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Re: DFSG - the patch clause is harmful (was Re: Draft new DFSG)

Hi *,

    while I agree on the spirit of what Ian said and I think a
license that uses the patch clause isn't a very good one, I still 
don't think we should rule it out. Some big pieces of free software
depend on it. TeX was here long time before Debian or even Linux and 
IS free software after all. The problem is that you can have different
motivations to exploit the patch clause (I think the reasons of
prof. Knuth are pretty good ones) and the difficulty is discerning
the "bad" guys from the "good" ones.

On Thu, Nov 26, 1998 at 07:03:37PM +0000, Ian Jackson wrote:
[snip snap]
> 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.

The CVS organizes the code as BASE + patches. You can always extract
the code base alone if you want. The CVS just automatize the process
of applying patches.

> * 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.

I don't know what happens to copyrights if the author dies. If he can't
simply go on with the project he can always transfer the copyright
to someone else.
> * 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,
> whatever).

You can do that. Distribution and archives format is independent from
source integrity.

> 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
> unreasonable.
> Also, the exception would have to be written very carefully so that
> (eg) CVS servers are still allowed.

I agree on that. 

 Federico Di Gregorio   |  /      mailto:fog@debian.org              
  Debian developer!     | / -1    http://pcamb6.irfmn.mnegri.it/~fog 
*-=$< ;-P TeX Winzard?  |/        http://www.debian.org              

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