Vulnerable free software with shielded binaries
One dubious strategy for protecting some users of free software is to release the binaries and the source code, but only offer patent protection for the binaries (the pre-compiled executable which can't be modified).
Fluendo's Gstreamer with mp3 support
Cisco's h264 video codec library
Is that really the source code?
It's difficult or impossible to know if the binaries really correspond to the source code. If the binaries were released under a copyleft licence such as the GNU GPL, then the publisher would be legally bound to release the actual corresponding source code. If, however, the binaries are released under a non-copyleft licence such as the BSD licence, then nothing requires the publisher to really publish the corresponding source code. It would be an act of faith.
Related pages on ESP Wiki
- Free software
- Free software projects harmed by software patents
- Software distributors paying Microsoft patent tax - the "tax" problem is different but also involves free software paying patent owners