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Re: debian patent policy?

The following message is a courtesy copy of an article
that has been posted to gmane.linux.debian.devel.project as well.

Paul Elliott <pelliott@blackpatchpanel.com> writes:

> 	1)Debian will not knowingly distribute software encumbered by
> 	patents; Debian contributors should not package or distribute
> 	software they know to infringe a patent.

This implies that software *covered* by patents, but not *encumbered* by
any patents, is fine under this policy.

> 	2)Debian will not accept a patent license that is inconsistent
> 	with the Debian Social Contract or Debian Free Software
> 	Guidelines.

This implies that the Debian project may accept a patent license that is
consistent with the Social contract (including the DFSG).

Important clause to satisfy include DFSG §7 “Distribution of License”,
and DFSG §8 “License Must Not Be Specific to Debian”. This effectively
results in a patent license for all recipients of the work and of all
works derived from that work.

> This is very confusing. I have some ideas in my head that I am
> thinking about patenting, but I only want to torture the proprietary
> software people with it.

Please reconsider; software idea patents hurt everyone in different
measure <URL:http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Why_abolish_software_patents>, and
are not a good thing to proliferate. They are not a tool fine enough
to hurt only proprietary software.

> But according to 1) that would not do any good, because 1) read
> literally means that if software is patented at all and software
> infringes on a claim, debian will have nothing to do with it.

I don't see that. If the patent license permits every recipient of the
work to exercise all DFSG freedoms in the work, without any recipient
needing to do anything special, that patent would cease to encumber the
work as far as this policy's §1 is concerned.

> So what would a patent license consistant with DSC and DFSG look like?

For example: “FooCorp hereby grants everyone a unilateral, royalty-free
license to implement the ideas claimed by this patent”.

There may be others, but I'm not much interested in finding a set of
terms that retains a monopoly on software ideas. I'm more interested in
reducing the harm from such monopolies.

> And what good would it do?

That's a good question. A monopoly on the implementation of ideas in
software is not good, so I'd advise against seeking software idea
patents in the first place.

 \          “I used to be an airline pilot. I got fired because I kept |
  `\       locking the keys in the plane. They caught me on an 80 foot |
_o__)                    stepladder with a coathanger.” —Steven Wright |
Ben Finney

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