source software is not imune to the patent system. If you modify any open source software sufficiently you will run into a patent infringement.

If you apply the FSF "logic" you would have to stop distributing gzip because someone could modify it so that it infringed the Unisys LZ patents.

The W3C does not have a monopoly on standards making and in fact is already seeing a lot of the standards work migrating from to OASIS. Dealing with the cumbersome W3C process and formatting conventions is bad enough without additional IP roadblocks being errected.

At the end of the day the IP policy is utterly irrelevant since nobody is going to use the specification unless the IP terms are acceptable and they are going to determine what is acceptable, not Tim and certainly not RMS. To date that has generally meant 'free as in beer' however there are many applications where that is simply not achievable, if you want to do voice browsing you will run into IP issues and your choice will be do something encumbered or don't do it at all.

Don't do it at all may be the FSF answer, but he does not pay $57,500 a year for W3C membership dues. The point that Tim has missed is that the W3C membership is already annoyed on the value for money front, W3C is way more expensive to join than OASIS where we pay $10K. We are also far from happy on the bogus process front, it took me almost a year to get a W3C working group started. I am not happy with a set of document publication rules that are 'standards based' but turn out to mean that you can only edit standards with one editor.

The last thing W3C needs to do at this stage is to reopen the IP issue with the membership.

Jay, you're wrong. (5, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984871)

Folks It is essential for the Free Software community to support the W3C as it stands today. The policy does what it's supposed to do - it protects web standards for Free Software. Unfortunately, if we ask for more than that, we will lose everything we've fought for. The reason is simple. Members join the W3C voluntarily. If a consequence of joining is that any and all of their patents that are used in a standard will become free for any use whatsoever, they will not join, and they will instead make their standards in an organization that lets them charge royalties for use within the standard. We will have lost.

Nor does it make it impossible for GPL software to make use of the patents. If you want to use a patent in GPL software, put that routine under the MIT license, which does not have the GPL's language regarding patents, and can link with GPL work. This work-around was suggested by Eben Moglen.

This doesn't mean I support software patents. I think they should be eliminated. But we can't eliminate software patents through W3C - only through legislatures.

I'll end this with a plea to Jay Sulzberger. Jay, you are working to destroy two years of work by myself, Eben Moglen, and Larry Rosen. You didn't participate in the patent policy working group. I didn't see you volunteer. You don't sufficiently understand the issues yet. Please help us get the current W3C policy accepted, so that things will get better instead of worse.

Bruce

Re:It is not a small issue and not a bug (2)

J. Random Software (11097) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984893)

The problem isn't that GPL'd code could possibly be modified so as to require a patent license (that would only be the modifier's problem, and they wouldn't have the right to redistribute). The problem is if a standard requires use of a patented algorithm that's licensed "for Web use only", all GPL'd code must be excluded from any implementation of that standard. That's a big step back from what most people expected of a standard that set out to be royalty-free.

Re:It is not a small issue and not a bug (4, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984942)

All you need to do is embed the patented practice in a file that is covered by the MIT license, and link it to the GPL stuff. Eben Moglen, the attorney who works on the GPL, suggested this.

Bruce

Re:It is not a small issue and not a bug (3, Insightful)

Chops (168851) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984939)

The issue for me as an architect (I have written IETF, W3C and OASIS standards)

Well, bloody well good for you. Might I suggest that the standards process should be designed for the good of users and developers and not to make the architect's job easy?
If I need to get an IP owner to donate their property for the common good my job is easiest if I have to ask for as little as is necessary for the particular purpose.

Okay, let's dispense with this "IP" business. What you're saying, in terms of modern technology realpolitik, is that company X tricked the USPTO into granting them a patent on some technique that any half-smart grad student would have come up with in fifteen minutes, and it's causing you grief because the same technique would be useful in the web standard you're drafting. The process of begging X for permission to encode multibyte characters in ASCII [delphion.com] will go more smoothly if you can avoid impacting X's revenue stream of lawyering productive technology companies to death, and you really don't give a shit about any of this GPL stuff.

So you cut your deal with the "owner" of the "IP," and come up with a web standard which is impossible to implement in GPLed software. I have to confess, I'm mystified as to why the FSF would be upset about any part of this process, much less your part in it.

The FSF reading on the situation is 100% about their ideology and has nothing to do with real needs as far as I am concerned. Open Source software is not imune to the patent system. If you modify any open source software sufficiently you will run into a patent infringement.

If you apply the FSF "logic" you would have to stop distributing gzip because someone could modify it so that it infringed the Unisys LZ patents.


