Larry Rosen, an intellectual property attorney and open source advocate, has called to action all open source advocates to battle against patenting standards via a consortium called OASIS. OASIS is chock full of powerful members from businesses around the globe including friend of Linux IBM, HP, and foe of Linux Microsoft. So, what’s the deal with this? When I read the article, I didn’t really know what the heck these guys were talking about. So I went to the OASIS webpage to check out what all the hubbub was about.
What I found was similar to an old western movie. How so? You’ve got the sheriff and his posse rooting out any of the “bad guys” in various ways; first by deputizing anyone and everyone that can buy themselves in and secondly by making up any laws they want to and going out to enforce them. How is this? Let’s say that IBM and HP develop a standard together…for the sake of argument, let’s say that they have a new file format and they call it BVL. Ok, so BVL is a new cool format that allows RSS syndication of 3D images to be syndicated…(hypothetical here). They push this BVL format onto their little consortium OASIS and all of the members think it is just the cat’s pajamas.
They ratify and adopt this standard. They look at three IPR modes (Intellectual Property Rights) to release their BVL standard under…Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory (RAND),” “Royalty-Free (RF) on RAND Terms,” or “RF on Limited Terms”. In each instance, this standard would prevent open source from interacting with it.
How can this be? Simple. It’s the good old boys network. For any of you who know about the southern states in the USA…there is a saying called “Good old boys” where a group of people look the other way or give perks to people that are in their network while leaving everyone else in the cold. That is exactly what is happening here. OASIS will ratify standards whether royalty free or not…and when they do, these ‘standards’ will not be compatible with open source. With all of these very powerful businesses behind them, they can leave joe-project from sourceforge without the ability to use the standard.
Imagine that our BVL standard is release under RAND proper and the fee is only 3 thousand dollars. This is very ‘reasonable’ for a corporation…but how ‘reasonable’ is it for joe-project-manager from sourceforge? Can this person, who works on his project royalty free and for fun, keep up with these big dogs that run in packs? Chances are that his project will not be able to embrace our hypothetical BVL standard.
Some of you might be saying, so what? IBM, Novell, and HP won’t let this happen…they’ve got Linux. That’s right…they do. They also have money to buy these reasonable licenses…it’s the little guy that’s going to get squashed here. Open Source…true GPL Licenses…will be ostracized by any of these IPR modes that OASIS is pushing.
Imagine if you will that the W3C released a standard like XHTML or HTML using RAND. Would each open source project that wants to have a web presence have to pay a ‘reasonable’ license fee? Absolutely ridiculous. This is just as bad as price gouging and price fixing. You can standardize something and make sure all of your ‘pals’ in other companies pick up that standard while making sure that all of you competition (in the form of the small guy) aren’t able to follow your lead…hence, eliminating them.
What’s to stop all of these companies and businesses from talking under the table with one another to push a standard so that they can make money from it and eliminate their competition in the process? America is the land of the free and home of the brave…but I see it being the land where money talks and cowards become brave in numbers. If I had a host that could handle it, I’d setup a boycott website in a heartbeat based on Citadel (nice for web based and shell based users). I’d ask all of the 28 people who signed Larry Rosen’s call to come and make themselves at home and I’d ask everyone who supports the boycott of OASIS to swing on by and make themselves at home. But alas, this page is hosted on my Linux server via cable modem and wouldn’t handle the bandwidth.
Something needs to be done…after all, RAND could kill just about anyone who can’t afford to pay their membership fee. Talking about it won’t make it go away. One can only hope that something sort of action takes place to rally the FOSS troops.
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