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Re: Freetype patent issues

On Thu, Jan 22, 2004 at 09:20:58PM +0100, Alex de Landgraaf wrote:
> Hey debian-legal,
> Interested in improving font-AAing in Debian, I've taken a look at some of the
> patches in Debian for the freetype package. Now patents have hinderd true AA
> using freetype in Debian in the past (> 2 years ago), but since the freetype
> 2.0 series this shouldn't be a problem anymore [1].
> In the current freetype package, the bytecode interpreter is _enabled_ using a
> patch (030-bytecode-interpreter.diff), I suspect this patch still remains from
> the 1.0 freetype series, when this and other patches were used to supply an
> unpatented bytecode interpreter. According to the freetype site, this would now
> cause freetype to fall under the patents granted to Apple, just like the 1.0
> series. Disabling this patch would make freetype in debian patent-free again
> (from my point of view), while drasticly improving AA fonts in Debian (and
> derivatives alike). A bug [2] has already been submitted to do this some time
> ago.
> Then why this email? I'd like to be sure that I'm right on this subject. The
> last discussion about freetype seems to be a few years old, so it might be best
> to get some more informed people look at this issue again and correct me if I'm
> wrong :)

It appears you are correct. If the bytecode interpreter is enabled, this
would cause freetype to fall under the Apple patents; however, since
Apple Computer is not actively enforcing its patent, we are not going to
force the issue. The debian-legal stance on patents is to ignore those
that are not being actively enforced (e.g. the Forgent patent on JPEG)
and concern ourselves only with those that the patent holders give us
grief about (e.g. IDEA, MP3, etc.).

Debian is not patent-free, and will not be patent-free. CAST5 and CAST6
are patented but are available for use royalty free. DSA is patented by,
IIRC, David Kravitz of the NSA. Putting a cursor on the screen using XOR
is patented. I'm sure the Linux console driver (as well as the Hurd
console driver) uses that technique, because it is efficient.
Copy-on-write memory semantics are patented by SGI. And so on.

If Apple decides to actively enforce its patent, you should upgrade
the severity to serious if the license available for general use is not
compatible with the Debian Free Software Guidelines.

That being said, the maintainer should get a move on and remove the
patch so that the fonts look right.

Brian M. Carlson <sandals@crustytoothpaste.ath.cx> 0x560553e7

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