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Taking a position on anti-patent licenses (was ' Re: Bug#289856: mdnsresponder: Wrong license')

On Sat, Jan 22, 2005 at 10:19:39PM +0000, MJ Ray wrote:
> Marco d'Itri <md@Linux.IT> wrote:
> > mjr@dsl.pipex.com wrote:
> > 
> > >Do you really want to argue that software under licences which try to
> > >affect other pieces of unrelated software meets the DFSG?
> > Yes, because I do not believe that it is a "restriction on other
> > software".
> A licence essentially saying "you can copy if you don't enforce your
> patents infringed by me" doesn't restrict other software? Is your
> position coloured by a desire to defeat software patents at any cost?
> I don't think it's worth sacrificing free software in order to try to
> kill swpat.

Not at any cost. Not sacrificing free software. But still working to defeat
software patents. What's wrong with that?

I don't have a strong position on the desirability or otherwise of the
license clauses which are now cropping up trying to defeat software patents.
I'm inclined to think that they could be a good thing, if written very
carefully indeed.

But either way, I think that it would be a good idea for the project to
have a thorough discussion of the issue, and come to a position, rather
than treating them piecemeal as we have been to date.

So. The proposition to discuss would appear to be along the lines of:

    Debian accepts that it may in certain circumstances be desirable
    (or at least acceptable) for software licenses to limit certain
    freedoms in order better to protect Free Software as a whole. A
    current example of this would be the GPL, and the conditions it
    places on distribution of derived works -- basically that they
    must be distributed with source, under the terms of the GPL.

    In the light of the threat that software patents pose to Free
    Software, we believe that it is likewise acceptable for software
    licenses to place conditions on the use of software patents
    against Free Software authors and distributors.

If it turns out that we accept that, then we would need to go on to
determine what kinds of restrictions we might regard as being "OK".

Thoughts? (as opposed to knee-jern reactions ;-) )



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