Subject: On the use of Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory fees
From: Itamar Shtull-Trauring
Date: Fri, 05 Oct 2001 12:48:05 +0200
To: www-patentpolicy-comment (at)


1. Marked by or showing prejudice; biased.
2. Making distinctions.

The Web has always been an open place - anyone who wanted to could build a site. Anyone who wanted to could build software that complies with the Web's standards. As a result much of the software powering the Web (and the Internet today) is free, and open source. The web was a democratic place - publishing content and viewing content could be done without having to pay large fees or have the right connection. Yet now you are starting a policy that will make all this a thing of the past.

Now, right away you say - "we said *reasonable* and *non-discriminatory* fee". Well, that is not accurate. Large parts of the world are *poor*. The per capita GDP of the USA is $36,200. Not bad, right? Well, India (with how many hundreds of millions of people?) has a per capita GDP of $1,720.

Now, software and hardware is just not that affordable when that's the kind of money you have - so you go for the cheapest alternatives, and that means open source. Since open source software has always been able to interoperate quite well and support the web standards, this not a problem.

For example, in India Simputer has designed a $200 computer running Linux in order to bring computing to the masses - - and there are other countries and people doing this sort of thing.

Now, your RAND policy says (

"1. shall be available to all implementers worldwide, whether or not they are W3C Members;"


"5 may be conditioned on payment of reasonable, non-discriminatory royalties or fees;"

I contend that the only truly reasonable, non-discriminatory policy is royalty free. Open source software will *not* be able to pay any sort of fee (will the author pay the fee for each user that downloads the software?) nor, even more importantly, will people in 3rd world countries be able to afford the commercial software that will be available. And since the software will not be available for free, they will be cut off from using these supposedly "non-discriminatory" standards.

Consider the BSA's report on software piracy - There is a clear correlation between a poor economy and high software piracy. This is because *people can't afford to pay for the software*, no matter how cheap it is.

As for the idea that the companies involved might be willing to allow the poor of the world to have access to computing? Somehow I think not - consider Microsoft's behavior when a charity loaded Windows 95 on computers it was donating - Microsoft said it would only agree for this to be done on 150 computers, and the hundreds of other computers' OS would have to be payed for (even though, since these were refurbished computers and defunct software there was no loss of revenue). This was done in order to "protect innovation". The charity switched to using Linux:,1449,14771,00.html?1447,2000025345,20255277-1,00.htm

So, when you say "reasonable and non-discriminatory", that can only mean one of two things:

1. Royalty-free, allowing *everyone* to use the standards.
2. A policy that discriminates against those who cannot afford to pay for the privilege of using these standards - and this includes literally billions of people.

Itamar Shtull-Trauring
Chief Technical Architect @ Zoteca