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Patents Software

Working Toward a Patent-Agnostic Open Source License 124

Posted by timothy
from the balancing-interests dept.
Glyn Moody writes "Are there ever circumstances when software patents that require payment might be permitted by an open source license? That's the question posed by a new license that is being submitted to the Open Source Initiative (OSI) for review. The MPEG Working Group wants to release a reference implementation of the new MPEG eXtensible Middleware (MXM) standard as open source, but it also wants to be able to sell patent licenses. If it can't, it might not make the implementation open source; but if it does, it might undermine the fight against software patent proliferation."
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Working Toward a Patent-Agnostic Open Source License

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  • Software patents. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Z00L00K (682162) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @05:45PM (#27524931) Homepage

    It's just a way of trying to make software patents more valid.

    I would say that any patent that lacks hardware (chemical compound or physical device) wouldn't be valid.

    • Re:Software patents. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kansas1051 (720008) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @05:52PM (#27525011)

      I would say that any patent that lacks hardware (chemical compound or physical device) wouldn't be valid.

      Few patents target software per se. Most "software patents" actually claim (cover) computing hardware that implements some allegedly novel/non-obvious functionality. In any event, why allow someone to patent an application-specific integrated circuit that performs new function X but not a FGPA configured via a HDL that performs new function X?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Samschnooks (1415697)

        In any event, why allow someone to patent an application-specific integrated circuit that performs new function X but not a FGPA configured via a HDL that performs new function X?

        Then a mystery writer could patent a method of committing a crime and the method of solving the crime. Royalties from the mafia and from the police! Woohoo!

        • Re:Software patents. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Zordak (123132) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @07:57PM (#27526213) Homepage Journal
          Well, I guess to the extent that murdering somebody is considered "transforming matter" under Bilski, you could patent the murder process. But I don't know that there's a good way to claim solving a crime under Bilski, unless you're claiming some specific technique like DNA analysis, which I'm sure was patented at some point.
          • by mrsteveman1 (1010381) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @08:48PM (#27526567)

            If it happened in the library with a candle stick, you owe me money :)

          • Well, I guess to the extent that murdering somebody is considered "transforming matter" under Bilski, you could patent the murder process.

            I don't think you can get a patent granted for something which is intrinsically illegal, such as committing murder. However, you might be able to patent a method and apparatus for killing a human, provided it is presented as a solution for the task of lawful killing (such as carrying out a death sentence given by a competent court or court-martial). However, we humans are an inventive and dastardly lot, so it might take real creativity to come up with a killing method which is not already in the public doma

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        The problem isn't really patents per se, but patent infringement lawsuits and the resulting court orders. It would make more sense to continue to issue patents as usual, but to amend patent law so that it's unenforceable under certain circumstances deemed problematic (e.g. mere software). Similarly, you could have different durations of enforceability depending on the type of infringement.

        Patent law can be useful, but it needs to be far more carefully controlled than it is right now.

        • by bit01 (644603)

          The problem isn't really patents per se

          Not true. Patents and the patent system have very real costs associated associated with them. Not just the sticker price but the chilling effect and the "guilty until proven innocent" legal minefield.

          Patent law can be useful, but it needs to be far more carefully controlled than it is right now.

          There is very little scientific evidence for patent law being useful. Mostly it's just self-serving PTO handwaving. Did you know they spend huge sums of money on marketing t

      • by Pseudonym (62607)

        I don't make computer hardware, so on a non-legal reading, I'd say I'm in the clear.

        Just goes to show that legalese is a different language.

      • by Draek (916851)

        In any event, why allow someone to patent an application-specific integrated circuit that performs new function X but not a FGPA configured via a HDL that performs new function X?

        None, of course. Which is why neither should be allowed, as the FPGA is merely an implementation of a mathematical algorithm designed to perform function X, and mathematics itself cannot be patented.

        Wish we could convince a judge of *that* one, however, it'd get rid of an awful lot of stupid patents and make the IT world a much nicer place to work in.

      • Few patents target software per se.

