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FYI: some clarifications about GNU GPL v3 & patents

Hi all,
on last wednesday October 24, from 18:00 UTC till about 19:30 UTC, a
public Q&A IRC meeting was held by the FSF Compliance Lab.
For further details, please see the announcement:

I attended the meeting and asked two questions.
Brett Smith (FSF's Licensing Compliance Engineer) answered them (as well
as all the other questions that could be answered in time).

It was said that the Q&A IRC channel was being logged and that the log
could be published on the web, sooner or later.  However, the log is not
yet online, AFAICT.

The following is a partial log of the IRC meeting, covering my two
questions and corresponding answers by Brett "bcs" Smith.
I am sending this to debian-legal (assuming that some people may be
interested), after having received explicit permission to do so.

Please remember that IANAL, TINLA, IANADD, TINASOTODP (just in case
these disclaimers could be considered useful for this message as


<bcs> frx asked: I have a question about patent protection: Section 11 of GPLv3
          lists "causing the Corresponding Source to be available" as a form
          of protection against patent infringement lawsuits.  I cannot
          understand how it could protect anyone.  This question is better
          detailed in
<bcs> So, allowing patent licensees to make the source available to the
          public, as section 11 does, causes a couple of things to happen.
<bcs> First, it means that the source will get out there.  If the original
          patent licensee didn't make source available like this, it's
          possible that *their* recipients may be afraid to distribute the
          software further.
<bcs> So with this option, at least we now effectively have the source in the
          hands of every free software coder in the world.
<bcs> This creates a second happy side effect: it would be possible for such
          developers to argue in court that they at least have an implicit
          patent license, since they received the software *directly* from the
          patent licensee.
<bcs> It may not be a bulletproof argument, but it's a lot easier to make when
          you're only one step removed from the patent holder instead of four
          or five steps away.
<bcs> Also, it may enable coders to merely work around the patent.
<bcs> For example, development could continue in a country where the patent,
          or an equivalent, wasn't in force.
<bcs> Or developers could try to find some other way of doing the same task
          that wasn't patented.  They would still benefit from the original
<bcs> For example, if the program was a video player, and the video codec was
          patented, developers could still use the entire UI and other
          subsystems, and simply hack it to play Ogg Theora instead.
<bcs> So, this option may not provide absolute protection from patents for
          every individual developer, but that's okay, because that's not the
          goal.  The goal is to make sure the software stays free.
<bcs> And we think that as long as we can get the code into the hands of
          developers worldwide, that'll happen.


<bcs> frx asked: I have another question about Section 11: why discriminatory
          patents agreements are only fought if they have been made after 28
          March 2007?  Why this date? What's special about it?  See also
<bcs> Section 11 deals with discriminatory patent deals from two angles.
<bcs> First, it attacks these deals from the Microsoft side.
<bcs> It says that if you're the one providing the "protection," then you have
          to extend that protection to all recipients of the program, not just
          the select few who are paying your royalties.
<bcs> That section has no date limit.
<bcs> It applies to all discriminatory patent deals, and that's why Novell
          recently announced that Microsoft would, in fact, extend such
          protect to recipients of GPLv3 programs included in their GNU/Linux
<bcs> This is good because it takes the deals that were made before we started
          addressing this issue in GPLv3 drafts, and turns them into a
          community resource.
<bcs> Just think: people who get Samba directly or indirectly from Novell are
          going to have assurances from Microsoft that they won't be sued for
          patent infringement.
<bcs> So that's the first angle of attack.
<bcs> Second, we address this from the distributor's side.
<bcs> While it is nice to turn these deals into benefits for the community, it
          shouldn't become a pattern.  We should not be paying Microsoft to
          use free software.  It won't be free if we have to.
<bcs> So, we create a disincentive for distributors to make deals like that:
          we tell them that if they do, they can't distribute software
          released under GPLv3.
<bcs> That's the part that has the date cut-off.  If you made the deal before
          28 March 2007, you can still distribute GPLv3 software.  Otherwise,
          you can't.
<bcs> 28 March 2007 is the date that we published the third discussion draft
          of GPLv3, and it was the first draft to have this language in it.
<bcs> So, basically, the third discussion draft itself was a sort of warning:
          these sorts of deals are not going to be okay.  If you were thinking
          about entering one, think again.
<bcs> I suppose we could've let this restriction apply retroactively to deals
          made at any point, but we didn't see much point in that.  By letting
          them distribute, we can make sure that the patent assurances get
          spread around.


 Need to read a Debian testing installation walk-through?
..................................................... Francesco Poli .
 GnuPG key fpr == C979 F34B 27CE 5CD8 DC12  31B5 78F4 279B DD6D FCF4

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