In reply to Sandy Fleming

Sandy Fleming sandy at SCOTSTEXT.ORG
Tue May 29 19:12:35 UTC 2007

Hi Gerard,

I hope you're not getting fed up explaining things - I would understand
it if you were!

> A program that combines the basic shapes in SignWriting needs a
> license for the program. The characters it produces are in essence
> derivations of the original SignWriting characters. The way you break
> these characters down in its essential parts in order to build one
> character at a time represents an algorithm. This algorithm could be
> patented if it is thought to be non-obvious. Applying for such a
> patent seems ludicrous to me because it is rather obvious. It is done
> to some extend in Unicode and this is what is called "prior art". 

If I stopped at just building the symbols then it would be obvious, but
I also build the symbols up into channels (each of which has a different
set of behaviours) and then build the channels into characters, each of
which corresponds to a sign but could also include or be replaced by
fingerspelling or mouthings. I've spent a lot of time prototyping and
barking up many wrong trees before figuring out what sort of things work
well and which look good but give little advantage or are detrimental.

As a devotee of open source who gets all his software for free (this
email created using Evolution on the Ubuntu distro of GNU/Linux :) I
don't really believe in patenting algorithms, so that's OK as long as
nobody else tries to patent my work!

More importantly, as you, Val and other people on this list clearly
understand, people shouldn't have to pay anything just to be able to
write in their own language.

So I'm not concerned about my stuff being reused in any way (indeed I'm
writing it in such a way as to make it as easy as possible for other
programmers to reuse it), and I wouldn't want anyone to feel they had to
ask permission. I just don't want to make a mistake that would allow
someone with their own interests at heart to prevent this stuff from
being freely available.

It may sound a bit paranoid, but you do read about a lot of very strange
legal wrangles going on in software on the Web, and it's hard to know
how to be sure of keeping things open and free.


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