Using GPG in the US

Caskey L. Dickson caskey at
Mon Nov 23 14:56:01 CET 1998

On Mon, 23 Nov 1998, Jimmy Kaplowitz wrote:

> Thanks, Brian, and everyone else who responded to my questions. (I guess
> that would be you, Casey :) The replies were very helpful. One further
> question, though. What are the RSA and IDEA plugins, why can't I legally
> use them in the US, and is there some legal way to get that
> functionality with GPG in the US?

I can't speak about IDEA, but RSA is patented in the US.  That means that
to use it you must have a license from the patent holders.  Without that
license, under US intellectual propertly laws you would be infringing upon
the creator's (patent holder's) rights of sole exploitation of something
they devised.  In a short while (2 years?) the RSA patents will expire as
well and then there will be no restriction upon use.

Traditionally patents applied to things (machines, mechanisms, etc.) and
so the person who was in violation of the patent hoders rights was the
person who manufactured similar products and sold them.  Effectively
stealing the ideas and innovations of another person.

The concept behind patent law *was* that in order for society to advance
as fast as possible, good ideas shouldn't be kept secret.  Someone who
built a better mousetrap may not make a product out of it for fear that
someone with more money or resources would be able to co-opt the
technique.  That being viewed as 'unfair' necessatiated a legal remedy.

The Patent and Trademark Office served as a vehicle for inventors to
patent good ideas (and bad ones) so that industry could see what was
available and license (or buy) the patent from the holder.

With software, the whole scheme gets screwed up.  It effectively becomes a
license to use software, without which you are infringing upon the owners
right to decide who gets to use his ideas.

As luck would have it, patents do expire (17years?) and cannot be renewed.

Patents have become a technique to prevent competitors from being able to
compete with new products.  Witness ink jet printers.  HP(?) invented them
and then took out over 100 patents on things like the way of making ink
flow through the cartridge and squirt onto the paper.  These patents on
every single minutiae of the product effectively barred competitors from
the market until they came up with a product that does the same thing,
only differently.  Carefully tip-toeing around the various patents.  As
luck would have it, this was a good thing.  HP being content in their
protection via patents and their lock on the laser printer market stopped
innovating in that area.  Others, however, faced with the challenge of not
being able to do it the easy/obvious way had to actually compete and
innovate.  That's why you can get an Epson inkjet printer that will do 720
by 1400 DPI for less than 100USD, but HP only offers a paltry 600x600 or
so at two to three times the cost.

Well, that strayed.


P.S.  The name is CasKey :-)

    "Premature optimization is the root of all evil" -Donald Knuth
Caskey <caskey*>       ///                pager.818.698.2306
TechnoCage Inc.                     ///|               gpg: aiiieeeeeee!!!
If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood
 and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for
     the endless immensity of the sea. -- Antoine de Saint Exupery

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