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Re: Royalty free gstreamer plug-in

On 12/23/05, Thomas Vander Stichele <thomas apestaart org> wrote:
> So Fedora can include the .src.rpm for this plug-in (it's MIT, just like
> any other piece of MIT code), and they can include the binary .rpm built
> from it (if they sign this contract).
> The only question that matters, if I understand correctly, from Red
> Hat's point of view is: does it matter that if one of our users rebuilds
> this .src.rpm, he ends up with a binary .rpm that, while exactly the
> same as the one built by Red Hat, does not automatically come with a
> patent license - because it is not transferable from Red Hat to said
> user ?
> This is a fairly unique situation, and I'm sure it will need to be
> examined in more detail by lawyers and others.  But I wouldn't be so
> quick to dismiss it as impossible to ship :)
> Also keep the following in mind; the MIT license was specifically chosen
> because it contains no specific language about patents, like the GPL
> does.  You will find that all other mp3 decoding projects have chosen
> the GPL.  Some of them did so because they know the GPL presents
> problems when it comes to patents, thus providing incentive to people
> who want to use their software to pay for an alternate license.  This is
> one of the ways one can make money off of writing GPL software :)

The use of the MIT license is definitely a new and interesting twist
in the debate. Sadly its going to have to be vetted by legal and we
know what that means.... we'll know in 6 to 8 months if its legally
okay to put this code into the fedora tree.  I think the MIT license
for this codebase definitely impacts the legal issues.

But beyond legality and into policy...I'm not sure the issue of
transferability of the patent license is a policy blocker. Doesn't
fedora already ship items with trademark constraints that hamper
verbatim rebuilds by downstream users? Mozilla's trademark policy
specifically comes to mind.  Yes.. trademarks is not the same as
patents. And yes software patents are inherently evil and trademarks
are inherently good.  I'm just saying that we already have software in
the tree that rebuilding and redistribution of is somewhat constrained
beyond copyright allowances. We aren't adding additional headache for
rebuilders that they don't already have to be aware of by including
this MIT licensed source under signed contract.

I think the policy question is bound up into the politics of how
strongly fedora wants to draw a line in the sand about the licensing
terms for software patents.  Users who need and desire mp3 support are
going to find a way to get mp3 support, there is no question about
that. If Fedora tows a very strict policy of "hear no evil, see no
evil" its not going to stop a single person from getting the software
they need from a 3rd party source.  What's the better way to serve and
educate users? Drawing a very strict line and forcing people to google
and find solutions on their own? Pointing out a specific 3rd party
vendor to legally obtain the software while still holding a strict
policy about excluding non-transferable patent licenses? Or providing
as much technology that is legally allowed in the tree and letting
downstream rebuilders deal with the additional patent license issues.


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