[XviD-devel] License/legal discussions

charact3r charact3r at yahoo.com
Tue Dec 16 14:37:07 CET 2003


> "For example, if a patent license would not permit
> redistribution of the Program by all those who
receive copies directly
> or indirectly through you, then the only way you
could satisfy both it
> and this License would be to refrain entirely from
distribution of the
> Program."

My old company's lawyers told me this: nowhere does
the _GPL_ forbid you from distributing patented
technology within GPL'd code.  What stops you is the
terms of a patent license or a patent-related
contract.  It's OK by GPL if you don't license
necessary patents but you could be infringing.

> Please notice it doesn't say "a patent owned by
you", it says "a patent
> license". "A patent license" is understood by most
to be "any patent
> license".

Yes, it means "any patent license that you have
accepted", e.g. such a license exists if you pay
MPEGLA for a MPEG-4 license.  Until you pay for a
license or come to some other agreement with patent
holders, you are not bound by the terms of a patent
license so you can distribute away!  Of course this
does not mean that you are not infringing patents by
doing so.

There is only one way that xvid could be used that
would satisfy both the patent holders and the GPL. 
Each xvid end-user would have to purchase his own
individual patent license (e.g. for a one-off payment
USD0.50).  The terms of that license could forbid
redistribution without conflicting with the end-user's
acceptance of GPL.  So xvid developers could not go
legal in this way as they still need to distribute!

Btw, I wouldn't be surprised if someone with vested
interests (e.g. a company) provided laywers to defend
xvid's copyright (if the xvid team were agreeable of
course).  It would be interesting to see GPL tested in

IANAL, blah blah (and apologies for legal talk on the
dev mailing list)!

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