--On Monday, 22 October, 2007 21:57 +0200 Norbert Bollow
John C Klensin <john-ietf(_at_)jck(_dot_)com> wrote:
But we're talking here about IETF standards, specifications
that are prepared cooperatively and for free by talented
individuals, companies and countries around the world. These
specifications are intended for implementation everywhere to
facilitate communications among us all.
Larry, with all due respect, if you substitute "ISO/IEC JTC1"
or "IEEE" (at least in the computer and communications areas
for both) in the above statements, they will still be true.
The IETF is not particularly special in this regard.
But the IETF seems to be singled out, in Larry's recent notes
and elsewhere, as the one body that needs to treat these things
I agree. There are very good reasons to insist in all fora
where standards for protocols and data formats are developed
that such standards must not be patent-encumbered.
But I see no evidence, at least in the ISO-level correspondence
that I follow, that they are being pursued with equal
persistence anywhere else. I suspect that is because the
Member Bodies refuse to keep taking the question up over and
over again, and that, if the IETF had procedures similar or
equivalent to theirs, we would not be hearing about it again on
To me, the question is simply one of whether trying to insist
on an unencumbered regime (whether for technical, economic, or
moral/ religious reasons) is important enough to justify
rejecting, a priori, any encumbered technology. The IETF has
decided, repeatedly, that the answer is "no" and "we want to
look at these things on a case-by-case basis and evaluate the
tradeoffs". While the part that follows the "no" differs,
that is the same conclusion reached by ISO, IEC, IEEE, and
However the economic importance of insisting that standards
must not be patent-encumbered is increasing. Therefore the
decisions of the past can not validly be accepted as strong
arguments against Larry's current initiative.
First, no persuasive evidence has been produced on this list
that this economic importance is, in fact, increasing. The
economic importance may well be increasing for some categories
of encumbrances, or for some categories of implementations but I
don't believe a statement this broad can be justified.
Second, while such increasing importance, were it to exist,
would justify a review of the policies, it doesn't automatically
lead to the conclusion that Larry (and presumably you) support.
In addition, "the past" isn't a long time here. The IETF
policies were not established a decade or two ago and never
reviewed since: the question has been raised over and over again
as to whether the IETF, or various WGs, want to review the
policies, and the answer comes back "no". So, even if the
economic importance has increased as you suggest, or other
arguments for unencumbered software exist, how often do you
think that requires review of the policies? Once every few
years? Once a year? Once a month? Once every two weeks until
you get your way and then never again? There comes a point
beyond which the raising of this position is a DoS attack on the
IETF's getting other work done.
I also note that we can easily get onto a slippery slope here.
Many companies view the GPL to be an encumbrance no less severe
than the patent policies of other companies. Perhaps it is even
more severe because encumbrances associated with patents that
can be made to go away by the payment of money are less
complicated to deal with (if one is willing to spent the money)
than encumbrances under the GPS, which just don't go away.
Would you recommend that IETF not permit any materials that
might be encumbered under the GPL, etc.?
If you want to pursue this further, I think it would be
helpful if you started supplying arguments that we haven't
heard, repeatedly, before.
Do you have a list of the arguments that you have heard so
often already that you're not interested in hearing them again?
I have seen nothing new in any of Larry's postings, or Simon's
postings, or other postings supporting their general positions,
in the last two months, so perhaps you could use that list as a
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