Re: Legal dangers (was Re: polarization)
- From: bruce perens com (Bruce Perens)
- To: bruce perens com, hp redhat com
- Cc: atai atai org, foundation-list gnome org, sam uchicago edu
- Subject: Re: Legal dangers (was Re: polarization)
- Date: Fri, 3 Nov 2000 12:43:44 -0800 (PST)
> What it comes down to is that if this scenario happens (all the GNOME
> member companies sue to invalidate the GPL), we have already lost. The
> core hackers will have become embittered and quit their jobs over it,
> after long and bitter conflicts. Microsoft's claims of fragmentation
> will be true. The free software companies will have tanked. We are
> not going to achieve world domination or even noticeable marketshare
> at that point. We'll just be some hobbyist toy.
That's probably not how it would go. First, we would achieve significant market
share, and _then_ the patent holders go after the companies involved for the
money they've made plus damages. "Submarine" patents are nothing new, and this
is exactly how they work. Look at all of the big companies caving in to Rambus
and you'll realize how difficult they are to resist.
> But if all the GNOME member companies start suing to undermine the
Actually, in this (admittedly theoretical) case, it would be
_us_suing_them_ for a GPL violation. Or more likely, we'd just decide,
collectively, not to sue and to allow companies to license patents in
order that the project survive. After all, we are (collectively) the
patent holders and we can make that decision. In that case, the GNOME
desktop survives and might have widespread popularity, but people would
pay patent licenses to sell it. The developers would live with that reality
and would themselves be covered by someone else's patent license, but could
not distribute freely any longer.
> If we want to save up money in an account for legal defense, then
> sure, that makes sense. Let's do it. We might get some legal
> challenges. But other than that, it's a total waste of energy to go
> ahead and worry in detail about what we'd do after we'd already
> failed. Take out the insurance policy, and focus on the present.
Yes, this is what I'm suggesting the foundation do. I don't think it would
taint or distract the project to put a little thinking into catastrophe
insurance. It's just due dilligence for a project that has become this large.
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