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Re: [gNewSense-users] FTL patent in kernel

From: Alexandre Oliva
Subject: Re: [gNewSense-users] FTL patent in kernel
Date: Wed, 07 May 2008 12:19:38 -0300
User-agent: Gnus/5.11 (Gnus v5.11) Emacs/22.2 (gnu/linux)

On Apr  8, 2008, Bake Timmons <address@hidden> wrote:

>> Use of the FTL format for non-PCMCIA applications may be an
>> infringement of these patents.  For additional information,
>> contact M-Systems ( directly.

> There is no *copyright* restriction on ftl.c that makes it non-free
> software, so it is surely is free.

Err...  Software freedom is not about copyright.  It's about technical
or legal means one could use to disrespect any of the four freedoms.

Even if copyright laws ceased to exist, it would still be possible for
programs to be non-Free, if other means were used to make it so.
Think EULAs or any other contractual forms.  Think depriving people of
source code.  These means to disrespect people's freedoms exist and
are used today.

Please don't assume software freedom is a matter of copyright only.
Don't assume that being released under any specific copyright license
is enough to state that the software is free.  It's not so.

When the software is released under a Free Software copyright license,
it means the copyright holder has decided not to use the power of
copyrights to stop you from enjoying your freedoms WRT their code.
This doesn't always mean they wouldn't have any other power they could
use to do so, and this doesn't mean nobody else could have such power.

Consider, for example, code under a permissive Free Software license.
Microsoft has integrated the BSD TCP/IP stack into Microsoft Windows.
UCB still holds copyright over portions of that code, and somewhere
in MS-Windows you must find a copy of the BSD and a notice that
there's BSD code in there.  But does this mean the software is Free
for MS-Windows users?  No, because they're deprived of the source
code, and because there's a restrictive EULA on top of that.

Consider patents.  AFAIK, patents can't quite stop people from
modifying software.  But the patent holder may demand, as a condition
for licensing the patent to a software author, that the author imposes
copyright restrictions on users.  Also, the patent holder has power to
selectively stop others from running or selling products that
implement the patent in the country where the patent is valid.
Whether or not this makes software that implements a patent non-Free
Software depends on various details, some of which are the coverage of
the patent and the holder's willingness to pursue unlicensed users.
Patent-covered Free Software is a quite complex topic, and I recommend
consulting with address@hidden to get an reliable opinion on
whether this is Free Software.

Alexandre Oliva
Free Software Evangelist  address@hidden,}
FSFLA Board Member       ¡Sé Libre! =>
Red Hat Compiler Engineer   address@hidden,}

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