Subject: Re: [Fwd: Speaker for the Free]
From: "Adam C. Engst" <>
Date: Fri, 27 Oct 2000 10:22:50 -0700

Phew! First off, let me say that Drummond is at Internet World today, 
and will be travelling to London over the weekend, I believe, so he 
may not be as responsive as would be ideal in the short term.

At 8:43 AM -0700 10/27/00, Tim O'Reilly wrote:
>Adam, I thought you or Drummond might want to respond to this.  And if
>it was not your intent to support the patent stuff at the European
>commission, it would be great if Drummond sent input saying that wasn't
>what he meant.  It's really important that patent advocates don't get to
>win this fight in Europe, because there's this game where the US patent
>office says "we have to harmonize with other countries" and then pushes
>other countries in the direction that they want the US to go.  It's kind
>of an extra-national lobbying game.

I can't speak to Drummond's intent with those words, and I don't know 
the context they were taken from. I hesitate to comment in any more 
concrete way, but I will note that we at XNSORG are working through 
our open source approach right now with the XNS software, and I don't 
think we're representative of the free software community at all (for 
a variety of legal, technical, and organizational reasons).

>When you asked if I would consider being on the board of, and I
>declined, it was because of this kind of ambiguous position with regard
>to openness.

I'll address this privately; what I fear you saw as an ambiguous 
position was a combination of unformed opinions and inexperience with 
the open source community that we recognized and hoped to ameliorate 
with your assistance.

>  As you know, unlike Richard Stallman, I support the
>fundamental position that it's OK to have private intellectual property
>rights, even on top of a free software base (that's why I prefer
>Berkeley style licenses in most cases), but I am extremely wary when
>patents, rather than copyrights, are used to assert those rights.  The
>scope of protection given by patents is so much greater than the rights
>granted by copyright that it seems to me that they almost always tip the
>balance too far in the direction of the rights of creators and away from
>the rights of the public.  When you add to that the fact that the PTO
>makes it ridiculously easy to get a patent, the system is so badly
>broken that any encouragement to it is dangerous.

You're far more versed in the subject than I, but I do tend to agree 
that the patent system here is being abused in a variety of ways that 
we'd certainly prefer other countries didn't fall prey to as well.

>If you agree, please ask Drummond to communicate to the EC commission
>looking into software patents that his words are being taken out of

I'll certainly make sure he sees this and can evaluate whether his 
words are being taken out of context. More that that I can't 
personally promise.

cheers... -Adam

>Tim O'Reilly @ O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
>101 Morris Street, Sebastopol, CA 95472
>+1 707-829-0515, FAX +1 707-829-0104
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>Date: Fri, 27 Oct 2000 14:50:49 +0200
>From: Bernard Lang <>
>Cc: Bernard Lang <>
>Subject: Speaker for the Free
>Reply-To: Bernard Lang <>
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>I am told the following quote is from Drummond Reed, President of
>Onename, who created the XNS open source platform :
>      "I think it's important to draw the distinction that open source
>      is invariably used to create an interoperable platform, i.e., a
>      common body of source code that creates a foundation on top of
>      which applications can be built. The goal of open source is to
>      make sure that IP rights or other proprietary rights do not
>      interfere with that platform. However all platforms exist to
>      support applications built "on top" of that platform. Windows
>      applications, Linux applications, Perl applications, etc. I've
>      yet to see an open source license that required applications
>      built on top of its platform to cede back IP rights - clearly
>      that would destroy incentive to use that platform.
>       So the value of IP rights which might encompass a platform fall
>      primarily on the value of being able to protect applications
>      built on top of the platform. The rest of the rights necessary
>      to create the platform are often most valuable when given away
>      -open sourced -in order to incent growth of the platform that
>      makes the applications valuable. It's that simple."
>   It is being used in a document (page 4 of the PDF document below)
>published by a directorate of the European Commission, and used as
>evidence in a consultation concerning software patenting, to assert
>the compatibility of patenting and free software.  One of the issues
>in the consultation is the fact the software patenting can harm
>open-source/free software.
>   see the context on page 3 of the paper (or in the post-scriptum below):
>   and for the political context:
>   I do not know Drummond Reed, and I do not know whether he is aware
>of the role his words are now playing.
>   My questions:
>    - what are your comments ?
>    - how representative is Drummond Reed of the free software community ?
>   (and any original comment you care about software patenting)
>    Bernard Lang
>If you do not wish to look up the document, here is the context
>preceeding the quote.
>      Developers of open-source software
>        All the above discussion applies to developers of open-source
>      software but there are some important additional
>      features. Open-source software is an important alternative to
>      proprietary platforms. An example of the growing importance of
>      open-source software is the support being given by IBM. (This
>      involvement by IBM is, we believe, a straightforward response to
>      customer needs.) A necessary feature of the propagation of
>      open-source software is copyright and the cascade licensing of
>      it e.g. through the GNU General Public License. The open-source
>      community considers patents a threat to the development of
>      open-source software and aims to ensure that patents do not
>      affect such development. This is a consistent position. The GNU
>      General Public License contains the statement "we have made it
>      clear that any patent must be licensed for everyone's free use
>      or not licensed at all". There is an analogy here to the
>      position on patents in some standards, informal or formal.
>         However this position on patents could well
>      change. Developers of open source software may find it
>      advantageous to file patents to obtain bargaining positions
>      e.g. licence money from owners of proprietary platforms. In any
>      case the historical postion of the open source community is
>      compatible with recognition that a developer could in any case
>      want to obtain patents on specific applications. This point has
>      been made by a number of people we have consulted. The
>      importance of this can be illustrated by the following quote
>      from one of them:
>      [then the above quote from Drummond Reed]
>          Non aux Brevets Logiciels  -  No to Software Patents
>            SIGNEZ    SIGN
>             ,_  /\o    \o/    Tel  +33 1 3963 5644
>  ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^  Fax  +33 1 3963 5469
>             INRIA / B.P. 105 / 78153 Le Chesnay CEDEX / France
>          Je n'exprime que mon opinion - I express only my opinion

Adam C. Engst, XNSORG President                  XNS Name: =Adam Engst
                Email: <>         Web: <>