I don't subscribe to the school of thought that assign labels to corporations such as 'good' or 'evil'. A good company gives value back to its shareholders. A bad company takes value away from its shareholders. An 'evil' company is a label used by the competition, trying to assign moral values reserved for people to legal entities.
While people working for a company can and many times do evil things, that often changes with time as people move out and the company changes its direction. 70 years ago, IBM supported the Nazis… but it was about the people running it at that time and not something about its mission.
Over the past year I have encountered a few cases where companies took internal specifications and offered them to the community as the basis for some future open specification or standard. Nokia's URIQA proposal, Google's Wave protocol, and Opera's Scope protocol are three such examples. But while Google released their proposal under clear IP terms, Nokia and Opera simply provided a copyright statement.
There is nothing new with the approach taken by Nokia and Opera. The proposition of "we will give this for free if adopted as a standard" is all too common. But it doesn't really work. Why should I spend any time on reviewing and investing in something I have no assurances I will have access to? The way intellectual property (IP) laws is structured, at least in the US, makes interacting with such proposals a liability, unless I know what the intellectual property rights (IPR) policy is.
At the end of the day, companies need to make their shareholders happy, and considering what a company is – a legal construct – the shareholders always win (or sue). So while I have no reason to think that Nokia or Opera will change course on this today, I must be prepared for the possibility that they might tomorrow.
This is in no way an attack of Opera or Nokia specifically. I have absolutely no reason to believe that the individuals working there will try and move the company in that direction (with regard to these two proposals) – especially Opera which has a history of openness. But it does present me with a useful test case for making my point.
There is always an implied "threat" in this approach because it doesn't answer what will happen if a standard adopts half the proposal, making the Opera product, for example, incompatible with the final specification.
What I want to see happen is for companies to put such document under clear IP terms right form the start. The web community is not likely to take any one company's specification and make it how the web works. This means any such protocol is an invitation for dialog. Without clear IP terms, that dialog is too risky and skewed in one direction.
The Open Web Foundation 'Final Specification Agreement' will provide one such document companies can use.