        Many patents begin with the text "Method for ..." and do not reference hardware at all.

        • Many patents begin with the text "Method for ..." and do not reference hardware at all.

          But many of them go on to describe a method for transforming a material. The Bilski ruling explicitly allows transformation of materials to be patented.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No patents on any complex system has any excuse to exist in any domain.

      Patents destroy creativity in Software, but also in all Life Sciences.

      Patents have long outlasted any kind of usefulness (unless you count helping being evil as "usefulness"

    • It's just a way of trying to make software patents more valid.

      I would say that any patent that lacks hardware (chemical compound or physical device) wouldn't be valid.

      Good thing that most software patents are actually claiming computer-readable medium encoded with program instructions for performing the steps of x, a system comprising a specially-programmed computer to perform the steps of x, and/or an apparatus comprising a processor, memory element, and means for performing x.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by h4rr4r (612664)

        Then why is does their patent on a system comprising a specially-programmed computer to perform the steps of x, and/or an apparatus comprising a processor, memory element, and means for performing x, prevent me from makeing my own?

        It would be like patenting the claw hammer and suggesting that you now own the patent on all devices that can pound nails into walls.

        • Re:Software patents. (Score:4, Informative)

          by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @07:01PM (#27525757) Journal
          Then why is does their patent on a system comprising a specially-programmed computer to perform the steps of x, and/or an apparatus comprising a processor, memory element, and means for performing x, prevent me from making my own?

          Because the purpose of patents is control. Because in this society, power comes from creating scarcity, controlling supply and holding the threat of deprivation over everyone's head, not from creating wealth and being a treasure to all humanity. When you have to pay the powers that be for permission not to act stupid, it's pretty hard to knock them off their roost. Course, that creates waste, violence and poverty in the short term and eventually calamity, war and utter collapse of civilization, but you've got to take the bad with the good...

          Did you think they served some other purpose?
        • That's my problem with software patents also. I look at software like cookbooks, many people might have their own take on Apple pie.. but we have trademarks and copyright for that. Patents are for inventions... the big problem in case law is that the court assumes you can "choose" not to infringe because one of the key functions of patent is full disclosure. But software patents allow the company to only "describe" the process but not show the code. So the net effect is exactly like patenting "hammering

          • That's my problem with software patents also. I look at software like cookbooks, many people might have their own take on Apple pie.. but we have trademarks and copyright for that. Patents are for inventions... the big problem in case law is that the court assumes you can "choose" not to infringe because one of the key functions of patent is full disclosure. But software patents allow the company to only "describe" the process but not show the code.

            I think you don't understand what patents are protecting. Patents don't protect the code - that's copyright. Patents are for inventions - the process that they're "describing". So whether you do the code in java, C, Perl, or whitespace, you're still infringing, even if you wouldn't infringe on the copyright. I think you're mistaking the two.

            And you also seem to be implying that "software patents" are different from other patents in their disclosure requirements, but that's not true either. Again, I think y

            • and software patents with out code are not INVENTIONS they are algorithms... they are math. Which is NOT PATENTABLE. You write a book, and get protection for 150 years.

              The purpose of patents is to divulge the discovery.. the WHOLE discovery. Software patents don't do that as implemented. It's double-protecting something.

        • Then why is does their patent on a system comprising a specially-programmed computer to perform the steps of x, and/or an apparatus comprising a processor, memory element, and means for performing x, prevent me from makeing my own?

          It would be like patenting the claw hammer and suggesting that you now own the patent on all devices that can pound nails into walls.

          Because you don't understand patents, and you're trying to claim an analogy that doesn't apply? Look, if the claim is "a claw hammer", it's not "a method of pounding nails into walls". I'm happen to go into specifics if you'd care to raise any - it's just that your analogy is flat out incorrect, so there's really nothing to argue other than that you're wrong, and systems aren't methods.

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            Then how can they pantent mpeg?
            How can my mpeg decoder infringe on theirs if I have never seen their code.

