[unrev-II] License Issues

From: Jack Park (jackpark@thinkalong.com)
Date: Sun Sep 16 2001 - 09:51:30 PDT

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    We have discussed license policy on this list before. In the end, there
    appears to be consensus on the Apache license, but that does not satisfy a
    larger issue with respect to an OHS/DKR license: the license must protect
    the ability of OHS/DKR implementations to evolve in any direction deemed

    It turns out that the GNU GPL license has been violated by a patent.

    "Software patents are a harmful government policy of creating monopolies
    that restrict computer users. (See www.programming-freedom.org and
    www.noepatents.org). We oppose this policy, and we think it is a shame that
    Victor Yodaiken has chosen to obtain a patent for an idea that we believe
    should not be, and is not, patentable. The patent covers real-time
    interrupt handling using a software emulation layer for interrupt masking,
    so that interrupts can be prioritized. There is significant prior art for
    But, even worse, Yodaiken has attempted to use the patent to impose
    restrictive terms on a GPL-covered program (Linux, the kernel used in the
    GNU/Linux operating system). These terms conflict with the GNU General
    Public License, and imposing them is a violation of the GPL. We have told
    Yodaiken this, and we have told him what license terms would comply with
    GPL. He, like everyone, has the reponsibility to comply with the GPL or
    cease his infringing distribution. Anyone else redistributing a modified
    version of Linux under the restrictive patent license that Yodaiken uses
    will also be violating the GPL. "

    We already know that there exist an enormous number of patents "out there"
    that would, if enforced by their owners, put an end to all of the
    speculative discussions we have had on this forum and many others. For
    instance, those wonderful folks at http://www.thebrain.com have a nifty
    patent that pretty much puts the kaibosh on any graphical display of
    knowledge. A company that used to sell a product called Nexpert has a
    patent on relational representation of knowledge in computer memory. The
    list doesn't stop there. IBM, Sun, Microsoft, and many others are regular
    patent machines.

    It really does behoove us to find a way to license OHS/DKR projects in such
    a way that no avenue of future evolution can be blocked. Given that Xerox
    has an enormous number of patents on what is called the Hyperbolic Tree
    system, of which TouchGraph is just one instance, it may well be that so
    long as we remain purely open source, not selling product, there may not
    exist an issue <recall>I'm not a lawyer and don't even play one on TV</recall>

    OTOH: it is always possible that such patents will impede evolution, even
    in an open source environment.

             Create a DKR -- perhaps, say, http://softwarepatents.memes.net
                      -- that accumulates patents that would impede software
             Use that DKR as a home for those who would financially support
    patent-breaking litigation -- very many of the existing software patents
    are either:
                     completely unenforceable due to prior arts
                     obtained by the owner while participating in public debate
    on the issues (e.g. web standards)
             Use the DKR to analyze all known license agreements
             Use the DKR to evolve newer license technologies
             Link that DKR into the two similar web sites listed (above) at the
    fsf.org web site


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