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Re: [fielding@apache.org: Review of proposed Apache License, version 2.0]

Andrew Suffield <asuffield@debian.org> writes:

> The argument proposed was attempting to say "No company is ever going
> to grant free patent licenses"; I pointed out the argument applies
> equally to software (it's the same one that proprietary software
> advocates have been making for about 20 years, claiming that free
> software can't work), and companies *do* grant free software
> licenses. They can grant free patent licenses for the same reasons.

And, as it happens, companies do grant free patent licenses: it's
common practice when working on a standard which must be approved by a
standards body with a RF policy: typically, the patent is licensed for
any use which implements that standard.

This is an interesting restriction on modification-and-use: you can
modify the program to use the patented technology outside the scope of
the standard, but you can't compile and use that code without
infringing on the patent.  I *think* the result can be Free Software,
but I'm not entirely convinced: it seems that the standard is included
by reference in the patent spec.

This is made even worse in cases where the standard isn't freely
available, so you don't even have the text of the patent license
unless you pay for the standard.  That's probably not Free Software.

But for the case of Apache, for example, it's enough for every
contributing company to grant a universal license to their patented
technology for use in web browsers, and for the ASF to refuse
contributions to the mainline Apache from anyone who doesn't agree.

Yes, this means unscrupulous or even just secretive companies can fork
Apache and integrate their proprietary, patented technology.  That
would be unfortunate.  But the freedom to do that is a necessary


Brian T. Sniffen                                        bts@alum.mit.edu

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