            A system to decode mpeg is the same as a system to pound nails in walls. Systems should not be patentable only implementations.

            • Then how can they pantent mpeg? How can my mpeg decoder infringe on theirs if I have never seen their code.

              Because you don't understand the difference between copyright and patents. You don't have to have seen their specific implementation to be infringing their patent. And if you haven't seen their specific implementation, you can't infringe their copyright.
              Just in case that wasn't clear: patents are on the idea, copyright is on the implementation. If you do the exact same idea as someone else, but in a different implementation - C vs. Java, big endian vs. little endian - you are not infringing their copyright

              • patents are on the idea

                What do you mean by idea?

                Is "wouldn't it be nice if there was a way to store music digitally" enough of an idea?

                Or does it need a bit more depth about how it dees it: 97 pages of "yada yada fourier transform yada yada ..."

                I don't see why stating a problem - which most "idea" patents seem to be - merits sole rights to the solution that someone else comes up with.

                • patents are on the idea

                  What do you mean by idea?

                  Is "wouldn't it be nice if there was a way to store music digitally" enough of an idea?

                  Or does it need a bit more depth about how it dees it: 97 pages of "yada yada fourier transform yada yada ..."

                  I don't see why stating a problem - which most "idea" patents seem to be - merits sole rights to the solution that someone else comes up with.

                  35 USC 112 requires those 97 pages of details in order to get the patent in the first place. No patents are just "gosh, it sure would be nice to store music digitally." If you think they are, you're probably not reading past the first page of the background section.

  • What does it mean? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BradleyUffner (103496)

    Does this mean that the source code would be freely available, but that you couldn't use it without paying them? I skimmed the artical and linked pages, but can't figure out what this would actually mean.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Hognoxious (631665)

      I share your confusion. If the source is open, I can compile and run it, carve it onto rocks or tattoo it on my butt. If a patent (or anything else) says I can't do that, then how is it open source?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by harry666t (1062422)

        If a patent (or anything else) says I can't do that, then how is it open source?

        Open source yes, free software no.

        That's what Stallman was talking about when he said he didn't like the new term.

        harry@pierdonka:~$ vrms
        No non-free or contrib packages installed on pierdonka! rms would be proud.

        • by spitzak (4019) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @06:40PM (#27525539) Homepage

          It really seems to me that in common use "Open Source" *does* now mean you are free to do whatever you want with the source. Just being able to *look* at the source is not called Open Source, it is probably best to call it "published source code" or "the source code is available for you to look at".

          "Free Software" means the enforced-freeness of the GPL, which is a subset of Open Source.

          So for most uses this is neither Open Source or Free Software.

          • Free Software is pretty close to synonymous with Open Source Software, although there are a few differences. (Hop on over to the FSF site and read the philosophy section and you'll see.) In any case, source code with patent restrictions is not either Free nor Open Source in the normal senses.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by spitzak (4019)

              In fact the FSF page has this:

              Another misunderstanding of "open source" is the idea that it means "not using the GNU GPL". It tends to accompany a misunderstanding of "free software", equating it to "GPL-covered software". These are equally mistaken, since the GNU GPL is considered an open source license, and most of the open source licenses are considered free software licenses.

              That directly addresses what I think a lot of people believe the difference is between "open source" and "free software". If I enc

          • by Dwonis (52652) * on Thursday April 09, 2009 @07:47PM (#27526113)

            The open source definition [opensource.org] is a set of 10 criteria that "distribution terms" (i.e. a copyright license) must meet to be legitimately called "open source". The problem is that, if you're dishonest (and many people are), you can still use patent law or other means to render most of those criteria moot while still nominally meeting them.

            On the other hand, FSF's free software definition [gnu.org] only deals with the necessary results of those rules, rather than the rules themselves. It doesn't matter whether somebody's lawyers have figured out a clever way to cover all the "open source" checkboxes, unless you have the actual, meaningful freedoms to run, study, adapt, improve, and redistribute a program (including improved versions) to anyone for any purpose at any price, then the program is not free software.

