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Re: Taking a position on anti-patent licenses (was ' Re: Bug#289856: mdnsresponder: Wrong license')

On Wed, Jan 26, 2005 at 11:49:32AM +0000, Matthew Garrett wrote:
> Josh Triplett <josh.trip@verizon.net> wrote:
> > However, many software licenses choose to go further than that,

> > requiring that distributors refrain entirely from engaging in patent
> > lawsuits against any authors of the software, regardless of whether
> > those lawsuits are related to the software or not.  We do not support
> > the practice of patenting software, but we find it unacceptable for
> > licenses to place requirements which pertain to other, independent
> > works.  We believe this policy is consistent with the principles behing
> > in Debian Free Software Guideline 9, "License Must Not Contaminate Other
> > Software".
> There are two types of clause that fall into this catagory, and I think
> it's helpful to distinguish between them. The first terminates your
> patent license if you sue for unrelated patent issues, and the second
> terminates your copyright license. Earlier discussion on -project seemed
> to suggest that people were more or less happy with the first, and less
> happy with the second.

That's overstated in this context. There's no real objection to the
former not because it's free, but because it's irrelevant. When the
termination clause is bound only to the patent license, then we have a
free copyright license and a non-free patent license. We don't care
about the patent license, because we've never required patent licenses
on anything; having this extra non-free one simply doesn't matter. I'm
not aware of *anything* in main that has a free patent license. Our
usual informal policy of "ignore patents until somebody starts to wave
them around, then drop the offending thing like a hot rock" applies.

It would be an error to generalise this to say "non-free patent
licenses are okay" (or any derivatives), because our current approach
is founded entirely on the fact that the patent system is broken and
gives us no other real options. In the event that it were somehow
fixed to behave similarly to copyright (I don't know if this is
possible, but I can't rule it out), then we probably should start
requiring free patent licenses.

  .''`.  ** Debian GNU/Linux ** | Andrew Suffield
 : :' :  http://www.debian.org/ |
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