GnuPG binaries with IDEA

David Shaw dshaw at
Tue Aug 26 16:27:02 CEST 2003

Hash: SHA1

On Tue, Aug 26, 2003 at 08:27:23AM -0400, Gordon Worley wrote:

> This morning I was trying to look at it, but I'm not 100% clear on what 
> the situation with IDEA is.  I know that it's patented in some 
> countries and can't be used there without a license, although IIUC the 
> US is surprisingly not one of those countries.  At any rate, what would 
> be the legal situation on releasing binaries of GnuPG that included the 
> IDEA code?  Would there be potential legal issues to deal with or is it 
> more a matter of needing to maintain two separate binaries?
> Obviously I'd like to avoid legal trouble, but this morning I was 
> thinking about it and couldn't really see why not to release a version 
> of IDEA built-in for those who can use it other than that for some 
> reason way in the past I decided that we couldn't.

There is a licencing conflict between the IDEA licence (patented, but
no cost for non-commercial use only) and the GnuPG licence (the GPL).
The GPL requires that someone distributing the program gives everyone
else the same rights that they themselves got when they received the
program.  Adding IDEA violates this, as GnuPG can be used for any
purpose, and a combined GnuPG+IDEA package can only be used for
non-commercial purposes.

Section 7 of the GPL even gives this example: "For example, if a
patent license would not permit royalty-free redistribution of the
Program by all those who receive copies directly or indirectly through
you, then the only way you could satisfy both it and this License
would be to refrain entirely from distribution of the Program."

I know about the Nullify release of GnuPG.  It's questionable whether
this is compliant with the GPL.

Of course, I'm not a lawyer, so you shouldn't take this as legal

By the way, IDEA is definitely patented in the US: patent #5,214,703.

Version: GnuPG v1.3.3-cvs (GNU/Linux)
Comment: Key available at


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