            The FSF has a fairly decent (and reasonably fair) comparison of "free software" vs "open source", entitled Why "Open Source" misses the point of Free Software [gnu.org]

          • "Free Software" means the enforced-freeness of the GPL, which is a subset of Open Source.

            Not according to the FSF, which lists [gnu.org] the 3-clause BSD license as a "GPL-compatible free software license".

            What you describe here is called "copyleft".

          • by volpe (58112)

            It really seems to me that in common use "Open Source" *does* now mean you are free to do whatever you want with the source.

            If that were the case, there would be no need for an open source license.

            • by spitzak (4019)

              No, it means there *must* be a license:

              By default under copyright law you are not allowed to do some stuff with the code, and it is not Open Source according the the usual definition. The author *must* provide a license that allows you to do more with the code than the law allows.

              I think you are confusing "license" with "contract". A common mistake.

        • That would be look-but-you-can't-touch source.

          You haven't heard that poetic and elegant phrase?

          Maybe there's a reason for that.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I completely agree, if I can't share my customised versions of open source software with others then I wouldn't call it open. Just because patents are different to copyright doesn't mean that they can't restrict me in the same ways.

        To be clear, copyright licenses can't avoid patents as a whole but what they can do is say that you can't distribute copyrighted material without granted any necessary patents that you have. This gets around the 'submarine patent' scenario where someone contributes patent infri

        • by HiThere (15173)

          I don't think the GPLv2 actually had a problem with patents, but there were certainly questions which would have made for difficult court cases. As you said, GPLv3 fixes that.

    • by Halo1 (136547)

      Does this mean that the source code would be freely available, but that you couldn't use it without paying them?

      And that if you'd look at it, you'd be liable for tripple damages in the US (due to willful infringement).

      While at first sight this would seem to imply that that they'd better simply give the code to the people who license the patents and not bother with open source, there are some cases where the source could still be useful. E.g., in many European countries (where officially we don't have software patents, but in practice we do under the weasel name "patents on computer-implemented inventions"), there is

    • Looks like it:

      The Initial Developer and Contributors hereby irrevocably covenant (Patent Covenant) not to assert their Patent Claims over the Covered Code, regardless whether You have obtained a proper license on said patents and as long as the other provisions of this license are respected, limited to any use of this software in Source Code, excluding any distribution as Executable or execution through runtime, debuggers or emulators. Patent Covenant is however extended to the compilation and use of a com

      • Published source code is not the same as "open" source code.

        They're trying to confuse the issue so they can have it both ways - look like a good corporate citizen by donating to the community, but making us pay for the donation.

    • by kripkenstein (913150) on Friday April 10, 2009 @02:41AM (#27528589) Homepage

      Does this mean that the source code would be freely available, but that you couldn't use it without paying them? I skimmed the artical and linked pages, but can't figure out what this would actually mean.

      TFA says that it includes a patent covenant not to sue two classes of people: Those distributing only the source, and those compiling for 'internal purposes' only.

      It seems to me that the second case would handle e.g. Linux users that compile and run the code on their machine, and use it to view content. The first case is less clear, it seems that it might be intended to cover people 'working' with the code, and that might possibly extend to Linux distros that distribute the code (but not binaries) to their users (who can then compile it).

      Not sure if it's achieved, but the goal seems to be to sell patent licenses to big corporations that make lots of money off of this sort of thing, while not bothering with individuals and hobbyists.

  • MIT/BSD licenses (Score:5, Informative)

    by argent (18001) <peter@AAAslashdo ... minus threevowe> on Thursday April 09, 2009 @05:48PM (#27524969) Homepage Journal

    They should use the BSD or MIT licenses if they're more interested in releasing code than promoting public policy. It would provide the key functionality they claim to need without dragging their whole process through the muck and mire.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GNUbuntu (1528599)
      Yeah, but then it would probably be impossible to enforce their patent pool since the BSD/MIT licenses don't require you to even acknowledge that you've combined their code into a proprietary product.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Eric Smith (4379)
        Of course they could still enforce their patents. The BSD and MIT licenses don't grant any patent rights, so they could still sue for infringement.

