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[DebianGIS] ECW SDK Licencing feedback

Hi all,

Consider this a semi-delurk :) I'd like to begin helping out in about 2
weeks (programming contract atm).

I recently wondered what was happening with getting ecw libs into
debian, so I asked ER Mapper about it, here are their responses.

If I stepped on the toes of anyone negotiating with them, I apologise
for that (and my zealotry), hopefully this will speed things up :)

The original emails were all top-posted, I've changed that so you can
read it all properly.

-------- Forwarded Message --------
From: Tom Lynch <tom.lynch@ermapper.com>
To: Paul Wise <pabs3@bonedaddy.net>
Cc: qa <qa@ermapper.com.au>
Subject: RE: Beta Feedback: All licences are non-free, therefore can never be distributed in GNU/Linux
Date: Thu, 11 Aug 2005 14:54:56 +0800

Paul Wise wrote:
> Name: Paul Wise
> EMAIL: pabs3@bonedaddy.net
> Product:          ECW JPEG 2000 SDK Source Code
> Product Version:  3.2
> Serial Number:
> Operating System: All
> Additional Platform Details: Debian GNU/Linux
> --------------
> Short Description: All licences are non-free, therefore can
> never be distributed in GNU/Linux
> Full Description:  I read the licences which can be applied to
> the use of the ECW/Jpeg 2000 SDK. This was after having to enter
> an email address just to dowload the licence, let alone the
> source code (I consider this an invasion of privacy).
> As a free software enthusiast, user and developer of the Debian
> GNU/Linux operating system (http://www.debian.org), I value my
> freedom to read source code, modify it etc, therefore I was
> interested to see a GPL licencing option.
> Unfortunately from my reading of this option, it seems decidedly
> non-free according to the standards of Debian (The DFSG, or
> Debian Free Software Guidelines -
> http://www.debian.org/social_contract#guidelines).
> I would ask that you rectify this situation, or if an effort to
> do so is underway, inform me, and the general public by stating
> the status of the relicencing on the project pages:
> http://ermapper.com/downloads/download_view.aspx?PRODUCT_VERSION_ID=276
> http://ermapper.com/downloads/download_view.aspx?PRODUCT_VERSION_ID=267
> I would also suggest that you adopt the spirit of free software
> in addition to the licencing, and create a project on
> sourceforge.net, savannah.gnu.org, gna.org or the like, in order
> to develop the ECW SDK collaboratively with the free software
> community.
> In addition, I note that software patents are a huge threat to
> free software and I hope that ERMapper holds and enforces no
> software patents relating to the ECW and JPEG 2000 formats. If
> such patents were to be actively enforced against free software
> projects, that would make the ECW SDK unusable in the free
> software world, and irrelevant to a great many people.
> If any trademarks are used in the SDK source code, please make
> it trivial to strip them out so they will not be violated by
> redistributions of the SDK.
> You may want to read the following documents in order to
> understand the free software and open source communities.
> http://www.debian.org/intro/free
> http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/philosophy.html
> http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/cathedral-bazaar/cathedral-bazaar/
> http://www.debian.org/social_contract
> http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html
> http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html
> --------------
> Additional Notes:

Hello Paul,

Thanks for your feedback.

The ECW JPEG 2000 SDK does not, as you have said, have a "GPL Licensing"
option.  The "Public Use" License Agreement is one of three agreements
under which it is possible to license the SDK distribution.  It is intended
for use in what we have called "GPL style" applications.  The use of the
term "GPL style" has probably lent to the development of a bit of
confusion, but here only means applications for which the source code is
made available, and
which require that the source code of all derived works is also made

There is also a "Free Use" license which permits the use of the SDK source
code in closed, proprietary applications provided that unlimited
compression functionality is not enabled and the applications are not
"Server Software" as discussed in the license document, and a "Commercial
Use" license which is basically a conventional commercial software license.

None of these licensing agreements is intended to conform to the Debian
Free Software Guidelines.  There are significant reasons why we have not
released a source code distribution under the standard GPL:

- we need to retain a competitive advantage in certain markets
- we want to make the software usable in free, closed source applications
- we want to reserve certain other rights, such as over modification of the
ECW file format

As far as software patents are concerned, we do hold certain patents on
wavelet compression and streaming imagery.

See the text "Rights to use patents, including ERM’s large DWT and
streaming imagery patents, are given only for use with the ECW JPEG 2000
SDK and not for other uses." in the license document.

We do not enforce these patents to obtain royalties from use of the ECW
file format and in fact, they exist largely to protect ER Mapper from
the enforcement of related or overlapping patents by litigious

We stipulate that the ECW file format not be modified in the SDK license
documents because of our concerns about the possibility of parallel file
formats being developed and creating needless interoperability problems.

In the case of the JPEG 2000 file format, for which a compliant encoder and
decoder is included in the SDK, you may be aware that several corporations
(e.g. IBM and Ricoh) hold patents on the format which they have agreed not
to enforce on the normal use of JPEG 2000 files.  It is therefore necessary
for us to require that the JPEG 2000 encoder in the SDK not be modified to
change the JPEG 2000 format files it produces, since the files produced
would be in violation of several patents.  Likewise the MQ coder included
in the SDK cannot be used for purposes other than JPEG 2000 encoding.

We require that people who want to distribute modified versions of the ECW
JPEG 2000 SDK submit changes to the code base back to us, so that all users
(free, commercial and otherwise) of the SDK can benefit from any
improvements that are made.

We do not own a trademark on "ECW" or any related terms.

Some examples of use cases of the SDK under the "Public Use" License

used as a GDAL driver - no problem here

used as a GDAL driver in a FOSS project like MapServer - no problem

used as a GDAL driver in a commercial, closed source product - NOT OK
(would need to use "Free" or "Commercial" licenses and the product would
need to meet the additional requirements of these licenses)

used as a GDAL driver in a commercial, open source product - may or may not
be OK, depending on the situation.

We appreciate the spirit of the free software movement and that is what has
motivated our release of the SDK source code in the first place, as well as
our support for non-proprietary standards like JPEG 2000.  Although
restrictions in the SDK licenses remain that prevent its distribution as
part of free software projects like Debian GNU/Linux, the ECW JPEG 2000 SDK
can still be used freely by people running Debian, in open source projects
that run on Debian.

Thanks again for your feedback, and I hope this email will have clarified
our position on these issues.


Tom Lynch
Development, ER Mapper
Phone:      +61 8 93882900
Fax:        +61 8 93882901
Email:      tom.lynch@ermapper.com
Web:        http://www.ermapper.com
Forums:     http://forum.ermapper.com

-------- Forwarded Message --------
From: Tom Lynch <tom.lynch@ermapper.com>
To: Paul Wise <pabs3@bonedaddy.net>
Cc: qa <qa@ermapper.com.au>
Subject: RE: Beta Feedback: All licences are non-free, therefore can never be distributed in GNU/Linux
Date: Thu, 11 Aug 2005 15:28:29 +0800

Paul Wise wrote:
> On Thu, 2005-08-11 at 14:54 +0800, Tom Lynch wrote:
>> Thanks for your feedback.
> <snip>
> Thanks for the info, do you mind if I forward this to the debian gis
> email list?

It's OK by me.  If there is any particularly useful constructive
criticism after you post it, please send it my way.  I am aware that
there may be dual-licensing models or workarounds that we haven't
explored fully, and we would be eager to release the SDK under a license
conforming to the definition of free software if there were a way
forward that met our other requirements.

I will probably work the email I just sent you into a discussion document
to link from the product pages on ermapper.com.  At the least we are aiming
at heading off the confusion that circles around the licensing of the SDK.





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