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Re: debian patent policy?

Hi Paul,

Forwarding your message on to debian-project, which is where project
policies are discussed.

On Fri, Sep 27, 2013 at 04:33:44PM -0500, Paul Elliott wrote:
> 	Policy Statement

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

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

> 	3)Unless communications related to patents are subject to
> 	attorney-client privilege, community members may be forced to
> 	produce them in a lawsuit. Also, patent concerns expressed
> 	publicly may turn out to be unfounded but create a good deal
> 	of fear, uncertainty, and doubt in the meantime. Therefore,
> 	please refrain from posting patent concerns publicly or
> 	discussing patents outside of communication with legal
> 	counsel, where they are subject to attorney-client privilege.

> 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. I would certainly license all
> free software and free software users.

> 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.

The key word here is "infringe".  Reading on a patent is not the same thing
as infringement; if a piece of software implements a patent, but we have a
valid license for that patent, that's not infringement.

> But 2) read conversely, implies that there could be a patent license
> that debian will accept.

Yes, it must be a patent license that conveys to all downstreams the same
rights that Debian is granted, and that transfers when the user exercises
their freedom to create a (free) derivative work.

> After all, if debian accepted absolutely no patent licenses, the clause
> about inconsistant with the DSC or DFSG would be unnecessary, and 2)
> would read:
>  "Debian will accept no patent licenses."

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

> And what good would it do? 1) read literally means that if software
> infringes on the claims of a patent debian would have nothing to
> do with it, consistant license be damned.

> It is all very confusing.

> And 3 means I can't even ask anyone about this confusion.

> Can anybody clarify? 3) says not.

Hope that helps,
Steve Langasek                   Give me a lever long enough and a Free OS
Debian Developer                   to set it on, and I can move the world.
Ubuntu Developer                                    http://www.debian.org/
slangasek@ubuntu.com                                     vorlon@debian.org

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