        I am not a lawyer, but IMNSHO if they go that route, they should probably put a notice alongside the license stating that the software is subject to patents, with a URL of an MPEG LA web page giving more details.

      • Yeah, but then it would probably be impossible to enforce their patent pool sincethe BSD/MIT licenses don't require you to even acknowledge that you've combined their code into a proprietary product.

        lolwut?

        BSD:

        Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:

        * Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.
        * Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.
        * Neither the name of the nor the names of its contributors may be used to endorse or promote products derived from this software without specific prior written permission.

        MIT:

        The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in
        all copies or substantial portions of the Software.

      • They don't have the advertising clause in there any more, but the acknowledgment clause is still intact. Don't feel bad, there's been lots of people who've confused BSDL with public domain and ripped off the BSDL and replaced it with something like the GPL and tripped over that one.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Eil (82413)

      That would allow them to release the code under what is typically known as an "open source" license, sure. But releasing code that's known to be covered under a valid patent would undermine the spirit of open source no matter what license you use.

      They would literally be saying to the world:

      "Here's our source code free to download, view, and share. (But it's covered by several software patents so if you actually try to use it, we'll sue you. Have a day.)"

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by funkatron (912521)

        It's pretty hard to read

        Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without modification, are permitted

        or

        Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so

        as being anything other than statements giving permission to use the software. Even if the software is patented wouldn't distributing it with a license saying that people can use it mean that you were giving permission to use it and were therefore allowing the use of your patent.

      • But releasing code that's known to be covered under a valid patent would undermine the spirit of open source no matter what license you use.

        No doubt. But the only reason for them NOT using the MIT/BSD style license would be if they wanted to add more restrictions than just the patent. So I suspect the patents aren't the only issue... they don't just want to release with an OS license plus a patent, they want something else as well.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Everybody should be able to use, say, H.264 and AAC if your software only does playback.

    To record/create files, you would need a license.

    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      That would sure help adoption of HTML5 content on the Web. The real world uses H.264/AAC, not Theora/Vorbis.

      Well, that, and having Microsoft, Mozilla and Opera actually support the damn thing. AFAIK only Safari supports HTML5 media. Not that I have made any search about it, mind you. This is slashdot, after all.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Improv (2467)

      That's all well and good for a society that doesn't produce ideas and share them between themselves very freely. It more describes the pre-internet 80s society than the modern internet-driven society - Apple, Youtube, and the like have shown that society does not have to be fed, as consumers, only things that dedicated producers provide.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@@@gmail...com> on Thursday April 09, 2009 @05:54PM (#27525037) Journal
    What is the motive behind this new license? To cherry pick a few of the ideals of Open Source Software (OSS)?

    It sounds like, from the license, that they want the openness of many eyes reviewing and improving the code with derivative work while at the same time licensing that idea to other companies. Which, frankly, I cannot comprehend as any company would just opt for the open source community code to integrate into their product than pay the patent holder to roll their own. Or are they planning on charging you for the "open source" version like normal software? If so, how is that any difference from a commercial license modified so that you receive the code to review with the product?

    I mean, I'm happy for them to do whatever they feel like ... I don't mind more licenses and I think the MPL was a step in the right direction but not perfect. Either way, observers can be sure of one thing, there are at least some aspects of open source that appeal very much to a lot of people. It will be interesting to see what results from this endeavor.
    • while at the same time licensing that idea to other companies.

      Since no form of intellectual property covers ideas [uspto.gov], it's impossible and/or nonesensical to license them.

      • by Chabo (880571)

        Heh. I enjoy that you linked to the "Kids page". Nice, simple explanation of what can be patented.

        Maybe send that link over to the MPEG-LA?

      • Well, from the link you posted:

        What happens if two people have the same idea and both apply for patents?

