Re: Answers to your questions about W3C patent policy
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I don't see how that can possibly coexist with this sentence of the
GPL, section 7:
: if a patent license would not permit royalty-free redistribution of
: the Program by all those who receive copies directly or indirectly
: through you, then the only way you could satisfy both it and this
: License would be to refrain entirely from distribution of the
The recipient of the program (which combines a GPL'd framework
with a patent-encumbered MIT library) will be able to use the program
to implement the standard, but not for any other purpose. Certainly,
if he modifies it to use the patented material for some other purpose,
he won't be able to redistribute *that*... and since he won't be able
to do so, you can't distribute the GPL'd code for which you don't have
This rather seems to be the major flaw in the policy. It looks to me
like a "you can implement the [patented] standard provided you you use
the standard in any implementation" arrangement. Which really makes a
mockery of the whole thing.
=head1 Accidental [un]-ispirational Speech
Unfortunately this seems to be the place where free software ideals
fall down; standards and patents. A lot of standards out there are
patented; and the creates an environment the opensource community just
doesn't stand a chance in, in terms of interoperability with
proprietary products. The best we can do is point at the open
standards and say "these are more standard, better, standards that can
be implemented more standardly than patented standards because
everyone has access to them not just big corporations" and hope that
the world's information technology user, and I hate to use the term,
market (it's not a community yet by a long shot) pays attention.
Which is another failing point; we can't afford the big bucks for
advertising that big companies like Microsoft and Unisys do (just
imagine I spat those words, okay?). Look at the "burn all gifs"
campaign... at least 70% of the internet is probably still using gif
images, and around 90% of computer users I've talked to don't know
what PNG format is.
This compromise is in one way very nearly the best deal we can come up
with, and in another very nearly the worst caveat we can have. In
this day and age of company-, not industry-, developed standards, I
get the impression the best we, the opensource community, can do is to
accept this compromise, try to intercept any news of "standards" being
developed by the companies, and try to develop a better, similar,
standard, faster. !!Warning!! this may require use of the _other_ 80%
of your brain. Hopefully, we can avoid some problems by making our
standards more extensible and more standard... and integrating
features of new [patent pending] "standards" being designed and
developed into existing open standards, which saves the hassle of
trying to develop an entire new standard that does a few things more
than an existing standard.
This is possibly one place where free software has the advantage.
While large companies are consistently trying to knock each other (and
opensource) off the boat (or in the cases of Microsoft, Unisys, et
al., attempting to hole the bottom of the hull and craft a boat out of
paper for themselves to sit in.), the opensource community is,
essentially, a community, ie. has the capacity to work together and
help each other out. A lot of companies don't seem to have figured
this out, and continually refer to free software (most notably
"Linux") as some kind of competing company, and that we're out there
to get them (remember "Linux is a cancer" and "Linux are followers not
innovators" (oops, that's a breach of the Microsoft Documentation
License. To hell with it. For reference, that's in the Microsoft
propaganda document entitled "Why Windows XP Embedded and not Embedded
Linux" -- which includes the most amazingly concise and possibly
accurate statement of all time, "Windows XP Embedded is the most
stable version of Windows XP yet" ... apparently trying to make it
sound more stable than Linux, for which the best they could do is that
Linux doesn't show signs of incredible stability improvement).
Anyway, to get back to the point here, we already have the structure
to be able to initiate standards (fsf, osi, spi-inc[who sponsor
debian] to name but a few), we already have the community, we already
have the expertise, and we have even the appropriate licensing, and
importantly we've already been doing it just as long if not longer.
Writing and promoting open standards is something we shouldn't give up
on, but should work harder at. Get the alternative out before the
patented, and make sure everyone's using the one we can use ;)
This was originally just supposed to be a brief one or two sentence
comment. Sorry about the political overhead. Just pretend you're a
perl compiler and ignore the stuff inside the POD tags if you don't
want it, OK?
Somewhere between being "student (K-12)" and "student (University)"
Also a hacker.
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