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There is something I don't understand about the HN comments when the React license comes up.

Whenever something about software patents in general comes up, the majority of commenters seem to condemn them - at a minimum in their offensive usage. And a vast majority of commenters seem to be opposed to them at least to some degree.

So if as a general position you do not support the offensive use of software patents, why does the react license matter _at all_ to you? The only time it would matter would be if you would sue facebook for violating your patents. Am I not correctly understanding the license? Does it apply any other time?




There already exists a widely-used license for actively protecting both users and developers from patents embodied in a work: Apache 2.0.

Facebook made their own license for a reason. Compared to Apache, the Facebook license gives Facebook greater power in the user-developer relationship. They only give users use of React patents, but in return they demand protection against all patents from their users.

I'm not a huge fan of the patent system, but I'm even less a fan of hoisting Facebook into a position of even greater power over smaller competitors.

tl;dr: The clause isn't fair. It grants uneven protection. Their refusal to use a similar, existing, popular license that does grant equal protection is concerning.


My understanding is that the MIT license - used by lots of projects, including eg Angular - doesn't afford any patents protection at all. So, would you criticize those using the MIT license more than Facebook?


Comparing with the MIT license apples-to-apples, I agree it's guaranteeing less. But most people just use the MIT license because it's simple, permissive, and very popular in certain communities. With both that and the ASL 2.0 being very popular and certainly known to Facebook's lawyers, they then developed this license. So the intentions mentioned in the parent speak volumes, IMO. I'd prefer not to use the MIT myself for these reasons, but I don't think most people are thinking about this particular aspect this deeply when they just slap a permissive license on their projects.

I feel it's a little like this: https://www.xkcd.com/463/. Yes, the new license is providing explicit guarantees that do not exist in the MIT license. But... I'm not sure I like the thinking behind it when other licenses already address this in a fair way.


I am not a lawyer, but my understanding is different. The MIT license doesn't mention patents and only mentions copyright in relation to preserving the notice about who owns it. When granting permissions it focuses on specifying the expected end result rather than getting caught up in details.

The MIT license says plainly that you have the right to use the software without restriction. To me, a layman, it would seem contradictory and unfair if the author later claimed that they held previously unmentioned patents that restricted your use of the software.


I'm not sure that gp is criticising people for that.


If everyone used React, Facebook would then be rather free to sue everyone (especially other mega corps) for violating Facebook's patents. Normally, this isn't the case, because every company of appreciable size has at least a few patents laying around that you're violating, which they could use to countersue. It's a MAD situation. But if you sign away your right to sue Facebook, you're also signing away your right to countersue Facebook—thus removing any disincentive Facebook would have for just suing anyone they like.


Doesn't the license explicitly state the opposite?

> Notwithstanding the foregoing, if Facebook or any of its subsidiaries or corporate affiliates files a lawsuit alleging patent infringement against you in the first instance, and you respond by filing a patent infringement counterclaim in that lawsuit against that party that is unrelated to the Software, the license granted hereunder will not terminate under section (i) of this paragraph due to such counterclaim. [0]

As I read it, it only applies if you are the original instigator, not if they are.

[0]: https://github.com/facebook/react/blob/af312ce006ebe76307662...


This needs to be more up-voted, so that mis-understandings about the license doesn't perpetuate! You only "lose out" on the patent grant if you sue facebook over patents - _NOT_ when facebook sues you.


> If everyone used React, Facebook would then be rather free to sue everyone

The extremely clear and explicit purpose of the patent grant is to disallow "first strike" use, so this could only happen as a countersuit. How is that worse than the mountains of open-source code released with no patent grant at all?


It's more like, you patent a saddle for ants to ride bees and use react as the UI to control the warmth of the ant seat. Facebook makes a similar bee saddle. You sue Facebook, and they revoke your rights to react.

Hope that makes it clear.

Edit: I've been drinking.


> You sue Facebook, and they revoke your rights to react.

Except that's not what happens. What would really happen is that the patent grant would be revoked, but the license to the software (a matter of copyright) would remain in force. So they could sue you for patent infringement, just as they could always have done under most other licenses, but not copyright infringement. Under most other licenses they could even have sued you first, but they gave up that right. In fact, that's the only effect of the much-maligned patent grant. It's a pure giveaway compared to what the situation would be without it.


> So they could sue you for patent infringement

Let's change this to Facebook will sue you for patent infringement. This was never theoretical and it's rational for Facebook, if you read the post.


Can you please explain with regard to bee saddles?


I regret that I am unqualified to comment on bee saddles.


Made from newt leather, English, Tack, four stirrups, left handed bridle.


Just had an awkward Starbucks lol, followed by googling how many legs an ant has. Thanks for this :D


This is fundamentally wrong and you don’t understand the license. Stop spreading FUD


Oh my mistake, thanks for the elaborate clarification!


> Facebook would then be rather free to sue everyone (especially other mega corps) for violating Facebook's patents.

Nope, that wouldn't trigger the patent revocation.


They assert it applies even if you are suing facebook for infringing on your hardware / biotech / business model patent. In my non-lawyer understanding the existence of the patent grant changes nothing in those circumstances (that is they could sue you without it as well with the same merit) and actually prevents them from suing without you suing them first, however companies do not usually restrict themselves like that and consider it a defensive move so someone who is a lawyer should explain what they are trying to pull here.


I think this is the result of a trend away from the previous conviction of pretty much everyone in tech that patents on software are an awful idea.

Is the community changing towards a demographic intent on striking it rich, instead of the previous morals of openness? There are also more condemnation of, for example, the GPL now than there have been in the past.

So, for a while, everyone in upper management will continue with such policies as Facebook's, since they came up at a time where patents where anathema. We'll see if this changes when today's entry-level programmers climb the ranks–or if their views change over time, or if the latter selects for people of certain opinions.


This is fair to say when working on your own projects as you set the rules. You can pick any software you want.

The trouble is when you go to implement some of this stuff at work and get pushback from your team or higher-ups about the licenses for the software.


> get pushback from your team or higher-ups about the licenses for the software.

how is this different from pushback on (any) other issue?


Why does the opinion that patents on software are wrong, never help anybody but patent trolls, and slow down progress not scale to larger companies? How could an opinion that's right for a person not possibly also be held by something larger?

Empirically, almost no large software companies have ever used patents offensively. They have repeatedly spoken out against the very idea of patentability for software (and "business methods").


MS vs device markers using dos


a benefit of patents is that in theory a benevolent mega-corp can use their patents against another mega-corp that is using patents offensively.

this is the mutually-assured destruction analogy. If you can't get rid of them altogether you don't want someone being immune to them.


This is the OPs claim - but it also allows very abusive behavior since FB doesn't sacrifice anything suing you or just appropriating your tech, as long as you're hooked on their openish source. If you trust big companies that's fine though.




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