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Is FRAND Dying?

ComputerWorldUK - Glyn Moody - Last week's big announcement by the UK government was principally about procurement, detailing the new rules that will apply when government departments acquire software. Naturally, then, it concentrated on the details of that approach, and how it would be deployed and enforced. A key part of that was using open standards to create a level playing field for all companies, regardless of whether they offered open source or proprietary code.

As I explained in my post last week, the critical issue then became what exactly "open standards" meant, and, specifically, how standards that might be encumbered by patents would be dealt with. As I've noted many times before, the only way open source can implement general interoperability standards is if any claimed patents are licensed under royalty/restriction-free (RF) terms. Although that's the preferred mode for key Internet organisations like the W3C, it stands in contrast to the older approach, which was based on "fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory" - FRAND.

The problem is that licensing can be perfectly fair, reasonable and non-discriminating, but nonetheless incompatible with open source code. Typically, FRAND requires a per-copy payment, but for free software, which can be shared any number of times, it's simply not possible to keep tabs on just how many copies are out there.