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Re: MPlayer DFSG compatibility status

On Tue, Oct 07, 2003 at 08:53:44PM -0400, Brian T. Sniffen wrote:
> Gabucino <gabucino@mplayerhq.hu> writes:

> > Glenn Maynard wrote:
> >> One version of VirtualDub could read ASF files, and that was quickly removed.
> >> That was back in 2000, and I just checked: the news entries appear to have
> >> fallen off the site.
> > There is a significant part to these patent enforcement stories: they all
> > happen on Win32 platform. Microsoft has never enforced media patents on Linux
> > market, as far as I know.

> That's irrelevant if they actually own the patent: the goal is not to
> avoid getting sued, it's to avoid breaking the law.

Disagree.  We are generally aware that, given the state of the industry
today, large sections of the Debian archive are infringing on one
US software patent or another.  Software patents are an illegitimate
application of patent law, however; we should not unnecessarily
legitimize them through our obeisance.  The policy that maximizes our
ability to achieve our goals is one which treats software patents as
non-existent, *except* in cases where there is a clear danger of
litigation.  (In contrast, all software actively used today would still
have been covered by copyright even under the earliest copyright
policies in the US; so regardless of what else may be happening on the
frontiers of copyright law, the copyrights governing the software in our
archive are Constitutionally legitimate, and it's right that we should
respect them.)

I do not have a clear feeling yet on what this policy would dictate in
the case of MPlayer, however.  Certainly the threat level is higher than
for most patent-infringing software in our archive, but I haven't
decided if menacing phone calls from Microsoft developers trip my danger
threshold here.  I'm inclined to say that anyone who can't get their
corporate lawyer to handle such "legal relations" matters isn't serious.

Steve Langasek
postmodern programmer

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