Subject: Speaker for the Free
From: Bernard Lang <>
Date: Fri, 27 Oct 2000 14:50:49 +0200


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
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         Je n'exprime que mon opinion - I express only my opinion