DFSG - the patch clause is harmful (was Re: Draft new DFSG)
Sven LUTHER writes ("Re: Draft new DFSG"):
> i understand that you dislike the patch clause, but will this not,
> now that Qt has adopted a "free" license upto the patch, again
> become non-free ? And would we not be critiqued for it ?
This has nothing to do with Qt. It has to do with the recent/imminent
(anyone know?) passage of the Constitution, which provides a framework
for a change to the DFSG.
As everyone knows, I have always opposed the patch clause. I have
campaigned on this issue quite vigorously; when Bruce first drafted
the current DFSG (which took over the function of my wording in the
Policy Manual) he brushed me aside after not much discussion. He
referred me to Eric Raymond. I had a long discussion with Eric by
phone, and he told me to wait. Nothing has changed, and I just see
the patch clause becoming more entrenched. It needs to be fixed ASAP.
I hope you'll agree with me that the following examples are things you
should be legally able to do with free software, even if you're not
the original author:
* Run an anon-CVS service for your working tree.
* Use a shared CVS server for yur internal development.
* Fork the software and competely reorganise the sources even though
the original author hates you for it.
* Take over maintenance after the original author has died, been
bought, lost access to the 'net or whatever, and completely reorganise
the source tree.
* Copy parts of the software into another program (unfortunately we
don't have complete ability to do this anyway).
* Repackage the original source package into a different distribution
format (eg, better archive utility, better compression program,
None of these things can be done if the licence takes full advantage
of the DFSG1 patch clause.
It might be possible to write a wording for an exception which allowed
a requirement that distribution of modified versions be accompanied by
distribution of the original source code. Such an exception wouldn't
initially greatly impede the activities I mention above, but would
make distribution of the source on CD (for example) excessively bulky
after a while.
Imagine if for every program you'd taken some code from you had to
supply a complete source archive of that program. With increasing
code reuse the amount of source being distributed would quickly become
Also, the exception would have to be written very carefully so that
(eg) CVS servers are still allowed.