NSA Suite B Cryptography
sidney at sidney.com
Sat Oct 15 02:52:56 EDT 2005
Joseph Ashwood wrote:
> Uhhhh, no. The NSA only licensed the right to use (and sublicense under
> special circumstances) the patents
> [snip the rest, it was based on a failed assumption]
Poor phrasing on my part. Exactly as you said, the patent sublicense
cannot be passed on even if the code is released under, say a BSD
copyright license. People would have a right to copy the source code but
would have to obtain patent rights either from the NSA if they are
eligible, or as you said under alternative arrangements from Certicom.
Since the GPL excludes distribution of code with patents that limit
their distribution other than by specific country, the patent
encumbrance that would accompany the code would prevent it from being
released under GPL.
The possible twist that I see is if the NSA declares that any freely
available open source software that interoperates with Suite B is by
definition "in support of US national security interests" and therefore
automatically gets one of their sublicenses. That would effectively
remove the patent encumbrance for GPL code. There would still be patent
restrictions on the code, but they would not apply to open source freely
redistributable code, therefore would not get in the way of the GPL.
Oh, no, that would not be strictly true. GPL allows you to do anything
at all with the code if you use it for yourself without distributing it.
Patent restrictions still apply to such uses. They could be uses that
are not "in support of US national security interests". Therefore you
still could not distribute the code under GPL as the people you give it
to would not have the patent rights to modify the code for their own
private modified use if they do not distribute the changes.
So it still comes down to what I think is the important point: BSD
licensed Suite B code may be possible, GPL'd Suite B code is not
possible unless Certicom makes appropriate free license to the patents
available for software licensed under GPL.
-- Sidney Markowitz
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