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Re: Software patents and Debian

On Sat, Aug 19, 2006 at 10:41:29PM +0200, Marco d'Itri wrote:
> bignose+hates-spam@benfinney.id.au wrote:
> >> Still, the DFSG does not addrss patents. This means that there is no
> >> point in arguing that patent restrictions violate thit.
> >The DFSG doesn't talk about any particular branch of law. It talks
> >about "the rights attached to the program" and other such phrases. To
> >the extent that those rights are granted or restricted by holders of
> >patents, the DFSG addresses patents.
> Still, Debian has a long standing policy of doing the opposite.

Yes, because DFSG can apply only to relations between you and those
involved in the given piece of software.  Thus, if the creator of the
program in question grants us only limited rights, this would be a
DFSG issue regardless if it's a matter of copyright, patents, "moral
rights" or the Totem Law of the kingdom of Kbanga.

On the other hand, it is infeasible to care about _third parties_.  
If I write a piece of software and give it to you, we need to care
about the laws of Poland and Italy; there is no problem if some
random punk in the US has a patent -- and in fact, for any given
piece of software a number of such punks exist.  One of recent
patents covers telnet, ssh and the like -- should we pull them from
Debian?  The only reason to comply with patent terrorism is when the
punk is especially litigious.

The whole concept of patent goes completely against the ideas of
capitalism and free market.  Free market relies on _scalable_ laws
and patents don't scale.  They work differently for small and big
countries, fail when you deal with entities not within the same
patent system, break unless you have perfect instantenous
communication within the system, and so on.  They are
government-granted monopolies and thus they fail whenever you look at
something smaller or bigger than a country.

To the contrary, DFSG are infinitely scalable.  They work as well for
a castaway on a desert island, a dissident or a world-wide
corporation.  Copyrights, with all their downsides, are scalable as
well so they can be handled by DFSG well.  Patents can't.

So, I would say that there is no way for a third party to influence
the freeness of a given piece of software.  Otherwise, Debian would
have to exclude anything that's illegal in North Korea, China or the
self-described "Land of the Free".

1KB		// Microsoft corollary to Hanlon's razor:
		//	Never attribute to stupidity what can be
		//	adequately explained by malice.

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