NSA Suite B Cryptography

Sidney Markowitz sidney at sidney.com
Fri Oct 14 17:37:01 EDT 2005

Ian G wrote:
> Which is to say, NSA solved its problem and it
> is nothing to do with FOSS.

If you wrote a Suite B program and distributed it under a BSD license
after getting a sub-license for the patent from the NSA, presumably I
could take that code, modify it, and then in order to use or distribute
 my modified code I would have to obtain my own sublicense from the NSA.

I could do that as long as I met whatever criteria the NSA has for
granting sublicenses. My guess is that at a minimum the program would
have to be available for free or for sale to the US government for some
purpose that allows it to be considered as being "in support of US
national security interests."

It would make no sense for the NSA to grant a sublicense to you that
allowed to you grant me a license to produce possibly proprietary code
that infringes the patent and is not in support of US national security

So, yes, under those assumptions BSD-like licenses would not be
excluded, with the understanding that in addition to the copyright terms
allowing free use of the code there would also be patent restrictions
affecting the use.

As you say, the NSA's solution to their problem has nothing to do with
FOSS, and it doesn't specifically exclude FOSS. But it will preclude GPL
software that will interoperate with Suite B from being distributed in
countries that recognize the patents.

Unless, I suppose the NSA is able to say that any use of the patent in
open source software can be considered "in support of US national
security interests" and therefore the sublicense can be propagated as
long as the source remains available. In other words, if they include a
GPL-like provision that the patent license will stay with the code as
long as it is distributed under GPL. That would be an interesting twist.

 -- Sidney Markowitz

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