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

On Sun, Jan 23, 2005 at 08:42:07PM +1300, Nick Phillips wrote:
> 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.

I think that's a discussion that belongs on -project.

> 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.

I think this is too broad of a statement to actually build a consensus
around.  Which is to say, I don't agree with it because it doesn't specify
which "conditions" it's acceptable to place on the use of software patents.
Saying "yes, restrictions are ok" opens the flood gates for people assuming
that all kinds of abusive restrictions are acceptable.

Steve Langasek
postmodern programmer

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