Friday, March 18, 2011

Directing Lemmings

Phoronix just posted a link to an interview with Ryan Gordon who says
Also, I find it completely ridiculous that we're shipping open source OpenGL drivers without S3TC support because of patent concerns. Today, that's like shipping a web browser without .jpg support!
Why does so many people think that breaking the law is not only acceptable but mandatory? I don't understand why would you castigate others for following the law. Yes, every single patent is despicable, there's not one of them that's ethically valid but the solution can't be pushing someone else to be breaking the law for you.

Legally there's nothing stopping anyone from licensing s3tc or floating point patents, forking Mesa3D and shipping closed source version of it with code handling both.
It's simply that you can't reconcile Free Software with patents. You just can't add what amounts to arbitrary restrictions to your software and claim freedom. There's absolutely nothing we can do here. There were teams of lawyers looking at this stuff and the conclusion every single time was "you just can't get away with this". Jose and Brian spent a lot of time looking at ways of getting around it as well.

I don't even think we could claim that we're taking a moral stance because it's not us but the distributors who would get sued and would lose. Pushing others under the train just doesn't seem like a moral high ground. Plus all the "I'm not a lawyer but /* bad advice follows */" are just not helpful at all. It's only meaningful if you work for a company that distributes Mesa3D code and your lawyers decided that you'll fight this in court or you'll go around this using some technical quirk. Everything else is back seat driving, without even having the decency to get in the car.