Bear with me: One of the terms of the GPL is that code licensed under it has to be freely redistributable -- you can't take GPLed code, modify it, and sell it to someone else under "GPL plus Bob's license" terms, where Bob's license allows him to come over and root through your fridge whenever you redistribute the software. In order for the GPL to have any meaning, there can't be any extra restrictions placed atop it -- and, as you point out, free software is indeed subject to patent restrictions like everything else. Hence, patented code has extra restrictions -- hence it's incompatible with the GPL unless it's completely royalty-free. In fact, this is exactly why it's not okay to sling around copies of gzip which include LZW (even if you've gotten special permission from Unisys to do just that) -- patent law forbids free-use rights to the recipients, but you have to grant those rights by the GPL, so you can't distribute the modified gzip at all.

At the end of the day the IP policy is utterly irrelevant since nobody is going to use the specification unless the IP terms are acceptable


So why would you, as a celebrated author of standards for the veritable trifecta of IETF, W3C, and OASIS, even consider including patent-encumbered technologies in a standard? Obviously people are going to use the patent-encumbered standard -- witness the popularity of mp3s -- and the only people who are going to be upset are those goddamned hippies who use Leenox. Which brings us, approximately, to where things actually stand.

The last thing W3C needs to do at this stage is to reopen the IP issue with the membership.


I heartily agree. "If it's wrong, leave it wrong," I always say.

It's not about modifying code. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4984973)

If you apply the FSF "logic" you would have to stop distributing gzip because someone could modify it so that it infringed the Unisys LZ patents.

Come off it. This is rubbish. The issue at stake is being given a restricted "free" patent license versus a truly unrestricted "free" patent license, for some particular patent that encumbers web standards.

gzip, as you know, uses only the zlib inflate/deflate algorithm, and additionally unpacks a few old UNIX compression formats. It does not have any license for the Unisys LZW patent, because it arguably does not infringe it.

This is NOT about adding new, unlicensed patent-infringing code to an old project. It's about infringing an existing patent license by reusing GPL code implementing an "open" web standard in a new project.

What is at stake is having the W3C churn out patent encumbered "open standards" which still tether you to the patent holder's whims.

What problem? (2)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984409)

I don't see the problem. Patents are about usage, not duplication. They prevent usage of a device or technique without a license. The GPL is about duplication, not usage. It prevents/requires restrictions on duplication and redistribution in whole and in part.

Even if it weren't that way, the worst case scenario is you'd need a different "free" license than the GPL for the code which was patent encumbered. Folks, the GPL is not holy doctrine. Its a convenient way to gift code with more of an ability to force your morals on the recipient than public domain offers. Its nothing more.

Confirmation link did not work (1)

CleverFox (85783) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984410)

I commented and then they sent me a bogus confirmation link that I can't get a web browser to load.

id not found

Error: There is no message with id: 2877460f8ecf5cee8edeaa43b3dd2b54b9a34a6a. Please make sure you have cut and pasted the URI correctly.

I am sure I am pasting it right... Go figure.

Jay Sulzberger (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4984466)

... he's gay, right?

I mean he's a secretary, for crying out loud!

the GPL should be modified (2)

TerryAtWork (598364) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984477)

So that the code rights remain the same but any original data structure or algorithm in the program automatically go into the public domain.

W3C who? (1)

jonsmirl (114798) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984524)

Who cares about the W3C any more. When was the last time you saw a piece of software that actually fully implemented a W3C standard? The W3C has rendered itself irrevelent to the Internet.

Mozilla tries, but once MSIE hit 98% share is there really any point in trying to push standards compliance on the Borg?

The perfect Free software licence (1)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984534)

I just wrote it. I hope to see widespread adoption, as it sums up how the rank and file approaches this issue. Not only that, it's full of funny swears.

--- START OF "WGAS" LICENSE ---

Section 1: Preamble

Who gives a shit?

Section 2: Definitions

Really, who gives a flying fuck?

Section 3: Scope and Limitations

I could give two shits what you do with this. Knock yourself out, chimpie.

Section 4: Warrantees and conflict resolution

Go fuck yourself.

---- END LICENSE ----

Can't comment due to bug in w3c message submit (2)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984584)

Well, I did my part - I wrote up a message explaining why I felt the section should go, and mailed it off.

I got back an automated response saying the message had been accepted, then a seperate message saying that I would have to visit here [w3.org] to give permission to post the message to the mailing list and store it. However, trying out that link gives me the message:

Error: There is no message with id: 3a9041e823e02419d0f7ddd1223cf918b8a3e226. Please make sure you have cut and pasted the URI correctly.

So, good luck to those trying to remove the offending wording if those opposed can't even submit persistent comments!

How many....? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4984607)

How many slashdotters actually read all that and studies it? Not me, thats why I am writing this

can't approve my comment! BROKEN MAILING LIST? (2)

js7a (579872) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984638)

It's sections 3, items three AND SEVEN which have the problem. Not just section 3 item 3.

