DVD Player

John Summerfield debian at herakles.homelinux.org
Wed Dec 1 22:00:49 UTC 2004

On Wednesday 01 December 2004 23:22, Scott Talbot wrote:
>         Well I don't see much difference, If an item has patents, it is
> presumably not free.  Even though the patent holders have never even
> tried to start legal action on mp3 codecs anywhere, and have said that
> they have no intention of going after anyone, they also have not
> released them under GPL or any other "free" license.
> The fedora home page does have this to say on the subject though:
> "The goal of The Fedora Project is to work with the Linux community to
> build a complete, general purpose operating system exclusively from free
> software."
> Since mp3 is not free, redhat won't use it.  Presumably this would also
> apply to code that is copyrighted, but not patented too.

Disclaimer: IANAL.

There are three matters.
1. Trademarks. 
   Trademarks have to be enforced or they're lost. Australian companies have 
been making ugg boots for 30 years or so to my memory. Now some American 
company is claiming it as a trademark. I predict they'll lose if a court 
adjudicates, but of course the "infringers" may not have enough money to 
spend on it.

2. Patents.
   Patents require registration and renewal in all jurisdictions, and have a 
limited lifespan. Patents can be enforced discriminatorily: IBM can choose to 
not enforce patents against some people (say OSS developers) and go after 
others (say Bill). I would trust IBM to do just that, whereas I expect Bill 
will sue all.
   Note that most countries do not recognise software patents.

3. Copyright.
   In most jurisdictions, an author owns copyright unless his wok explicity 
denies this ("this work is in the public domain"). The major exception is 
commissioned work: if I hire you to paint me a picture of Bill receiving a 
pie in the face, I own the copyright unless our contract says otherwise.
   In some jurisdictions (eg .de), copyright cannot be assigned. A copyright 
owner can impose restrictions on the use of his work: he permits its use 
under a licence.
   In public domain works, the author disclaims all rights of ownership. As I 
understand "public domain," I can take a public domain work and claim it 
(perhaps with minor modifications) as my own.

A complete work can have many copyright holders. Think of a performance by the 
Boston Pops Orchestra. The composer holds copyright on the score. Then 
arranger has copyright over the arrangement, Importantly, each performer 
(annd conductor) has copyright over her contribution. And if the performance 
is recorded, there are more copyrights there too.

It is copyright law that underpins all OSS licences.

Patents tend to lie in hiding (eg Amazon's one-click patent) and can be 
destroyed by prior art. OSS developers cannot keep up (indeed corporates 
can't), and for the moment I prefer to ignore them until they pop up. OTOH I 
do not recommend "fingers in ears."


John Summerfield
tourist pics: http://environmental.disaster.cds.merseine.nu/

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