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Is Your Software In Danger of Termination?

“Most free software is covered by licenses that never terminate.
Unfortunately, some important new free software licenses can
terminate at any time, and at the sole discretion of the copyright
holder. Your right to run the software covered by these licenses
could be taken away tomorrow, and you’d have no recourse, no means
to appeal the decision at all.”

“IBM has the right to stop you from using their software if they
even think there might be an intellectual property claim, and they
get to define what reasonably available means. Now, I’m not saying
that IBM would use this to trick us – they are sincerely trying to
be members of the free software community. However, people make
contracts so that when managers change, the spirit of the agreement
is still preserved. Software licenses are the only contracts the
free software community has, and we should be careful about
them.”

“To paint the worst-case scenario, suppose at some time in the
future, after our current crop of IBM managers have moved on, it
became to IBM’s advantage to withdraw Jikes and Secure Mailer. All
they would need is a threat of a possible intellectual property
claim, whether it could ever be enforced or not. They could post a
notice to their web site saying Sorry, but your license is
terminated. Please destroy all of your copies of the software. That
is all the notice they’re required to provide. You’d have no right
to continue to distribute or run the software, and any investment
that the free software community had made in improving those
programs would be lost… lost to you, at least. It’s possible that
IBM could still use the improvements you’d written. The whole free
software community, however, would be penalized because of some
absurd patent infringement claim. If your business depended on
Jikes or Secure Mailer, you’d be in trouble.”

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