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Re: [gNewSense-users] FTL patent in kernel

From: Alexandre Oliva
Subject: Re: [gNewSense-users] FTL patent in kernel
Date: Thu, 08 May 2008 15:04:17 -0300
User-agent: Gnus/5.11 (Gnus v5.11) Emacs/22.2 (gnu/linux)

On May  7, 2008, Bake Timmons <address@hidden> wrote:

> The nasty effect of
> the patent note applies as well to any other file as it does to ftl.c.
> E.g., if I modified Emacs to use FTL format for non-PCMCIA
> applications, my code could possibly be infringing and thus possibly
> be non-free.  Am I missing anything here?

I think so.  This is tricky.  The key is *substantial* restrictions to
the freedom.  If we were to take a "no restrictions whatsoever"
approach, then nothing could ever be Free Software, because you'd
always find something someone might want to do that would be forbidden
by law somewhere.

If you start from Emacs, there's a whole lot you can change it without
ever stepping on the landmine that a software patent amounts to.  But
if you start from a piece of software that implements a patent under a
very restrictive license, there might be very little you could change
without stepping on the landmine.

Of course, stepping on the landmine is not so much of a problem if it
doesn't explode.  For example, if a patent is filed only for defensive
purposes (and most these days are) then it doesn't matter too much if
you step on it: it won't go off.  However, a patent used for
aggression *will* go off the moment you step on it.

Restrictions in the patent license are seldom enough to give
indication of whether the patent is going to be used aggressively or
defensively.  Ultimately, it's a judgment call, an assessment of how
likely it is that the leeway reserved by the patent license will be
used to disrespect people's freedoms or not.

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

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