allquixotic: IANAL an all that, but this situation is pretty much the same as with some video codecs (H264 and others) and it isn't something endusers need to worry about, only distributors.
If they kept the floating point and other patented stuff in separate files the chances for bit rot would be very low.
This situation still comes over as dangerous.
Hopefully it's 2018 is going to be here fast.
(Filing Date:06/16/1998 + 20 years = 06/16/2018)
LOL.Code:configure: WARNING: Floating-point textures enabled. configure: WARNING: Please consult docs/patents.txt with your lawyer before building Mesa.
Note to my lawyer: I didn't actually build mesa, just ran autogen. I swear!
IIRC, the Fleundo purchases only licenses the user of the decoder and encoder. Your licenses doesn't extend to the distribution. I.e. if you distribute the licensed codec, you are not able to grant your patent license to the people you distribute the code to. That is why patent licenses are not compatible with free software. Software that is copyleft but patent licensed places addition restrictions on those who receive copies of the software, because they have no license from the patent holder.Finally, would it be possible for someone to go "the Fluendo route" (alluding to their work with their Gstreamer codecs), and legally license the patents in such a way that SGI/S3/Apple/Nvidia/Matrox get their fscking money, while still allowing people to use the latest and greatest Mesa with all the patented algorithms enabled? etc. ...
So, if you were to license the code from SGI, build it, and provide gratis access to the public, the public would still not be legally entitled to use the code because the patent license is valid for you only.
Of course, it's possible for patent holders to grant licenses favourable to free software. For example, I believe the Java patents are granted unilaterally to GPL implementations derived directly from the official source
Considering Apple's position on h264 and their many software patents targeting the mobile platform, I think it's highly unlikely that they (or any other company without a stated commitment to free software) will throw away competitive advantage and give a favourable license to free software. In fact, why would they, when an open source desktop is one of their competitors?Unless they just want to say "no" in order to stonewall free software, and no other reason. I could definitely see Nvidia doing that, and maybe SGI. Apple actually releases and relies upon significant open source software, so I think they might agree to let go of their patent under these terms.
No, no one actually believes patent holders will be going after individual users. What they do believe is that patent holders will be targeting commercial entities that have a potential revenue stream. This means that those larger companies (like say, Red Hat or Intel) won't be supporting the patented technology and thus won't be spending much developer time on it.My last question: Does anyone seriously think that a patent holder on a ClosedGL patent is going to go after end-users for compiling this software themselves, for their own personal use on their own computer, without distributing it to anyone? The number of end-users they would be able to sue would probably be measured in the hundreds or low thousands -- that's not nearly as lucrative as the music and video copyright cartels and the hundreds of millions of users out there who've ever downloaded a song. Considering that a lawsuit in this area costs a ton of money, the lawyers would end up keeping most of it, and the company would get very little out of your average person. With so few people willing to compile Mesa themselves, this doesn't seem likely to ever become a real issue for personal users.
Without "commercial" support, those technologies will not be part of the default ecosystem, and third-party applications will not be able to rely on it presence. For something like graphics drivers performance, this is a pretty big deal. If open source drivers can only get better performance using unsupported code and (in many places) illegal code, the open source driver becomes much less of a priority for programs that require better performance.
It's the same with any software patent. You are at a competitive disadvantage if your product requires patented code that you cannot obtain a license for.