        This happens sometimes. When the Patent and Trademark Office receives two patent applications for the same inventions, the cases go into an interference proceeding. The Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences then determines the first inventor who thus may be entitled to a patent based on the information provided by the inventors. This is why it is so important for inventors to keep good records.

        And also

        How can I find out if my invention has or hasn't been invented by someone else?

        Inventors can make a search of patents already granted, text books, journals and other publications to be sure that someone else has not already invented their idea. They may hire someone to do it for them or may do this themselves at the Public Search Room of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Arlington, Virginia, on the PTO web page on the Internet, or at one of the Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries across the country.

        The site only says that "abstract ideas" cannot be patented. I apologize for following the law but when I said "while at the same time licensing that idea to other companies" it is not an abstract idea but instead a very specific idea with an implementation already at hand. I would be more happy than if I were meeting Alan Turing if what you said was true but the link you provided did not really back up your claims.

        • That's cute, so when they slip up and say ideas like everyone else they can say "but I was talking about abstract ideas, and you were not". The whole "you can't patent ideas" thing is just a little semantic diversion, used by idiots who don't recognise it as such and people who are disingenuous.

          • The whole "you can't patent ideas" thing is just a little semantic diversion, used by idiots who don't recognise it as such and people who are disingenuous

            Sow which is this guy? [patent-faq.com].

        • If you have an implementation, then it's moved beyond an idea to an invention, period. If it's an idea, then it hasn't progressed beyond the abstract level, so it isn't an invention, period.

          By referring to it as an idea (abstract or otherwise) you're just adding to the confusion. The fact that they use the word "idea" doesn't prove you right - especially when they use it in the context of "inventing an idea". Think about it and the phrase makes as much sense as "designing a novel".

    • by jvillain (546827) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @06:01PM (#27525133)

      I think it boils down to this. The open source community can feel free to contribute code and documentation to our project. But we will feel free to keep you from being able to run it on an open source platform and we have the force of patents to stop you. If you want to fork the code we just drop the patent bomb.

      The MPEG group and the other douche bags they hang with are the most anti open source group there is. Am I ever going to play Blu-ray movies on my Linux computer? Not likely.

      • by hobbit (5915)

        +1, Exactamundo

    • I do mind more licenses. I hate Open Source/Free license fragmentation.

      However, what usually makes people interested in working on F/OSS is that their work is usable by others. I can't imagine that overtly patent-encumbered software is going to get "many eyes", at least in those barbaric nations that have software patents.

    • It strikes me that they're looking to codify status quo. Right now the MPEG-LA tries to do the "right thing" with respect to maintaining their patent rights while at the same time not stopping people from using their technology for non-commercial purposes. There's a metric shitload of software out there implementing MPEG codecs without a license, largely software based on libavcodec and other FFmpeg projects.

      The dick move for the MPEG-LA would be to enforce these patent rights over all such software, gettin

      • by HiThere (15173)

        If that's what they want, they need to come right out and say it. I could see a version of the GPL modified to exclude licenses to commercial distribution. (Yeah, they'd need to call it something different, and it wouldnt' be considered Open Source. But it wouldn't get people mad at them.)

        Or they could even go the route of the NPL...where the publisher kept special rights to incorporate into the release version anything it liked about any version that was released. With a special statement saying that t

  • Don't use it. Its pretty simple folks. If you want to fight against software patents you will:

    1. Boycott companies that actively engage in patent litigation (Against open source doubly)
    2. Tell all your friends to stop using said companies products. Tell them why its bad for you in the end, and tell them alternative products / technologies that aren't stifling external creativity
    3. Write a well worded letter to said company and detail why you have qualms with them. Make special note in the letter to outline:

  • by anthm (894202)

    Our project ( FreeSWITCH [freeswitch.org]) uses the MPL for the main application and BSD for satellite libraries that we create that can be used by other projects etc.

    Once you decide to have open source code, it's more logical to stick with the fact that at least the core code is FREE and come up with ways to develop a product on top of it if you want to have something to sell. Otherwise it sounds like an "open source tax" and businesses do not like uncertainty. If they choose to use a code base they need to know it will al

  • What they want to do is not in the spirit of open source. Just post the source code with a proprietary shared source license the same way Microsoft and others do. That way they have the source code available for review but no one is allowed to use it without paying them. Which is exactly what they want.

