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Is W3C's proposal to allow fees for Internet standards a recipe for Web disaster?

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This story appears in the February 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Technology patents exist, and the Web is built on technology. Those basic concepts are combining to cause a swirl of controversy. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the standards-making body of the Web, has proposed allowing patent holders to charge fees for technologies that become part of the Web standards. Proponents say it's the sensible thing to do. Opponents say it will sabotage the open foundations on which the Web is built.

Up till now, "www" has meant "free for all." Web standards such as HTML can be used royalty-free. All current standards are either nonpatented technology, or the companies don't enforce the patents.

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