Subject: New angle on the patent problem
From: "Karsten M. Self" <>
Date: Mon, 13 Sep 1999 00:06:35 +0000

The patent problem being the problem faced by free software of potential
(real or alleged) patent infringment.

I've had an offline discussion with several people, some from this list,
of a suggestion to counter the patent threat with the power of
copyright, through software licensing.  The basic mechanism has already
been incorporated into several public licenses (e.g.:  the Sun Community
License termination clause, also others).  The extension is to tie
termination to a class of works, not merely the covered work, and to
extend enforcement to a class of copyright holders.  The proposal
needn't be limited to a specific license, though it mwould have to be
incorporated into new versions of existing licenses such as the GNU
GPL.  It would also probably require at least some level of copyleft --
BSD or X-style licenses are sufficiently permissive that such a clause
probably would not be effective.

The main criticism I've seen is that the concept might be too powerful
-- an outright patent grab by free software.  The counterargument is
that using free software should include an acknowledgement of the threat
posed by patents, and an agreement to share one set of IP (patents) for
another (copyright).

I've posted a version of the proposal to InfoWorld Electric Forums,
which is running a discussion on patents this week.  I invite responses
either there or on this list.


Karsten M. Self (
    What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?

SAS for Linux:
Mailing list:  "subscribe sas-linux" to    
  4:52pm  up 2 days, 20:32,  0 users,  load average: 0.15, 0.25, 0.17