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Re: nomarch-1.2 - Problems with RLE patent 4,586,027

First off, sorry about mailing to you directly as well as to the list.
I'll get that fixed soon. (I'm using sylpheed; how can I make it follow
debian mailing list policy in a convenient way?)

On Tue, 21 May 2002 04:48:47 -0700
Joseph Carter <knghtbrd@bluecherry.net> wrote:

> On Tue, May 21, 2002 at 04:11:24AM -0700, Jim Lynch wrote:
> > > This project needs a backbone.
> > 
> > OK. Hire the lawyers necessary to support the claims you're making 
> > rather than suggest that debian should just go ahead and break the
> > law without thinking. It looks like every one of these patents
> > you've mentioned have prior art. The backboney thing to do is get
> > those patents recinded, all of them. BTW, maybe the symlink patent
> > could stand up if microsoft owns unix and unix invented symlinks...
> > you would need art prior to unix.
> If Debian needs a lawyer to determine that something like a patent on
> RLE or a Save-As feature are bogus and not worth worrying about, then
> we should all leave the project now since we can't get anything done
> whatsoever.  I can find patents which the Linux, BSD, and HURD kernels
> all violate if I try.  Hell, Microsoft has a patent on SYMLINKS!

(did you read the above? I'm not suggesting the lawyers are needed to 
-determine- if the patents are bogus. I'm stating that if debian is to
have this backbone and set of balls you speak of, it should -fight- the
patents and have them recinded. So, in fact we do agree that the patents
are bogus, but you believe they should be ignored and I believe they
should be dealt with.)

> Either Debian must decide that these things are bull and ignore them
> or it must cease to be.  Those are the only two options available to
> us.  These patents are ridiculous and meaningless.  The holders of
> these patents know it, and they don't actually enforce them because
> they realize how stupid it would be and how easily prior art could be
> proven if necessary.

Hey! You with the balls! Yeah, you! DO it! Get the patents recinded!

If not, please don't talk about balls or backbones :)

Lawyers: how fast could this be, and how expensive? Also, is it in fact
necessary, or can we just ignore them, hoping someone else doesn't fall
victim to them?

> They simply use these silly patents when they're threatened or need to
> license other silly patents.  It's a form of legalized extortion in
> which corporations find that it is easier to strike a deal than take
> the chance that the other corporation may not be bluffing and risk
> losing a court case.
> These patents are patently ridiculous and every single person on this
> list with half a brain knows it.  Now if you will all kindly develop
> the other half of your brain and make the logical connection that
> these things are a complete non-threat, we can all get back to making
> Debian a good operating system. 

You're the one who responded to this :) And I did too. Consider what
happened in the case where some idiot trademarked "linux" and started
going "stand and deliver" to anyone using the word in their ads? They
fought and quickly won.

Uninformed comments about my brain aren't on the topic, are they?
Are you fighting just to fight? Consider that we do agree that the
patents are ridiculous. The place where we disagree is in how we
should respond. 

Recently, a debian developer was arrested by the FBI for writing 
a program he wasn't supposed to write, having something to do with
the DMCA and decss possibly. Our response was to try to fund his
legal defense.

Tell me either why these patents are a good thing, or how we can 
absolutely prevent being subject to them even as debian provides
packages with infringing software. If you can't, then tell me
why positive action to get all the patents you mentioned recinded
is bad, or inefficient. If you can't, tell me why debian should
break the law, assuming it is found that some package infringes
on one of the "ridiculous" patents.

I don't disagree with you about the ridiculous nature of the
patents... and the RLE thing might not be applicable to the
packages, so maybe that's one we don't need to deal with.

> Or we can continue jumping at shadows
> until someone gives us a patent number which makes apt a patent
> violation (it exists) or the same for the kernel itself (also likely
> to be an easy search..)

If you know it exists, do you also have the number?

OK, I just searched, and found Granted to Punch Networks May 29, the
patent -- "Method and apparatus for automatically disseminating
information over a network" -- is numbered 6,240,451. 

Can you say "NTP is prior art"? :)

> When I joined Debian, RSA was patented and this could have severely
> hurt our ability to even sign our uploads.  What did Debian do about
> this? Well, RSA was patented in the US - so we had a server outside
> the US with RSA on it.  Two versions in fact.  The first was for use
> in the US (and should never have been allowed outside the US.  How did
> it get there? Well, we didn't care!  It was there and we got hold of
> it, that was enough...)  Sure RSA was patented, but we didn't let that
> get in the way of Debian.

I was around for that. Also, I know some of the people who worked on the
upstream; all the work that needed to be done outside was done outside
the US, or at least that's what I was told. The guy I knew was in the
US, and so he couldn't actually work on the core stuff.

> Today, if RSA were patented and someone posted an ITP for PGP 2.x, it
> would go into a list of packages which cannot be made because of the
> RSA patent.  Debian has become cowardly.  And any backlash toward me
> for saying so is directly related to the fact that others refuse to
> admit the truth.  We no longer try to fight these things passively or
> otherwise.  We have given up as a project.  The patent holders have
> won because we've lost the will to work around their patents.

-sheesh-! Aren't you listening?? Fighting the patents is exactly what
I'm suggesting. Get them -recinded-. That's the -ballzy- thing to do.

Working around them gets the job done, but it's weak because debian
isn't helping to fight for the very freedom of coding it enjoys. All
it's doing is taking care of itself. If it -does- fight and win, more 
programs can be written, and anyone can write them.

> > (btw... is anyone besides me wondering what could happen if
> > microsoft buys redhat (and therefore cygnus and arsdigita)? Now that
> > redhat is publically traded, it could happen)
> I know what would happen.  First things first, gcc would fork.  But
> Debian would immediately go into a panic and need to have some company
> donate lawyer services to help the project figure out what if any
> impact this would have on our ability to use gcc for compiling Debian.

One thing is for sure: such an event would test the GPL. They would be
getting Cygnus, not FSF or GNU. There's no question that gcc from cygnus
could be used, but the impact of their purchase would be to try to make
cygnus do closed-source work, or spread the developers to the four
winds, or something along those lines. Unless MS breaks GPL, gcc can be
used.(and I keep hearing rumblings that suggest they are trying to do

> If you think I'm exxagerating things a bit, I think you haven't been
> reading the lists very closely.

I would have thought you were exaggerating, and I haven't been reading 
the lists closely for about a year now. I'm trying again to see if
I'm willing to follow the lists again. (debian-user is too much...
noisey as all hell, repetitive, people don't look first before posting
afaict... maybe I get rid of that one...) 

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