Standards are . . .

Seth Johnson seth.johnson at
Tue Jan 7 05:04:40 UTC 2003

(Comment I posted to the W3C Patent Policy Comments list. 
-- Seth)

Standards are language.

They are the code by which we communicate.

They are means, not ends.

They are a medium.  They are a foundation.

They are universals.

The choice the W3C faces as it considers instituting a new
policy allowing for patented Internet protocols must be made
perfectly clear.

You can either allow restrictions in W3C communications
standards, or not.

Unfortunately, we now find the W3C standing at the precipice
of an old, inchoate rift that has been carried for some
years within the developer community -- even though that
rift is of very different origin than the question which the
W3C faces today as it considers patents in relation to
communications standards.  All that is under discussion is
the prevention of restrictions from being imposed -- what
copyleft happens to also be geared to accomplish.  In the
present context, we are talking essentially about the
freedom of the universal language which W3C standards
currently represent.  Preventing those restrictions can be
accomplished in a very different way here, through a policy
for web standards that makes this clear.

This is the choice the W3C confronts, as some have sought to
have recourse to the incorporation of patents within W3C
standards, and to having the W3C sanction that notion.

The W3C is today free and knows it may stand for the
essential principles that Internet standards embody, as the
foundation by which information and communications
technology serve the advancement of humanity.

Please do not endorse the introduction of patents into the
information technologies that serve as the basis for
worldwide communication and allow us to apply these
standards in our everyday lives.  The "field of use"
provision would enable restrictions to be imposed on exactly
this.  This provision should be regarded as an unfortunate
stipulation that has inadvertently been added to the policy
over the course of a discussion that must have been just as
unsettling as many other disputes have been in the
technology arena in recent years.  But here we are talking
about the W3C, about the communications standards that
define the web, and about the promises for which this
universal foundation provide.

Standards are the code by which we communicate.

They are means, not ends.

They are universals.

They are language.

Seth Johnson

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