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From Leo Simons <m...@leosimons.com>
Subject Re: NDA issues and acceptable use of sun source
Date Mon, 13 Feb 2006 12:06:51 GMT
On Mon, Feb 13, 2006 at 02:07:25AM +0000, Dalibor Topic wrote:
> There is no way the Harmony project can sort out the legal mess
> left behind Sun decisively, since any such thing would have to 
> play out in the courts, and we certainly don't want to have to 
> have to go there.

Very true.

<rant>
> In absence of court decisions, there is just the possibility to draw
> very clear lines what constitutes safe contributions and what doesn't.

I disagree that this is possible. Combining intellectual property laws
from a variety of jurisdictions with many years of open source and closed
source history means that there is no "safe" and there is no "very clear".

There is only ever "safe enough" and "clear enough". "safe enough" is
when our contributors do not have to worry about getting sued
and when its very unlikely that the ASF gets sued, or that when it is
sued, chances are it will win. "clear enough" is when our users are
also confident that they can use our software without worrying, our
developers and contributors understand what is going on, and even some
lawyer folk manage to figure it out.

The ASF has a 10 year track record of being on the right side of the "safe
enough" and "clear enough" line, as is evidenced by all the individuals
and companies contributing and/or using its software. Because the "legal
mess left behind Sun" is so big, Harmony is trying to be just a little more
on the "safe" side.

> Such lines are necessarily going to exclude more people that 
> court-tested lines would, but they have the killer feature of not
> having to go to court with Sun in order to determine them. ;)

Even going to court with Sun doesn't help make these kinds of lines all
that clear. We'd be going to court for many many years, and at the end of
all that, we'd *still* just be at "clear enough" and "safe enough".

Anyhow. I feel that Harmony should not have a policy as strict as
Classpath ("if you ever looked at sun source, you can't contribute"). I
think that it is absurd if guys like Tor can't contribute a vorbis
implementation (vorbis being something explicitly designed to be very
free of legal mess, mind you) to an open source project just because 10
years ago they looked at source code that had nothing to do with vorbis
(which didn't exist at the time in any form!). I understand that there
are some lawyers in the world who think that this is not absurd, but at
some point you should draw a very clear line around them and put up a big
sign "don't talk to these people. They've lost all sense of reality" and
get on with your life.
</rant>

- LSD

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