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Re: Policy on code covered by patents but not compiled?

On 12/16/05, Nathanael Nerode <neroden@twcny.rr.com> wrote:
> Consider the following situation:
> * Code (say MPEG encoder code) is considered to be covered by patents
> * Those patents are considered to be actively enforced
> * Code implementing an MPEG encoder is shipped in a source package
> * This code is not compiled or used, and the user is not encouraged to
>   compile it or use it, and is actually warned against compiling or using it
>   without a patent license.
> Now, it seems to me that this shouldn't create any legal patent problems.
> Under patent law, describing how to perform a patented process is supposed
> to be legally protected -- in fact, it's required under the patent publication
> laws.
> Actual use of the patented process is restricted, of course, but the situation
> I just described is specifically intended to discourage and prevent use, while
> allowing people to study the code.

Many people can not legally use the patented techniques.
By making it easier to use the formats which require patented
implementation (for both those who can use it legally, and for those
who wish to ignore the law)  creates an environment where use of these
formats continues to flourish.  This causes harm to those who can not
or will not break the law to use these formats.

Today we have reasonable free replacements for these formats.
Ogg/Vorbis is a higher quality alternative to mp3/aac/ac3. Ogg/Theora
is a competitive (although not quite as good) alternative to MPEG4. 
Flac and Speex provide leading edge lossless and speech compression
respectively. These formats are completely free and unencumbered.

So, even if there were some loophole that made it okay to merely
facilitate the commission of a crime rather than commit it directly,
why on earth should anyone who cares about the freedom of computer
users make life easier for people who choose to be *jerks* by
installing patented codecs (encoders especially!)?

If the world's largest online encyclopedia can manage using only free
codecs for its media
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Media_help), then you can too.

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