Subject: New angle on the patent problem
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Mon, 13 Sep 1999 12:34:37 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "kms" == Karsten M Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com> writes:

    kms> The main criticism I've seen is that the concept might be too
    kms> powerful -- an outright patent grab by free software.

I think you may be referring to may comments; if so, I would like to
dissociate myself from the term "patent grab".  What concerns me is
not the putative "infringement" of a proprietary patent-holder's IP
rights.[1]  It is the incentive it _may_ provide (in the form that I
saw; I haven't seen the most recent versions) for a company which
feels it has an interest in aggressive protection of its IP rights to
avoid any use of open source software.

I don't think it is a good idea to do anything that gives people who
haven't tried more-or-less free software yet another excuse to avoid
it.  Even Richard Stallman, who has inveighed against "backsliders"
who would add a convenient interface to a non-free program (ssh) to
XEmacs, encourages efforts to put Emacs on non-free desktops where it
advertises the advantages of free software to the as yet unconvinced.

Companies like Sun and IBM are already haltingly moving in the
direction of using ("exploiting", if you like) OSS implementations and
supporting them.  This kind of move might worry their lawyers, and
even more so those companies whose lawyers have _no_ experience in OSS
license issues.

I would be really interested to see commentary from the lawyers who
wrote the Sun Community license.


Footnotes: 
[1]  FOIA Disclaimer:  Yes, I do believe in those rights, and no, it's
not clear to me that long-lived IP rights are a bad thing.
Notwithstanding, I think that an effort to increase the leverage of
the GPL would be unambiguously good if it did not have corresponding
tendencies to discourage new users of free software.

-- 
University of Tsukuba                Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences       Tel/fax: +81 (298) 53-5091
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What are those two straight lines for?  "Free software rules."