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Big names in open-source go on the attack

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Luminaries of the free-software and open-source movements have united to protest the new patent policy of OASIS, the web standards group. Larry Lessig and Richard Stallman are among the signatories of a petition calling on the open-source community to boycott OASIS' specifications.

Earlier this month OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) updated its policy on incorporating patented work into standards. It introduced three types of licensing it considers acceptable: reasonable and nondiscriminatory licensing; royalty-free on reasonable and non discriminatory terms, or royalty free on limited terms.

When it revised its policy, OASIS said it wanted to acknowledge the importance of royalty free standards; but open-source and free-software advocates don't think it goes far enough. Along with Lessig and Stallman, Tim O'Reilly, Bruce Perens, Mitchell Kapor, Lawrence Rosen, Doc Searls and Eric Raymond all signed an email, quoted on CNET:

"We ask you to stand with us in opposition to the OASIS patent policy. Do not implement OASIS standards that aren't open. Demand that OASIS revise its policies. If you are an OASIS member, do not participate in any working group that allows encumbered standards that cannot be implemented in open-source and free software."

OASIS defended the new terms, saying that its approach was as strong as that taken by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Patrick Gannon, president and CEO of OASIS, suggested that the people signing the email had not read the new terms properly, and accused them of "reacting to someone else's claim", CNET reports.

"Had any of these people come to us, we would have been more than happy to open a dialogue. This isn't the best way to open a dialogue between communities, through the press," he said. ®

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