Python legalities

Tim Peters at
Thu Dec 7 15:45:44 EST 2000

[posted & mailed]

[Helen(?) Dawson]
> The legal department at my company is a bit nervous about shipping
> software that conains free software. They are concerned about the
> risks of using software that may inadvertently contain fragments
> of patented or copyrighted code, without anyone who can indemnify
> us against this risk.

Yours wouldn't be the first company crippled by legal paranoia.

> If we license software from a third party, then part of what we
> are paying them for is for them to promise that there aren't any
> copyright or patent issues, and for them to take the legal heat if
> there are any issues.

I've never seen any such assurance in the licenses for any software I've
paid for.  Have you?  Python is licensed too, although you don't need to pay
for it.  Is there something magical about exchanging money in this context?
If so, send Guido a dollar?  I'm dying to see the look on his face when he
learns that accepting the buck opened him to unlimited liability <wink>.

> With free software in general, and Python in particular, there is
> nobody to indemnify us.

Well, nobody is going to guarantee lightning won't strike you either.

> So, I've been trying to do research to find out if there have been
> any legal issues in Python's past. I know that lots of people have
> used it in a range of products, so my theory is that if nobody has
> sued them, then I won't get sued. I haven't found any signs of
> legal issues - can anyone confirm or deny that?

The only hint of a legal issue I've encountered in Python's decade of life
is that CNRI believes the Python 1.6 license is compatible with the Free
Software Foundation's GPL but the FSF believes it is not.  If anybody has
ever been sued, or threatened with a suit, for using, distributing, copying,
or modifying Python, I haven't heard of it.  Guido has barked at at least
one person for distributing code derived from the Python codebase but
removing the Python copyright notice (in violation of the Python license).
They weren't sued either.

> Bruce Dawson
> comments at

That's a bizarre mailing address, given the substance of your post <wink>.

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