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Re: IBM Public License (again)

Summary: we are being offered a non-free patent licence which may or may not be required, which is a different case to being offered no patent licence for no known relevant patents.

On 2004-05-14 02:12:12 +0100 Josh Triplett <josh.trip@verizon.net> wrote:

Consider what we would say if we were explaining why debian-legal ruled this license non-free: "Well, it doesn't allow you to sue the people who wrote the software and still keep the right to distribute the software."

Consider what we would say if we were explaining why debian-legal ruled this license free: "Cross-contaminating patent licence termination clauses are fine, but similar copyright licence termination clauses are not."

I'm not sure whether paraphrasing like this is useful, but if it helps you:

It seems perfectly right to explain: "It doesn't allow you to sue the people who hold the patents for this software over some unrelated software without keeping the right to distribute this software." I thought we already held that position on copyright licence termination clauses?

"We insist that licenses be perpetual unless terminated for non-compliance" Branden Robinson during the LaTeX discussions http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2002/08/msg00108.html -- Now, the IBM patent licence terminates if you don't comply with conditions on other software. Why is that not contaminating?

As for the possibility that the licensor sues you and you want to
counter-sue using a software patent, consider that without the patent
license termination clause, you could sue the licensor over a software
patent and they couldn't use their patents to defend themselves.  The
only useful purpose for patents in Free Software is to keep from being
sued by other patent holders.

Assume that you are right about this useful purpose, that I hold swpat and that I license them in a DFSG-free manner, that is one that does not terminate because of actions not involving the licensed software. Why should my position in a swpat battle with IBM be weakened because I licensed in a way that does not try to contaminate other software?

I don't think that accepting non-free patent licenses is a useful way to defend free software.

Finally, I think the GPL would have the same effect with respect to
software patents. [...]

The GPL is a copyright licence: "Activities other than copying, distribution and modification are not covered by this License; they are outside its scope". The only effects involving patents are to remind the licensee that it does not excuse them from the copyright licence, which may involve them being unable to distribute. The wording seems to encourage free, royalty-free licensing of any patents involved.

[...] In general, we don't
actively search out patents that affect software, because it would
consume all the time of every developer in Debian, and because patent
liability increases if you knowingly infringe a patent.  I believe we
should apply the same procedure here.

In general, we are not offered a non-free licence for undisclosed patents affecting the software. I believe this case is significantly different from the usual "no patent licence, no known patents" and merits consideration on its own.

Legalistic licensors covering all their bases, or companies that hold so many patents that it would be difficult to search them all to determine
what to license.

It seems unfair to put the burden of discovering what has been licensed on the distributors and users. Does anyone know how a court would handle this?

My Opinion Only and possibly not of any group I know.
http://www.ttllp.co.uk/ for creative copyleft computing

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