IBM risks billion dollar Linux strategy with W3C RAND demands

HP points the finger


Exclusive Sources familiar with the W3C's patent policy have confirmed that demands for the standards body to adopt RAND licensing were initiated by IBM.

Last week IBM officially stated that it preferred working with RAND licenses, which permit a patent-holder to collect a royalty, rather than on the traditional royalty-free basis, which has been credited with the widespread adoption of web standards:-

"The policy of licensing patents under RAND terms and conditions has allowed our best technical individuals to work together without becoming burdened by patent issues," Gerald Lane, IBM's Program Director of Corporate Standards Practices, wrote in a posting to the W3C's Patent Policy Mailing list.

But sources close to the W3C point the finger at Armonk, saying that the demands for the changes originated with Big Blue. Asked for confirmation, Danny Weitzner, chair of the W3C's Patent Policy declined to name names.

IBM's Lane states the view is that patent discussion should be taken out of the standards setting process:-

"The W3C Patent Policy Framework Proposal will never provide complete certainty for specification developers and product implementers. We should allow the technical experts to work unencumbered by complicated rules and leave the patent issues for discussion outside of the standards organizations," writes Lane.

Which is an astonishingly naïve suggestion to us. As Linux kernel hacker Daniel Philips pointed out, GPL projects can't link to patented encumbered software at all, and few if any developers working under other software libre licenses will be prepared to embark on work in the knowledge they'll be nuked by a patent at some undetermined point in the future. Which would at best mean they'd be wasting their time, and at worst, would impose unexpected legal and financial obligations.

HP makes hay

Hewlett Packard has been the first major industry vendor to publicly state its position, with its W3C rep Jim Bell declaring that web standards should continue to be royalty-free.

Senior IBM server executives were horrified to learn yesterday that W3C standards may not in the future be royalty-free. Internet standards and Linux have helped IBM widen its appeal in recent years, and the company has pledged $1 billion on developing and marketing Linux. But its continued investment depends on good will from the Linux developer community, and that may well be imperilled by its preference of RAND to royalty-free for the most fundamental WWW standards.

IBM holds over 34,000 patents and gains over $1 billion in royalties annually from its patent portfolio.

"IBM's a great supporter of Linux if it can avoid pissing on its feet," license watcher Karsten Self told us. "IBM is straddling the line on intellectual property and content control measures, and while it has it has been a great supporter of the Linux community, it needs to decide which side of the bar it needs to stand on, before that bar comes up hard."

Having contacted Mr Lane's office, we've been promised a comment from a member of IBM's W3C working group shortly, but no one was available at publication time.®

Related Stories

W3C denies misleading world+dog on RAND license status
We'll fork the Web to keep it Free - Perens
W3C defends RAND license
The free Web's over, as W3C blesses Net patent taxes


Other stories you might like

  • DigitalOcean tries to take sting out of price hike with $4 VM
    Cloud biz says it is reacting to customer mix largely shifting from lone devs to SMEs

    DigitalOcean attempted to lessen the sting of higher prices this week by announcing a cut-rate instance aimed at developers and hobbyists.

    The $4-a-month droplet — what the infrastructure-as-a-service outfit calls its virtual machines — pairs a single virtual CPU with 512 MB of memory, 10 GB of SSD storage, and 500 GB a month in network bandwidth.

    The launch comes as DigitalOcean plans a sweeping price hike across much of its product portfolio, effective July 1. On the low-end, most instances will see pricing increase between $1 and $16 a month, but on the high-end, some products will see increases of as much as $120 in the case of DigitalOceans’ top-tier storage-optimized virtual machines.

    Continue reading
  • GPL legal battle: Vizio told by judge it will have to answer breach-of-contract claims
    Fine-print crucially deemed contractual agreement as well as copyright license in smartTV source-code case

    The Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) has won a significant legal victory in its ongoing effort to force Vizio to publish the source code of its SmartCast TV software, which is said to contain GPLv2 and LGPLv2.1 copyleft-licensed components.

    SFC sued Vizio, claiming it was in breach of contract by failing to obey the terms of the GPLv2 and LGPLv2.1 licenses that require source code to be made public when certain conditions are met, and sought declaratory relief on behalf of Vizio TV owners. SFC wanted its breach-of-contract arguments to be heard by the Orange County Superior Court in California, though Vizio kicked the matter up to the district court level in central California where it hoped to avoid the contract issue and defend its corner using just federal copyright law.

    On Friday, Federal District Judge Josephine Staton sided with SFC and granted its motion to send its lawsuit back to superior court. To do so, Judge Staton had to decide whether or not the federal Copyright Act preempted the SFC's breach-of-contract allegations; in the end, she decided it didn't.

    Continue reading
  • US brings first-of-its-kind criminal charges of Bitcoin-based sanctions-busting
    Citizen allegedly moved $10m-plus in BTC into banned nation

    US prosecutors have accused an American citizen of illegally funneling more than $10 million in Bitcoin into an economically sanctioned country.

    It's said the resulting criminal charges of sanctions busting through the use of cryptocurrency are the first of their kind to be brought in the US.

    Under the United States' International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEA), it is illegal for a citizen or institution within the US to transfer funds, directly or indirectly, to a sanctioned country, such as Iran, Cuba, North Korea, or Russia. If there is evidence the IEEA was willfully violated, a criminal case should follow. If an individual or financial exchange was unwittingly involved in evading sanctions, they may be subject to civil action. 

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022