Currently, the last comment I see is three days old: http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-patentpoli cy-comment/2002Dec/ [w3.org]

I hope Slashdot's last-minute comments aren't headed into the bitbucket.

An Example in Plain English (2)

Plasmic (26063) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984683)

This is the best explanation I saw of why this is a relevant issue:

From the FSF's Position on Proposed W3 Consortium "Royalty-Free" Patent Policy [fsf.org] :

Here's a detailed step-by-step example that shows how this problem could play out:
Programmer P downloads the Konqueror web browser, receiving it under terms of GPL.
P learns of a new web standard that requires exercising a technique for parsing URLs that is patented by Corporation C. C has licensed the patent under an RF, non-exclusive license, but with a "field of use" restriction that says the license can be used to "implement the standard". The standard, as it turns out, covers only what browsers must do with URLs, and says nothing about the server side or clients that aren't user browsers.
P implements this technique in Konqueror, and seeks to redistribute the modified version on his website so that other users can benefit from Konqueror now complying with the standard. If he does, he is bound by the GPL under copyright law, because he is redistributing a modified version.
However, he knows full well of a condition on that code that contradicts the GPL (violating Section 7) -- namely, he knows that C's patent license prohibits folks from taking his URL parsing code and putting it into, say, a search engine. Therefore, under GPL Section 7, he is prohibited from redistribution.
You might think that he can simply assign his copyright to the existing copyright holder of Konqueror let distribution happen from that source. They could distribute under GPL, but they would be granting a self-contradicting license. Nothing (to my knowledge, but IANAL) prohibits someone from distributing copyrighted works under licenses that make no sense and are self-contradictory. However, it is certainly true that those who receive distribution of the works are stuck and can't undertake further distribution or modification themselves.

Thus, regardless of who makes the changes, the result either shuts down distribution or forces the original developer to abandon GPL. Both outcomes are very unfortunate.

RIAA HACKED (0)

gulfan (524955) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984767)

http://www.riaa.org/admin/press_and_news.html You can modify or post ANY news on the site now, the front page has GOATSE on it. http://www.riaa.org/ Do your worst :P

This is all based on a bad assumption. (2)

raehl (609729) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984812)

The bad assumption is that the GPL is infallible and thus immutable.

If the clause would lead to a situation where you can't release standard-compliant software under the GPL...

Don't use the GPL for the software.

Problem solved.

Am I the only one who thinks accomodating a particular software license is pretty low on the list of considerations when writing a standard?

The FSF "Everything must work with the GPL or else" is a very... Seatle Corporation perspective.

The W3C doesn't want patents either (2, Informative)

Ankh (19084) | more than 11 years ago | (#4984863)

It's not that the W3C Team want to see software patents or encumbered specifications. But we can't make them go away.

So the question becomes, how do we survive, and how does the Web survive, and move forward, in a world with software patents?

Part of that involves negotiation with the large companies who hold the largest patent portfolios: it would be almost useless trying to publish a patent policy document if the holders of most of the patents didn't agree to it. So there are some pretty complex constraints.

Simply writing to say, software patents are bad, isn't going to help much. But if you have solid constructive ideas on how to change things, or on how to come to consensus and agreement both with GPL implementations of specifications and with the need that large organizations have stated they have, to keep patents for "deefensive use", I think that would be very helpful.

Of course, just writing to say you like the current draft patent policy, or that you want to see some specific change, or that you don't like it and why, is also helpful, although it does add work for W3C staff, who are obliged to reply to every comment!

If you really want to make a difference, write to your political representative - congressperson, member of european parliament, MP, etc. - and say that software patents are bad for business, are bad for research, are bad for the future of the world, and will cause Orcs to attack Helm's Deep.

Well, maybe Helm's Deep isn't about patents, and not everyone agrees patents (or orcs!) are bad, But if you want software patents to go away you need to be heard. The DMCA had approx. 300 public comments; writing really does make a difference.

Disclaimer: I am XML Activity Lead at W3C.

What about the Bitch-Slap Web Standard? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4984947)

Who will protect IT? [cyberstreet.net]

W3C rejecting comments? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4985019)

I sent in a comment to archive-approval-comments@w3.org, and got two confirmations back. The first said, in essence, "thanks for the comment, we'll think about what you said". The second said, in essence, "we need you to prove that you sent the message, go to URL to confirm.". Following the URL gave me "ID Not Found" - so I could not confirm I sent my original message.

Is this some way the W3C has of just ignoring comments, or is their "Archive approval system" (http://www.w3.org/2002/09/aa/) just not very well at the moment?

Did anyone else have a similar experience?
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