18.601 royalty-free standards

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 25 Feb 2005 09:33:25 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 601.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Fri, 25 Feb 2005 09:19:33 +0000
         From: Patrick Durusau <Patrick.Durusau_at_sbl-site.org>
         Subject: Royalty Free Standards


I thought Humanist readers would be interested in a "Call to Action in
OASIS" that was recently by Lawrence Rosen:


By way of background, OASIS is a standards organization that is responsible
for the Open Office XML Format, DocBook, ebXML and a host of other standards.

At issue is whether standards being developed at OASIS are to be RF
(royalty free) or some more restricted basis. The basis on which a
technical committee will develop a standard is part of its original
charter. The policy can be found at:

I am not unsympathetic to the position that all standards should be royalty
free or what I suspect to be the underlying agenda that would like to
disallow software patents altogether. Since my opinions about property run
fairly close to those of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, that is not surprising.

But after thinking about this latest "call to action" I was surprised at
one possible outcome of of such a senario, that is all RF standards and no
software patents.

Granted that those who currently squat on ideas via the patent system would
no longer be parasites on innovation and development, but would that be the
only result?

All of the major software houses support R&D departments to develop new
software or techniques. What if they had access to the work product of
100,000 developers? Or 500,000 developers? Or even higher numbers? In part
driven by simply giving away development tools and other support?

Granted they would have to winnow a lot of chaff to find the really good
software, but then that happens fairly quickly in the OSS community anyway.

Suppose an individual developer writes a new software routine, clearly
superior to any similar work. But unlike Microsoft, IBM, Sun, HP, etc.,
they lack the resources to incoporate it into a product, offer training or
24 x 7 support if they did, or to even market the product.

Who wins from OSS? Ironically it includes the same interests who are in
active opposition to it. They are the only players that corporations,
governments and even the average user can or will rely upon for products,
training and support.

Some interests would lose cash flow in the short term if suddenly all
patents were to go away but that is a bogeyman used by IP lawyers (the ones
advocating patents) to frighten their clients into unreasonable and in the
long term, counter-productive positions.

Planning for and supporting an orderly transition to a completely RF
environment for standards and software development will benefit those most
who are in a position to take full advantage of it.

What is good for OSS is good for commercial interests as well.

I wonder what Proudhon would say about that situation?

Hope you are having a great day!


Patrick Durusau
Director of Research and Development
Society of Biblical Literature
Chair, V1 - Text Processing: Office and Publishing Systems Interface
Co-Editor, ISO 13250, Topic Maps -- Reference Model
Topic Maps: Human, not artificial, intelligence at work!
Received on Fri Feb 25 2005 - 04:49:00 EST

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