  • It's funny to me that the product/service acronym is MXM because jussssst b4 is saw that, i saw the slashdot dating notice:

    Slashdot Dating
    Other Slashdot Users are Nearby Meet and date on Geek 2 Geek
    www.Gk2gk.com

    So, my mind quickly saw G2G 4 M4M... lol.... THAT's why /. is so... pent upp, hehehe... some guys need to get out more often... hang out in corn fields in Iowa... keep an eye out for the errant/itenerant Klingon that might arrive fleeing from the Xindi or the Orion Syndicate...

  • From the email [crynwr.com]:

    Patent Covenant is however extended to the compilation and use of a compiled version (as Executable) of this software for study and evaluation purposes only, with the exclusion of distribution of compiled code or any other commercial exploitation.

    Well, maybe someone is trying to argue that other OSI licenses also don't promise anything regarding royalty-free patent-licenses. But this is because licenses are predominantly about the author's copyright and not about the patents. However if the

  • by russotto (537200) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @09:16PM (#27526815) Journal
    From TFA:

    I have insisted and obtained, however, that an explicit patent covenant be inserted, to the effect to exclude from any patent concern all who don't distribute the compiled version of the software and to those who compile it only for internal purposes without direct commercial exploitation.

    That renders the patents nearly irrelevant, completely so for general purpose computers. There's nothing to prevent a commercial exploiter from distributing the source code to their customers, along with a compiler and a one-step process for compiling it. Nor for any Linux distro to do essentially the same -- create an "mpeg-mxm" package which requires mpeg-mxm-source and gcc and automagically compiles the package. Even Apple and Microsoft could do it. I'm not sure why this would be acceptable to the MPEG group. There simply is no way to effectively control "object code" without also controlling source code. Not only can source code be translated into object code, it can be executed directly by an interpreter. Then what is your patent doing? As for the dodge of claiming "a machine-readable medium containing the instructions to execute this nonpatentable algorithm"... I wonder if they've realized that they've claimed any computer-readable medium containing the patent description itself...

    • by Alsee (515537)

      source/object nondichotomy

      Absolutely. It's insane when judges or lawyers or legislators or others talk as if there is some difference between "source code" and "object code". There isn't.

      The best analogy (sorry, no car), is that "source code" is like English, and "object code" is French. They are nothing but different languages. Computers generally read French, but if you fun an interpreter on a computer then the computer can directly read and run the English version... if you fun an interpreter on a comput

  • "The MPEG Working Group wants to release a reference implementation of the new MPEG eXtensible Middleware (MXM) standard as open source, but it also wants to be able to sell patent licenses."

    There must be more to it than this because there is an easy solution for this one.

    Put the code under the AGPL or GPL, Grant a free patent license to those using the Free stuff and charge tpatent fees to those who want a non-Free license to the code.

    So, if they develop their own non-Free code and the patent covers it, th

  • by symbolset (646467) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @10:54PM (#27527425) Journal

    Somewhere there are lawyers sitting around a bottle of scotch thinking up ways to use words for the exact opposite of what they mean. They are the Drunken Idiot Attorney Forum (DIAF) working group. Clearly this license is a draft version of their proposal for an international Patented Open Software (POS) standard to be pushed through the ISO fast track process next year despite the determined opposition of just about everybody involved.

    Fortunately for all of us this endeavor violates at least three Microsoft business process patents.

  • We'll make our own, we don't need your patent licenses or your code, thanks.

    Good luck licensing something which has already been made obsolete by so many other formats. mp3 is a thing of the past.

    There are other players and encoders which you threatened action over in the past so, what's changed? Now you want to release the source AND be able to sue people for using it without a license? Ummm... I don't think so.

    Thanks, but no thanks. GC

Stupidity, like virtue, is its own reward.

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