Anne van Kesteren

W3C TPAC: Copyright

Mozilla funded my TPAC attendance this year. W3C waived the entrance fee. Both are very much appreciated as I had a great time. Although I was not asked for anything, I thought in return I could contribute part of my experience to the public record.

Throughout the week I had a few brief chats with Jeff Jaffe (W3C’s CEO) about my reluctance to join the W3C as Invited Expert. The reason I have not joined is because per my reading of the Invited Expert Agreement I would effectively give the W3C ownership of my creative work (the license grant is non-exclusive, but there is a no-forking clause). Jeff Jaffe confirmed my reading and also confirmed the W3C was not interested in setting up the same structure again for what is in place for HTML now. (E.g. publish DOM both at the WHATWG and W3C via the same editor. Instead the W3C would have to fork the WHATWG version or write its own copy.)

Most of the WHATWG documents are published in the public domain (CC0 for countries that do not recognize the public domain). I think this is important because these are documents that define part of the architecture of the web. Nobody and no organization should be entitled to them. They are proven by being in wide use by the web community, not by being published by anyone in particular. They can be improved by anyone and if the person or organization maintaining them takes a turn for the worse, it is relatively easy to take over. The creative work can be easily used for other purposes unforeseen at time of creation and there is way less legal gray area when e.g. including Web IDL snippets from the document into source code of a user agent.

Although Jeff Jaffe personally agrees with licensing specifications as the WHATWG does (and many on the W3C Team do too (now?)), his defence for not doing it at the W3C is because there is no consensus among the W3C Members to do so. My response to that is that the W3C had no consensus to do the right thing with HTML either back in 2004 which turned out to be a colossal mistake in judgment. (At least for the W3C, one could argue that because of the WHATWG we probably have made much more progress on HTML than we could have otherwise.)

I think the W3C Team failed on several occasions since 2006 to make open licensing a reality, in particular with the private poll held in 2009. And now the defense for no change is because it is too soon. A lot of the details are unfortunately hidden away from the public eye and a lot of it happened before Jeff Jaffe arrived so it is hard to talk to him about it, but I feel like I waited long enough. This in part is why I left for greener style sheets.