jack at xiph.org
Thu Oct 18 23:03:23 PDT 2001
> Yes, that is the idea. Section 7 makes it clearer. The aim is
> to prevent a patent from being used to make a free program non-free.
> I think of this as the "liberty or death" clause.
And it's a good one. :)
> However, the issue is complicated by the fact that the scope of any
> patent is not certain until there is an attempt to enforce it, and
> its validity is uncertain until tested. Therefore, the mere existence
> of a patent which there has been no effort to enforce cannot be
> considered a actual problem, only a potential one.
> You refer to issues involving LAME and Freetype, but I am not familiar
> with those cases, so I cannot comment on them.
LAME Ain't an MP3 Encoder (so the acronym goes), but in reality it is
just that. We know what the legal implications of that patent are: they
enforce it quite a bit.
So assuming what we have is a GPLed piece of software that is covered by
a third party patent that is enforceable, what happens? :)
The FreeType situation is similar. Apple is not as draconian in their
enforcement, but enough so that most people won't argue.
They are also slightly different. In the case of LAME, the author knew
about the patents from the beginning. In the case of FreeType, they did
not know. With LAME, there is no way to code around the patent. With
FreeType they have done so (but kept both versions of the code, since
their workaround isn't as good as the real thing).
What does this do to their Free Software status? Can it be said that
LAME is not Free Software because of this patent issue? Would this
prevent LAME from suing someone who infringed on its copyright?
> So, if they were to release PlusV under the GPL, and not grant a
> royalty-free license to GPL users/authors, then what happens to them?
> I don't know what PlusV is, but our lawyer recently told me that any
> patent holder that releases a GPL-covered program which the patent
> covers is implicitly licensing the patent for that use. That may be
> relevant to the situation.
Ok, so we've come full circle. So it does seem that GPLing your
patented code also implies royalty-free license to that
Would a court uphold this? Could a company plead ignorant? Is this
implicit license good enough that a commercial company could feel
reasonably safe from litigation?
Considering that these types of examples will increase in number, I
think these are important questions, and perhaps should be addressed at
gnu.org in the appropriate places once we've determined their answers :)
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