What's the current status of mp3-licensing issues?

Simo Sorce ssorce at redhat.com
Thu Nov 1 13:54:46 UTC 2007

On Thu, 2007-11-01 at 09:29 -0400, Tom "spot" Callaway wrote:
> On Thu, 2007-11-01 at 09:04 -0400, Simo Sorce wrote:
> > On Thu, 2007-11-01 at 13:39 +0530, Rahul Sundaram wrote:
> > 
> > >  moreover GPL 
> > > license also requires a written non-limiting patent grant or we can't 
> > > include GPL software that infringes patents on regions that enforce 
> > > patents on software.
> > 
> > This statement is wrong and false. Please consult legal and get
> > corrected.
> >From GPLv2:
> "If you cannot distribute so as to satisfy simultaneously your
> obligations under this License and any other pertinent obligations, then
> as a consequence you may not distribute the Program at all. For example,
> if a patent license would not permit royalty-free redistribution of the
> Program by all those who receive copies directly or indirectly through
> you, then the only way you could satisfy both it and this License would
> be to refrain entirely from distribution of the Program."

I know this very well, but the phrase I cited is not correct.
We probably have tons of GPL software that infringes on tons of patents,
we simply don't know. And we don't "require a written non-limiting
patent grant" for it. We need something like that only for software that
"knowingly" infringes on specific patent where the patent holder
"denied" explicitly consent to distribution and we think they are right.

I know the specific MP3 case "probably" qualify, but I found the phrase
by itself is completely misleading.

Moreover if we were certain a patent had verifiable prior art, or we
considered it invalid (in the sense we were reasonably certain it
wouldn't stand in court) or we were reasonably certain our code does not
infringe because works around it, then we would *not* need again any
written permission, no matter what the patent holder say or require.

Finally GPL is vague and today we should start specifying if it is GPLv2
or GPLv3 as they have slightly different behaviors toward patents.

In summary, I would like for Rahul to be more careful with wording when
it comes to legal matters, or to state the case precisely. Generic
statements like his are just confusing for people that is not versed in
law and may not understand exactly the boundaries of the statement.



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