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Re: [pgsql-advocacy] Software Patents

From: Chris Travers <chris(at)travelamericas(dot)com>
To: Bruce Momjian <pgman(at)candle(dot)pha(dot)pa(dot)us>
Cc: Josh Berkus <josh(at)agliodbs(dot)com>,"Joshua D(dot) Drake" <jd(at)commandprompt(dot)com>, pgsql-www(at)postgresql(dot)org,pgsql-advocacy(at)postgresql(dot)org
Subject: Re: [pgsql-advocacy] Software Patents
Date: 2005-04-22 04:49:07
Message-ID: 42688243.4070006@travelamericas.com (view raw or flat)
Thread:
Lists: pgsql-advocacypgsql-www
Hi Bruce;

Ordinarily I would agree with you.  I think it is way too easy for open 
source communities or other work communities to politicize themselves 
and this carries with it the risk of alienating members and potential 
members.  If this was being asked before the ARC issue, I would be 
backing your side more or less completely.  Also note that Joshua Drake 
used to oppose the idea as well.

I can't speak for Mr. Drake, though he has stated that he has a 
commercial interest in such text because of recent experiences.  I don't 
doubt that other businesses do as well.  My business does for the simple 
reason that I can't afford to do a patent search on every algorythm I 
use in every program I write.  With all due respect to Command Prompt, I 
do not find this reasoning compelling for the community.  As companies 
we have to take a stand on this.  Just because we do, this does not 
imply that we must make this a part of the community.  Indeed doing so 
can cause more harm than good if we become "just another propaganda arm" 
of some other organization from the viewpoint of the newcommer.

However, we are not just another open source project without any 
first-hand experience on this issue.  We are, I hope, not merely talking 
about rehashing the advocacy writings of the EFF and others.  We have 
first hand experience which can be valuable if shared.  We have 
something unique to say about this issue as a community based on recent 
experience.  We have taken a stand on this list and others by saying we 
don't even want to ask IBM for permission to use their patents.  So like 
it or not, we already have a community position which is largely, if not 
a matter of concensus, a matter which cannot be dismissed.  It is too 
late to ask whether we should take a stand on this issue as a community.

I have said I support the idea but am concerned about details.  I would 
like to see a unique button (not one copied from another organization's 
site), a unique page on PostgreSQL detailing our experience with this 
issue, and, provided that we do link to other organizations, provide a 
disclaimer that indicates that we do not feel that they speak for us.  I 
even wonder if it is better to have the button say something neutral 
like "Patents and PostgreSQL" or "Patents and Open Source."  Maybe even 
"Learn about Software Patents."  Something that does not say what our 
position is before they read it.  Then it is mostly discussing our 
experience with the issue rather than a political rant.

Best Wishes,
Chris Travers
Metatron Technology Consulting

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