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cc-licenses - Re: [cc-licenses] input requested: BY-SA/GPL compatibility - license scope

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Subject: Development of Creative Commons licenses

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  • From: Joshua Gay <jgay AT>
  • To: cc-licenses AT
  • Subject: Re: [cc-licenses] input requested: BY-SA/GPL compatibility - license scope
  • Date: Mon, 23 Feb 2015 17:11:19 -0500

On 02/23/2015 07:15 AM, Sarah Pearson wrote:
> Nonetheless, as a theoretical matter, it creates a
> problem because it is possible to imagine a downstream user of a GPL
> project mistakenly assuming she does not have to worry about patent rights
> even though a BY-SA work is adapted into the project.

This theoretical problem is one that we are familiar with. It is fairly
common practice for developers to incorporate third-party code into
their GPLv3 covered work from programs under simple permissive licenses.
Most simple permissive licenses do not have an explicit patent grant.
Obviously a license that explicitly denies a patent grant would not be
compatible with GPLv3, however, the FSF's position is that the lack of
an explicit patent grant in and of itself will not make a license
incompatible with the terms of GPLv3.

It is worth noting that while GPLv3 provides certain assurances against
the threat of patent litigation, it does not protect users from the
threat posed by software patents **in general**.

Software patents are the software project equivalent of land mines: each
design decision carries a risk of stepping on a patent, which can
destroy your project. Developing a large and complex computer program
means combining many ideas, often hundreds or thousands of them. So, in
a country that allows software patents, there is a serious risk that
some substantial fraction of the ideas in your program will be patented
already by various companies. And each of these patent claims may pose a
threat to the users and distributors of GPLv3 licensed works.

The only way to eliminate the threat posed by software patents is to
change the law.

> Can we do enough to alleviate this risk with proper education for reusers?

Similarly, the FSF would like to know your thoughts on what we can do to
help. Would adding a short comment about it on our list of Various
Licenses and Comments about Them
<> be sufficient? Is there
any other place that it might be helpful for the FSF to publish a
statement on this matter?

Joshua Gay
Licensing & Compliance Manager <>
Free Software Foundation <>
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