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

On Fri, Oct 25, 2002 at 09:10:32AM +0100, Edmund GRIMLEY EVANS wrote:
> Does a patent make code non-DFSG-free?
> Perhaps Debian says "yes", but I don't quite understand the logic.

I think in general "no", but Debian long ago moved all gif-writing
programs to non-free.  IIRC that was a deliberate decision in order
to promote the move to non-encumbered formats like PNG.

Since the only sane way to deal with patents (if there is a sane way)
is on a case-by-case basis, and we seem to have decided to deal
with this one by considering such code non-free, I think it makes
sense to apply the same decision to source code.  (It doesn't make
sense to say that the source code is free but its binaries aren't.)

(I say "seem to have decided" because I don't expect complete consensus
in a project as large as this.  However, this decision has been followed
consistently for as long as I've been part of the project.  It also
doesn't make sense to change it now, only one year before the patent
expires anyway.)

> [...] In general, it doesn't philosophically make sense to
> declare a program to be non-DFSG-free just because certain
> applications of the (perhaps modified) program are illegal in certain
> countries. 

I agree with this as a general principle.  I think we should respond
to patents only if we receive specific threats from patent holders.
(Specific to the patent, not to us :-)  We shouldn't wait _that_ long.)

> So, I think you fulfill the social contract better by warning users
> about possible patent problems rather than removing the code in cases
> where you are not actually forced to do so by some repressive
> government.

I don't agree with this as a general rule.  We might decide to respond
this way with certain patents, but it should be a specific decision
based on the situation at hand.

Richard Braakman

(Sorry for the excessive parenthesation.  I just woke up :)

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