Subject: RE: Addendums to the LGPL
From: "Lawrence E. Rosen" <lrosen@rosenlaw.com>
Date: Wed, 11 Sep 2002 18:52:42 -0700

I am very angry at companies that try to protect their technology in
invalid ways.  There is no way that a company can restrict the reader of
a copyrighted publicly-available document from using the information
gleaned from reading that document for any purpose whatsoever.  

Documents can of course be kept as trade secret, but this one clearly
wasn't.

Implementations of software can be prevented by patent, but you haven't
indicated that the "large US company" is asserting patent protection for
those implementations.

A company can prevent others from applying its trademark or
certification mark on goods in commerce.  If the company is claiming
trademark protection, don't use its trademark on your software.  

Finally, a company can prevent someone from using a document by
contract.  Is the document really "freely available for download," as
you described, or has the owner of the document entered into a binding
contract with you that prohibits you from implementing software unless
you follow their rules?  I don't know enough about the facts to give you
specific legal advice -- and I wouldn't do so anyway in a public forum
like this -- but I can tell you that there are some "large US companies"
that assert rights such as you're describing without any prospect that
they will succeed in enforcing those rights if they brought suit against
an open source software package.  Such companies are huffing and
puffing, but ultimately they'll never be able to get the open source
genie back in the bottle -- at least not by restricting use of
publicly-available documents.

So I don't know why you'd need to put any notice on your software such
as the one that you described.  As to whether such a provision would be
consistent with the LGPL, I don't think so; see section 11 of the LGPL
at http://opensource.org/licenses/lgpl-license.php.  But remember, this
isn't legal advice; your attorney should advise you based on the
specific facts.

Feel free to pass this email on to our friends at SourceForge in case
your question comes up again.

/Larry Rosen

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Kelvin Proctor [mailto:k.proctor@student.unsw.edu.au] 
> Sent: Wednesday, September 11, 2002 3:05 PM
> To: license-discuss@opensource.org
> Subject: Addendums to the LGPL
> 
> 
> Hi Folks,
> 
> I'm an undergrade electrical engineer in Sydney, Australia.  
> I am working with a large US company on an implementation of 
> one of their industrial communications protocols as part of 
> my thesis.  The specification is freely available for 
> download but to make/sell a product based on the spec you 
> need to join the industry group and pay a yearly license fee 
> to get a vendor ID ($US250 p.a.).  (This is to keep the 
> vendor ID's unique etc..)
> 
> I have proposed releasing the code I'm working on under the 
> LGPL with the addendum that:
> 
> "This license applies only to this software library itself 
> and does not imply any right to make or sell XXXX based 
> devices.  A license to make and/or sell XXXX devices must be 
> obtained from the YYYY."
> 
> This is not really designed to adjust the LGPL, just to 
> remind people that my code is free software but the protocol is not.
> 
> I queried if this would be appropriate with SourceForge and 
> they have referred me here.
> 
> What are people's thoughts on this? Is it appropriate?
> 
> Regards,
> 
> Kelvin Proctor
> 
> --
> license-discuss archive is at http://crynwr.com/cgi-bin/ezmlm-cgi?3
> 

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