Re: sarge and software patents
Guillaume TESSIER wrote:
But patents aren't really about software? Uh?
I guess there is some european debian users here : you're concerned more
than ever. Your favorite system, your favorite apps, your skills and
future jobs are in danger.
Why spend time getting more skills on a system which might die?
For one thing, it's not a patent issue, per se at its core, which I
will try to explain below. For another thing before you can propose
and agree on the best collective response, you have to sort out the
issues connected to the problem and these are very complex, which I
also will try to explain in following paragraphs. Otherwise you may
end up with some common-denominator response that is sub-optimal or
useless (e.g. an email writing campaign), or worse, fails entirely
to address the root problem.
IMNSHO there will always be some countries that outlaw some kinds of
free software, but it's unlikely that all countries will outlaw any
kinds of free software. Therefore the obvious answer I think, is to
set up servers in locations that are free of such laws. And even in
the unlikely event that all countries outlaw some kinds of software
(e.g. via treaties) there have been proposals for dealing with that
as well. I have read articles about locating certain types of
services on the high seas although I don't know if any of those exist
If my opinion is shared by the majority then it could make sense to
deal with problems like European patent law not primarily by lobbying
or hiring lawyers but by seeking alternative services that provide
some immunity to such problems. This of course will not solve the
problem of local censorship but at least isolates it to the respective
local areas, which seems like the first priority, and one which may
give the Debian community far more direct control over its own future,
per Euro spent, than lobbying governments around the globe.
So my proposal in a nutshell is that maybe there is more "bank for
the [buck/Euro]" in helping the internet do a better job, compared
to persuading governments to be more free. The former is a concrete
task, but the latter exists in the realm of hopes and dreams, like
the dream for world peace. Always a goal, but not always a concrete
Perhaps a prior, pertinent and more pressing issue is how the Debian
policy handles the issues. For example, we have the Marillat
repository which seems to be in a kind of limbo -- neither Debian
nor non-Debian. I'm sure this is all for political and legal reasons,
and has nothing to do with "free software" except perhaps, insofar
as how "free software" is defined with respect to restrictions by
various local ordinances, which of course are the types of censorship
which the internet is designed to circumvent by design.
An example of one of many cans of worms this opens is the well-known
disagreement between the Debian developers (or at least, a large portion
of Debian developers) and the FSF on the definition of "free software,"
that came up in connection with the GFDL which seems to be rooted in
the definition of the word "software" itself. This illustrates how
the worms in those opened cans include a complex mixture of legal,
political and philosphical issues.
(Furthermore, I don't know why the disagreement is cast in terms of Debian
developers instead of both Debian users *and* developers, as if users are
second class, but I assume that's probably yet another political can of
worms, this one connected to the Debian Constitution.)
I suspect all these issues must be addressed before it's possible to
converge upon an optimal solution. I also hope that it's possible to
gloss over some of them (i.e. "agree to disagree") because I think some
of them are intractible. That's another reason why I favor an approach
that favors "putting on our technical hats" and solving the problems as
technical and censorship issues rather than playing armchair politician
and trying to get everyone to agree on other aspects of the problem.