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Re: LZW patented file left in .orig.tar source package?

On Wed, Oct 23, 2002 at 09:58:50AM -0700, Walter Landry wrote:
> Chris Halls <halls@debian.org> wrote:

> > Can someone say whether I may leave a file that implements a patented
> > algorithm (LZW compression for GIFs) in the source tarball for
> > OpenOffice.org?  The file is not built or distributed - I have patched the
> > build to use a dummy version of the class that does nothing [1].

> You have to take it out of whatever Debian distributes.  I can
> download the the .orig.tar.gz file, so it can't be in that.  Even if
> the .diff.gz takes it out.

To be clear, does the .orig.tar.gz include a *GIF*, or source code that
implements LZW compression *for* GIFs?  The first is clearly allowed; the
second, I think, is also allowed, so long as we aren't using it in our
binaries.  AFAIK, thhere is nothing legally questionable about
distributing the code, only about using the algorithms that this code
implements.  Debian actually takes a hard stance against GIFs that far
outstrips the actual legal risks involved, IMHO, and in so doing makes a
statement about the need for unencumbered file standards; but I don't
think this necessitates putting our packagers to extra work to keep such
patent-encumbered code out of source tarballs.

Steve Langasek
postmodern programmer

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