[uf-discuss] Voluntary Public Domain declarations now enabledonthe wiki

Joe Andrieu joe at andrieu.net
Tue Jul 31 22:48:04 PDT 2007

Hi Ernie,

Ernest Prabhakar (Tuesday, July 31, 2007 10:23 PM) wrote:
> On Jul 31, 2007, at 9:54 PM, Joe Andrieu wrote:
> > I expect that many of the leadership find this train of thought
> > distasteful. It is, as it stinks of unproductive legal  
> > confrontations. But such are a part of life and business in high  
> > tech entrepreneurship and development. Shoving it under the rug  
> > doesn't make it go away.
> I appreciate your comments, and I do believe that they are well- 
> intentioned and intended to be constructive.
> That said, I can't help but wonder if this is one of the (few) cases  
> where we *can* ignore the problem, and it *might* go away.
>  From what I can see, several large organizations (e.g., Google,  
> Wikpedia, LinkedIn) have made major efforts to incorporate  
> microformat content.  I personally find it hard to envision a  
> sustained legal challenge that would cause those organizations to  
> reverse course.
> To be sure, that may simply be a lack of imagination on my (and  
> their) part.  But -- as someone who deals with licensing on a 
> regular  
> basis, as an OSI Board Observer -- the lack of formal legal  
> protection does not appear to be hindering microformats adoption "in  
> the large", even if there are individual corporations that 
> choose not  
> to participate.
> Under the circumstances, is there really any hard evidence that this  
> is something the community *must* deal with, or is it simply a "gut  
> feeling" based on how other standards organizations handle 
> such issues?

The best hard evidence I know of is discussed at the URL I mentioned in my email:

I would particularly draw your attention to the problems Dell, Rambus, and Qualcomm all had because of lawsuits triggered by their
allegedly inappropriate participation in standards development.

My argument, btw, isn't that this is hindering adoption of existing microformats. We have a tiger by the tail that is going to grow
no matter what we do.

But how well it grows--and what growing pains we experience as it does--will depend on how we handle a number of issues, including
how we handle intellectual property rights.  The problems of Dell, Rambus, and Qualcomm were precisely because their technologies
got embedded into industry standards that were wildly successful.  

Correct me if I'm wrong, but we still have no assertions or agreements by any of uF authors for non-enforcement of any and all past
and future patent rights related to their work on microformats.  Why not? 

More importantly to me personally, I am interested in particular microformats that support my own company. We definitely have
protected and protectable IP, of the kind that could implicate me (and us) in anti-trust problems if I were to be successful in
influencing uF in a direction that ultimately infringes on one of our patents.  Now, one can say that's easy, just don't enforce
such patents, it's bad karma anyway.  However, it is not that easy to do, especially as a startup where strong IP position helps our
financing outlook, and ultimately the investors will control the IP, not me.  The result is reduced contributions because I simply
can't afford the potential exposure.

Finally, the lack of transparency is the most frustrating aspect of this decision.  Why aren't these issues laid out on the wiki and
discussed on a governance list?  This sort of elusive autocratic leadership undermines my trust in the administrators.  And /that/
is part of why many people I have personally spoken to have chosen to not contribute and moved on to other work.  Sometimes I wonder
why I'm still banging my head against the wall here. I guess it is my incurable optimism or perhaps my undying faith that things can
be made better.

Here's to hoping.



Joe Andrieu
SwitchBook Software
joe at switchbook.com
+1 (805) 705-8651 

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