FSF's Position on Proposed W3 Consortium "Royalty-Free" Patent Policy

Georg C. F. Greve greve at fsfeurope.org
Mon Dec 2 14:34:26 UTC 2002

Hi all,

in case you haven't read (and done) this already, please take a look
at the patent policy proposed by the W3C consortium and make sure you
protest that draft.

Otherwise we risk seeing an increasing amount of W3C standards that
cannot be implemented as Free Software.


Georg Greve
FSF Europe, President

[ http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/w3c-patent.html ]

 FSF's Position on Proposed W3 Consortium "Royalty-Free" Patent Policy

   25 November 2002

   The Free Software Foundation, represented by its General Counsel,
   Professor Eben Moglen of Columbia University Law School, participated
   in the W3 Consortium Patent Policy Working Group from November 2001
   through the current Last Call draft. The Foundation regards the
   current Last Call draft, which proposes the adoption of a
   "royalty-free" or "RF" patent policy, as a significant step in the
   direction of protecting the World Wide Web from patent-encumbered
   standards. But the proposed policy is not an adequate final outcome
   from the Foundation's point of view.

   The proposed policy permits W3C members participating in W3 technical
   working groups to commit their patent claims "royalty-free" for use by
   implementers of the standard, but with "field of use" restrictions
   that would be incompatible with section 7 of the GNU General Public
   License. Such "field of use" restrictions, in other words, would
   prevent implementation of W3C standards as Free Software.

   Section 7 of the GNU GPL is intended to prevent the distribution of
   software which appears to be Free (because it is released under a
   copyright license guaranteeing the freedoms to use, copy, modify, and
   redistribute) but which cannot, in fact, be modified and redistributed
   because of patent license restrictions that limit the use of patent
   claims practiced by the software to a particular purpose. Though other
   Free Software licenses may not happen to contain provisions equivalent
   to GPL's Section 7, this does not imply that programs released under
   those licenses will be Free Software if the patent claims contributed
   "royalty-free" to the standard those programs implement are limited to
   a particular field of use.

   As an example, W3 members may contribute patent claims to a standard
   describing the behavior of web servers providing particular
   functionality. A Free Software program implementing that standard
   would be available for others to copy from, in order to add
   functionality to browsers, or non-interactive web clients. But if, as
   the present proposed policy permits, the patent-holder has licensed
   the practicing of its patent claims "royalty-free" only "in order to
   implement the standard", reuse of the relevant code in these latter
   environments would still raise possible patent infringement problems.

   For this reason, the proposed policy does not actually protect the
   rights of the Free Software community to full participation in the
   implementation and extension of web standards. The goal of our
   participation in the policy making process at W3C has not been
   achieved. The Foundation urges all those who care about the right of
   Free Software developers to implement all future web standards to send
   comments to the W3C urging that the policy be amended to prohibit the
   imposition of "field of use" restrictions on patent claims contributed
   to W3C standards. The address to which such comments should be emailed
   is <www-patentpolicy-comment at w3.org>. The deadline for receipt of
   comments is Tuesday 31 December 2002.

Georg C. F. Greve                                 <greve at fsfeurope.org>
Free Software Foundation Europe	                 (http://fsfeurope.org)
GNU Business Network                        (http://mailman.gnubiz.org)
Brave GNU World	                           (http://brave-gnu-world.org)
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