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Re: No mention of "patents" in DFSG

Richard Spindler <richard.spindler@gmail.com> wrote:
> 2007/10/9, MJ Ray <mjr@phonecoop.coop>: [...]
> > If they can be made public safely, I think they would be in the removal
> > request bug.  The biggest problem is if a patent-aggressor requires
> > silence as part of the settlement, saying they'll sue for past crimes
> > if it's made public.
> In my opinion this is just too absurd to believe, this can't possible
> be legally enforcible. Sounds somehow like censorship to me.

Arguably it is censorship, but it's also pretty common.  Try looking at
out-of-court settlement details sometime: usually the victor writes the
history and the loser says nothing. 

> I am really looking for very detailed and verifiable example cases,
> that affected individual packages in the debian repositories.

In July 1999, Unisys contacted various developers, with a request to buy
LZW patent licences or stop using LZW, because the software was believed
to be affected by US-Patent-Nr. 4,558,302, which is in the posession of
their company.

Packages affected in debian included libgd, noted in bug #41847.

Other notes on this topic:

> This Patent is valid under the Jurisdiction of the US, Canada and
> Europe.

No software patents are valid in Europe.

> Questions:
>  * WHAT Debian package is affected


>  * WHAT are the patents that apply

US 4558302 and invalid EP 129439.

>  * WHO is enforcing it, and do they target "non-commercial" efforts as well?

Unisys were, and debian software must not discriminate against commerce,
so "non-commercial" non-enforcement wasn't helpful.

>  * WHO has been sued yet, and for WHAT exactly

Unisys filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District
of Virginia, asserting that multiple Corel products infringe Unisys United
States Patent No. 4,558,302.  Corel settled out-of-court in August 1998.

Other cases may exist, but the above was the first I found, at

> I don't really like to bow down before threats unless there is
> concrete and publicly verifiable and provable information that I am
> doing wrongly.

The trouble with 'lawyerbombs' like software patents are that they are
shrouded in uncertainty (this is one reason why settlements often have
silence clauses, IMO) and it is expensive if you misjudge it.  Are we
willing to bet the project and lots of connected things against a
particular patent?  Not for every case.

> I am an enthusiastic Free and Open-Source Software
> Person, and I prefer to stand up for what I believe, and I still think
> there is a lot of FUD in the perception of patents in FLOSS.

Then please watch the bugs list and indemnify the debian project for the
next patent-afflicted package you spot and adopt it.

> I think
> in the long term it would be very good to stick to facts like events,
> numbers, dates and so on. Fight the FUD with Facts.

It would be very good if you looked for the facts before making a song
and dance about it all being FUD.  Cases like LZW are famous!

Hope that helps,
My Opinion Only: see http://people.debian.org/~mjr/
Please follow http://www.uk.debian.org/MailingLists/#codeofconduct

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