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The FSF Wants Microsoft To Do More To Help Fight Software Patents

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  • #41
    Originally posted by jacob View Post
    The kernel has always had non-GPL symbols and entry points, which are a subset of all the symbols available. Anyone can develop a non-GPL driver using exclusively these symbols. That has always been the case with Linux and it's nothing specific to Nvidia. An exception would be if a non-GPL driver was allowed to use GPL only symbols. Does NVidia do that? I'm pretty sure it doesn't. I remember some company trying to cheat by including a string starting with "GPL" in their module (was it TBS?) and it didn't exactly go well with kernel developers. The same thing applies to AFS.

    Sun wanted the kind of exception we talked about above so that they can release ZFS without actually following the rules. They were told that no, it doesn't work that way. They didn't want to open ZFS to the GPL so that it could be used as a legitimate part of Linux, and so it isn't

    Sun had open source efforts but these were expressly and purposely hostile towards Linux. Their (pipe) dream was to create a parallel community centred around Solaris that would, they hoped, push Linux out of the market. There is nothing inherently illegitimate about that, mind you, no-one says that FOSS *must* mean Linux, and if anything, FOSS is about having more competition, not less. But they didn't do it in a honest and fair way by creating tough competition, they did it by embracing MS tactics and funnelling a war chest to SCO (the ONLY significant company besides MS who ever paid SCO, aside from fairly negligible entities such as EV1Servers).

    I agree with that point, but disagree about the definition of "being made". Obviously, patenting the *idea* of a translation machine is nonsensical, but I contend that "making" such a machine consists in devising an algorithm that performs the translation. Coding it (e.g. rewriting the algorithm in an actual programming language) is a comparatively trivial task whose added value is very small, just like patenting a car engine means patenting its internal structure, mechanisms, the geometry of the crankshaft, shape of cylinders etc., not the actual piece of metal that comes out of the assembly line.
    Sun and almost any software company was trying to figure out how to deal with open source effectively about a decade ago. Sun hedged more than most (by paying SCO), but ultimately they open sourced quite a bit of stuff which has very successful communities around it now. They didn't use their patents like MS and Oracle have against Linux and Android. They did open source and build communities in large and more significant ways than MS and Oracle, arguably even IBM (again, Solaris/Openoffice/Java/etc..) They didn't get ZFS licensing perfectly right, or into Linux (but into FreeBSD), which merely makes it the black sheep of Sun's open source efforts. I think Debian and Canonical have the right idea, and it will take work from the kernel side and ZFS side to further merge upstream if it ever happens. To say Sun wanted to use GPL symbols for ZFS is wrong, they wanted some combination of non-GPL symbols and licensing exceptions like AFS for it to be legally right.

    You would need a prototype "translation machine" to get a patent (so it's not just an abstract idea), you can use whatever methods to translate/record/play underneath. A working prototype is absolutely necessary for a patent, or it'll be thrown out in court afterwards even if granted. Like you said though, once you know the math/science of the MP3 codec, implementing it in a language is an insignificant amount of work, making such patents primarily patents of abstract ideas. It's bad for innovation in the long and short term to have such patents that are constantly being used to offensively sue and shakedown someone because the subject matter of the patent is either (copyright) math/science or trivial coding.

    edit: a patent for a translation machine would need to do record/process/translate/play in that order and with purpose. This is relatively non-trivial to do right even if I gave you a microphone/rpi/speaker and you had a EE/CS degree and all you had to do was translate someone saying hello to hola. The amount of work I'm doing and the primary subject matter of the patent is real engineering, not coding or math/science. Process patents in chemical or mechanical engineering make sense in the same way. Software patents just don't.
    Last edited by audir8; 14 November 2018, 07:48 PM.