Subject: Re: IC's patent-pending technology
From: <stephen@xemacs.org>
Date: Wed, 27 Sep 2006 19:28:45 +0900

Jamie Lokier writes:
 > What I mean by "effectively forbidden" is that
 > 
 >   - My choices in working in that field are narrowed to doing business
 >     in a way that I find distasteful

That's your taste, not their prohibition.

 > And that's a shame, because there probably is a middle ground where
 > what you want and what I want can be mutually advantageous; where I do
 > a little to get you paid, and you do a little to help me and my
 > projects and get me paid.

The barrier is in your taste for pure free software, not in what they
offer.  You can offer a fully functional program sans patent as pure
free software, you can offer a version with patent but without full
free software privileges, and you can offer an optimized version with
patent on a commercial basis, with a substantially restricted license.

Surely some of your users will appreciate the opportunity to choose,
and will choose one of the latter two.

 > > If you actually succeed, patent/copyright the results and charge
 > > for licenses to them.
 > 
 > Charging for copyright licensed work written by me I have no problem
 > with, for some works.
 > 
 > But for others, it's a problem.  There's no participation for me in
 > the free software world, if I cannot license my work to the rest of
 > that community on terms which _they_ would find agreeable.

You can license *your* work on any terms you like.  Simply grab a much
less efficient implementation which is licensed compatibly to your
community's preferred terms, or write your own.  *Your work* is
available to them on *their* terms.  Since it's free, it will *also*
be available to folks like me who are willing to use it on
International Characters's terms.

I think that's a good deal, since without International Characters,
you would have undoubted simply used only that less efficient
implementation anyway, as you felt no need for speed (until they
announced they could give it to you).  [I could be wrong, but several
people have pointed out that applications where this speedup matters
enough to develop it from scratch for just that application are fairly
specialized and uncommon, and I'm guessing that you're not involved in
any of them.]

 > Change that and we may get somewhere, but it's too much to ask _me_ to
 > change it.  Until then, your offer is not particularly valuable to
 > me.

No, but it's probably valuable to a lot of your users.  Don't you give
a damn about anyone but the free software fanatics?  You can give your
less pigheaded friends *for beer-free and with source and limited
source redistribution rights* the current state of the art, which they
will love.  Won't they?

Consider the popularity of Aladdin Ghostscript.  The GNU version was
*not* an option for me for about 5 years because it couldn't handle
Japanese properly, and for about 3 years after that the Aladdin
version still handled Japanese much better.  Although I personally
can't see a need for even a 10:1 speedup in text stream processing,
I'm sure that there are plenty of non-commercial users with a similar
idiosyncratic use for the maximum efficiency in XML processing.  Or
maybe they just want to look at the source.

Is there something *wrong* with serving those users at the cost of
writing a few lines of code for a well-defined algorithm, or even
better, just linking in a library or plugging in a module they download?

 > > That's about the best deal you're going to get.
 > 
 > If that's the best, then for the forseeable future I will decline,
 > thanks.  I don't see it as a benefit to me - the costs appear to
 > exceed the likely benefits to me, given what I want to do.  You may
 > find other takers.  Maybe I'm mistaken, but the argument hasn't sold
 > it to me.

I'm not a member of International Characters, but indeed I will take
that deal in this case---assuming the GPL permits me to do so, of
course.

By the way, what do you do if a client comes to you and says, "I
really need a little more speed in this pipeline, I've heard there's a
way to speed up the UTF-8 processing by X%.  It's worth (a number
equal to twice the royalty on the patent) to my business."  Do you
say, "sorry, paying royalties on patents is against my religion---go
find another vendor?"

 > It would be nice to find a pitch which is more compelling to the
 > little ones...

Not all little ones are like you; I expect it will be compelling to a
*lot* of them under many circumstances.  Especially if we can get
Larry and International Characters to accept a couple of important
boundary cases (like pre-installed software) as covered by the
covenant, rather than excluded.

And I think you, too, would find reasons to accept the offer *under
some circumstances* if you looked for opportunities in the covenant
rather than moaning about the restrictions imposed by the patent.