Subject: Re: New member intro and questions
From: Lynn Winebarger <owinebar@free-expression.org>
Date: Fri, 3 Dec 1999 18:51:50 -0500 (EST)

On Fri, 3 Dec 1999, Bradley M. Kuhn wrote:

> Lynn, you should definitely to talk to the FSF about this issue.
> 
> Richard Stallman has long been looking for folks who have algorithms to
> patent.  The idea would be that the FSF would help you get the patent, and
> then a license for the patent would be offered to companies holding
> proprietary patents if and only if they are willing to freely release one of
> their patents.
> 
   I don't know if this is the way I want to go.  For one thing, I'm not
completely convinced patents can constituionally apply to free software,
since it the licenses clearly involve speech/expression, and since there's
an argument (a good one I think) that the public interest is served more
by the availability of free software than by enforcing patents.
Unfortunately this won't be resolved until there's case law to support it,
preferably a decision by the US Supreme Court.  The best way to make that
happen, I'm not exactly sure (one way or the other, I think the argument
at least needs to be made).
   Obviously, though, any patent I ever get will be freely licensed for
free software, though I might take a more stringent view of what
constitutes derivative works than most do (for example, I wouldn't take
"hiding" a patented process on a server and then releasing proprietary
software to access that process very kindly - to me, that client software
in conjunction with the server software would form one distributed
program).

> Overall, though, I think your idea is a great one.  A lot of research ideas
> never get to everyone else because researchers don't put them together into
> usable end-user software.  This is definitely a niche that I see unfilled!
> 
> Of course, I have no idea how you'd go off starting a business to do it.  :)
> 
    That's exactly the idea, but expressed much more succinctly.  I'm not
exactly sure how to start a business with it either, that's one reason
I've decided to stay in grad school for so long - as far as I can tell,
it requires the least amount of "work" (i.e. grading/teaching) while
providing a living, and letting me pursue whatever topic I'm interested in
without tying up any resulting IP with an employer.  Basically I'm trying
to write some software that will serve as the basis of later business (for
example, right now I'm working on a GPL'ed decompiler, that might be used
later for things like binary translation, or an optimizing loader/linker
in a compiler-unfriendly environment).  [the decompiler is for reverse
engineering proprietary codecs and protocols for the Free Expression
Project in my case, but I'm sure others can find uses for it].  That's the
only practical idea I've had about how to go about it, really.  Though I'd
love to find some funding so I can stop teaching and do software/research
full-time (I'm almost done with required classwork, the next couple of
years will be filled out with reading/research courses).

Lynn