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Re: <nettime> A 'licensing fee' for GNU/Linux?
Novica Nakov on Mon, 9 Aug 2004 04:10:05 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> A 'licensing fee' for GNU/Linux?

> If you used a proprietary program [whether non-FOSS
> "freeware" or commercial] whose authors hadn't licensed LZW from Unisys,
> you - and not the authors - got sued, too. The proprietary license did
> _not_, as you wrote in your initial posting, save you, the user, from
> legal risks, i.e. it did _not_ ensure that the program author got sued
> instead of you, the user.

Even if you buy an Adobe product I don't think that its EULA states that they 
have bought a license from Unisys for LZW. Or does it?

Here is what I'm thinking. Felix wrote in his initial posting that: "last 
August a court ruled in an exceptional case that Internet Explorer improperly 
contained patented technology, it was Microsoft that had to pay up 
$520,600,000.00". So in this case the program author got sued and paid the 
damages. I don't know much about legal stuff but it seems to me that there 
are two possibilities with patent infigment. 

In the IE case the users buy a product that has patent problems but they don't 
participate in the actual patent infigment. Microsoft is the one who has to 
pay since they are the ones who did something (wrote the code, designed the 
buttons) that infringes on a patent. 

In the LZW case users are the ones who who actually use some program to create 
a file in a format that is patented, and in that way they are the ones who 
mess with the patent. The developers/vendors can do something to protect 
their users: they can remove GIF support, pay for the patent and up the 
licensing fees or just simply inform the users. But the program doesn't 
infringe on the LZW patent by itself. The user has to do it - create a GIF 
image, so it somewhat logical that the user has to pay for it in some way.

In this line of thinking the linux kernel is much closer to the IE example 
then to the LZW example, so users should be safe. But then again, it could be 
all wrong, and MS could have simply paid whatever price to settle the issue 
and protect its market share.

btw, software patents suck.


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