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patents and non-free

John Galt <galt@inconnu.isu.edu>:

> The funny part is the selfsame stuff that makes GIF viewers non-free is
> blithely in gzip.  Ah well, consistency has never been a hallmark of
> patents WRT non-free.

Does Debian have any kind of policy on patents at all?

Some random observations and questions:

Nothing in the DFSG seems to refer to patents, so I don't see how a
patent can make a program non-free in the DFSG sense. Also, the USA
isn't the only country in the world to have software patents (there's
also Japan), so non-us doesn't seem very useful for dealing with

I believe it is unclear whether it may be a patent infringement to
distribute a program together with a warning that use of the program
might be an infringement. It might be all right to distribute source
but not binaries, but nobody seems to know.

In practice, if Debian receives a legal threat it surrenders
immediately, for practical reasons, and also because Debian doesn't
really want to encourage the use of patented algorithms, I suppose.

Should Debian warn users about patents that might affect a program,
even if no one is making any legal threats?


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