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

On Tue, Jan 25, 2005 at 05:35:27PM -0800, Josh Triplett wrote:

> >>    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.

> I agree that this proposition is not specific enough about the types of
> conditions that we consider acceptable.  I would propose the following
> addition to the above text, which I believe specifies a set of
> acceptable conditions that many on -legal agree with:

> """
> Requiring that distributors of a piece of software refrain from making
> accusations of patent infringement regarding the software itself is
> consistent with the goal of upholding the freedoms of users over that
> software.  As such, we consider license condititions acceptable that
> terminate a licensee's rights to the software if that licensee raises a
> patent lawsuit claiming that the software in question infringes their
> patent(s).

Agree with this, though for clarity I would say "their own patent(s)" for
this last.

> However, many software licenses choose to go further than that,
> requiring that distributors refrain entirely from engaging in patent
> lawsuits against any authors of the software, regardless of whether
> those lawsuits are related to the software or not.  We do not support
> the practice of patenting software, but we find it unacceptable for
> licenses to place requirements which pertain to other, independent
> works.  We believe this policy is consistent with the principles behing
> in Debian Free Software Guideline 9, "License Must Not Contaminate Other
> Software".
> """

I agree with this sentiment, though I imagine the wording will need to be
tuned a bit before it's possible to build a consensus around this part.

Steve Langasek
postmodern programmer

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