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Path: gmdzi!unido!mcsun!uunet!tut.cis.ohio-state.edu!AI.MIT.EDU!rms
From: r...@AI.MIT.EDU (Richard Stallman)
Newsgroups: gnu.g++.help,comp.lang.c++
Subject: Software patents
Message-ID: <9012110035.AA08725@mole.ai.mit.edu>
Date: 11 Dec 90 00:35:59 GMT
Sender: dae...@tut.cis.ohio-state.edu
Followup-To: gnu.g++.help
Organization: Gatewayed from the GNU Project mailing list help-...@prep.ai.mit.edu
Lines: 19
Posted: Tue Dec 11 01:35:59 1990

I expect software patents will put an end to the GNU project within a
couple of years if they are not eliminated.  It will not be possible
to write most of the programs that a user of GNU would expect without
infringing patents, and licensing patents is not an option for us.

To illustrate the problem, it appears that a patent was recently
granted on include files.  (Usenix told its members this patent
exists, but I don't have any details yet.)  It may be invalid, but
proving this in court could cost half a million dollars.  If we are
unlucky and the patent is upheld, there go GCC and G++ down the drain.

GNU developers are not the only ones afraid of patents.  In a workshop
with software developers in September, the Office of Technology
Assessment found that most of them were opposed to patents.  Many
prominent entrepreneurs including jimad's employer seem to think they
are a bad idea.

For more information about the danger of software patents, contact
lea...@prep.ai.mit.edu.

Path: gmdzi!unido!mcsun!uunet!tut.cis.ohio-state.edu!europa.att.com!ark
From: a...@europa.att.com (Andrew Koenig)
Newsgroups: gnu.g++.help,comp.lang.c++
Subject: Re: Software patents
Message-ID: <9012111808.AA20219@life.ai.mit.edu>
Date: 11 Dec 90 14:29:02 GMT
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Followup-To: gnu.g++.help
Organization: Gatewayed from the GNU Project mailing list help-...@prep.ai.mit.edu
Lines: 37
Posted: Tue Dec 11 15:29:02 1990

The basis for patents in the US is Section 8, paragraph 8 of the
US constitution:

	Section 8.  The congress shall have power:

		. . .

		(8) To promote the progress of science and useful
		    arts, by securing for limited times to authors
		    and inventors the exclusive right to their
		    respective writings and discoveries;


That is, the legal ability to patent an algorithm stems from the
same part of the constitution as the legal ability for the FSF to
prevent people from selling proprietary extensions to GNU software.
Moreover, there is the same basis for both: to give people an incentive
to develop new ideas instead of keeping them secret.  When you patent
something, you get exclusive rights to it for a while, in exchange for
which you are spared the bother of keeping it secret.  After the patent
expires, everyone gets the benefit of it.

A key phrase is `for limited times,' and it is there that I think the
entire problem lies with software patents.  If I invent a new method
of fastening picture frames to wallboard, the construction industry
would not be seriously impeded if I have exclusive rights to those
fasteners for seventeen years.  People have been building things for
millenia; seventeen years is negligible by comparison.

On the other hand, seventeen years is a substantial fraction of the
total time the software industry has been in existence!  This argues
that software patents should be much shorter-lived than other patents.

I submit that if the duration for software patents were changed to
seventeen months, most practical objections to them would vanish,
especially if that were coupled with the restriction that nothing can
be patented if it is already in widespread use.

Path: gmdzi!unido!mcsun!uunet!tut.cis.ohio-state.edu!AI.MIT.EDU!rms
From: r...@AI.MIT.EDU (Richard Stallman)
Newsgroups: gnu.g++.help,comp.lang.c++
Subject: Software patents
Message-ID: <9012112010.AA13903@mole.ai.mit.edu>
Date: 11 Dec 90 20:10:06 GMT
Sender: dae...@tut.cis.ohio-state.edu
Followup-To: gnu.g++.help
Organization: Gatewayed from the GNU Project mailing list help-...@prep.ai.mit.edu
Lines: 19
Posted: Tue Dec 11 21:10:06 1990

Yesterday I sent a message to help-g++ stating the FSF position on
software patents, including how we expect them to affect the GNU
project.

Now it seems that people are starting to argue against the FSF
position.  This list is not the right place for that.  If people
want to have a discussion of the issue, they should use
gnu-misc-disc...@prep.ai.mit.edu.  (I should have said this for the
discussion of the Apple boycott also, but I didn't remember until too
late.)

Andrew Koenig's message contains some accurate information and some
views that partly agree and partly disagree.  Rather than continue an
argument here, I urge anyone interested in the issue to ask
lea...@prep.ai.mit.edu for information on the League for Programming
Freedom position and the arguments behind it.

If and when I get more information about the patent on include files,
I will inform people.

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