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[xml-dev] Cutting special deals for open source developers -- no way!

The myth that there are big companies and open source developers and nothing
inbetween has been a constant problem for commercial developers who believe
in open standards and think that software patents are unethical and act
accordingly. I've seen this myth perpetrated over and over by well-meaning
people, but it's dangerous and unfair.

I read this news item in eWeek [1], with a statement from the patent WG
chair, Daniel Weitzner, saying that there they will consider an exception
for open source developers. As a commercial and open source developer, this
highlights the impossibility of having the W3C work with patents at all. If
open source is to be granted some kind of exception, then that exception
must also apply to independent commercial developers, especially those who
invent non-patented new art that others may freely use in their software.
This has long been UserLand's policy, to create new techniques, designs,
algorithms, protocols and formats, in a manner so that anyone can build
software on them. We believe this is the only ethical way to create
software. To prevent others from using our techniques would be akin to a
book author inventing a new plot and then preventing other authors from
using it. No such protection is possible because it would be (in the US) an
illegal limit on free speech. We believe that the same protection applies to
software developers because software is a creative act that is very similar
to writing.

It's time to get a grip on how our industry works, how much exchange of
ideas there is between our products, and get comfortable with all
developers, using whatever economic system they choose, participating in the
market on equal footing with all other developers. Patents have no place in
open software development processes. It's very unfortunate that USPTO
believes otherwise, I think the W3C, to true to  the spirit of its charter,
must work tirelelessly to convince the USPTO that its policy on patents
can't work, and if that fails, take the matter to court. Under no
circumstances should special deals be cut for groups that unfairly limit
opportunties for others.

Dave Winer, CEO
UserLand Software

[1] http://www.eweek.com/article/0,3658,s%253D1884%2526a%253D16297,00.asp