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The intent of patent clauses in DFSG draft (was: Re: Leadership, effects on Debian ...)

Avery Pennarun <apenwarr@worldvisions.ca> writes:

> But there are other parts of the DFSG that DFSG2 attempts to fix (and
> sometimes fails, at the moment):
> 4) Patents.  Do be honest, I don't even understand what we're trying to
>    accomplish with this part, however, I think the latest DFSG2 draft is
>    getting better.  The point of this new clause may be that software is not
>    free if the author of the software patents it and doesn't freely license
>    the patent.
>    To rephrase: patents are a way of introducing restrictions beyond the
>    ones in the license agreement.  A "do anything you want with this"
>    license is certainly DFSG-free, but if the software is the RSAREF library
>    and you can't license the patent from RSA commercially without a fee,
>    then the software isn't _really_ free.
>    Since all packages of Debian are supposed to be freely usable/modifiable,
>    we would be lying to our users by including such a package in main.

And if the patent clauses were written in such a way, I'd support
them.  The unfortunate fact is that they aren't written this way AT
ALL.  Basically, the current guidelines declare that if you're on the
Debian sh*tlist (which is called "being a software patent agressor")
then any piece of otherwise free software you release, if any
operation of it is covered by patents, is non-free.  No matter how
clearly you license the use of your patent with regard to this piece
of software, it's non-free.

Now while I agree that software patents are at best a questionable
legal concept, I don't want to reject a piece of software because I
dislike its creators.  The DFSG has never before dealt with anything
as odd as the "controller" of a piece of software; I'd prefer it stay
that way.

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