Patents and Retaliation

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2006-01-19 Print this article Print

With regard to the issue of patents, Stallman again conceded that the GPL could not make them go away. "There is literally nothing that software developers can do to protect themselves against the dangers of patents, except not allow patents in their country. We have just found out that the European Union is going to make another attempt to impose software patents," he said.
The draft license also does not, in any way, change the criteria for licenses to qualify as free software licenses, he said.
But what it does is make the GPL compatible with a larger subset of those. If a free software license allowed a modified version to be distributed under the GPL, then it was compatible with the GPL, he said. "We have artificially changed the GPL so that a larger range of those licenses will be compatible. The incompatibility is always unfortunate in itself, but the whole point of the GPL was to ensure that other restrictions could not be added," Stallman said. Linux vendors and distributors like Red Hat and Novell were calling for GPL 3.0 to address the issues of patents and license compatibility. Click here to read more. Asked about the fundamental basis for the previous incompatibility of some free licenses with the GPL, Stallman said that in some cases the licenses mentioned certain trademarks, had the requirement that the command to download the source code could not be removed, or contained aggressive patent retaliation clauses. The kinds of patent retaliation that the current draft of the license would allow are limited and directed only against things that are clearly wrong. Stallman said the FSF was also hoping that, in the future, some of those license drafters would decide to make their patent retaliations compatible with the GPL so that their licenses could be compatible. Asked about what he wanted to see come from the discussion process now that the first discussion draft was public, Stallman said he hoped that a lot of people would be checking it carefully to find instances where the current words would not have the right effect, so that the wording could be fixed at the draft stage. "This is just a discussion draft and is not yet a version of the GPL, and so does not apply to any programs. But we want any problems to be found before we make an official release of GPL version 3.0 and, so, we need lots of people looking for problems," he said. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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