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Re: Leadership, effects on Debian and open source community

On Sat, Nov 28, 1998 at 08:45:11PM -0800, Joseph Carter wrote:

> > In other words:  Let's let this DFSG revision stand or fall on its
> > own merits.
> Yes I agree, let the DFSG2 succeed or fail on its own.  I mean it only means that
> Apache becomes non-free next version, licenses that RMS has said are free
> become suddenly non-free, and the document itself becomes a much too long
> mass of legalspeak which requires interpretation and brings up the same
> interpretation problems we have with licenses.

Whew, relax please.  After reading the discussions here, my opinion has
slowly shifted from "don't know" to "we shouldn't make too many new

But there are other parts of the DFSG that DFSG2 attempts to fix (and
sometimes fails, at the moment):

1) Interpretation.  As you say, "...which requires interpretation and brings
   up the same interpretation problems we have with licenses."  All language
   must be interpreted (unless it's compiled :)).  DFSG1 is unclear on some
   points, and so we must read between the lines to make decisions based on
   it.  Many of the problems we have interpreting licenses are due to
   unclarity in the DFSG.

   That said, I agree, the DFSG2 is too windy.  The latest draft is better,
   but not there.  DFSG1's readability is much improved by its bolded
   subtitles on the web page.
2) The advertising clause.  The advertising requirement sucks, doesn't it? 
   On the other hand, I think we should mention that we don't like it,
   without disallowing it completely.
3) Patches.  I don't like patch-only licenses either.  Again, I don't think
   that means we should disallow them.  Lots of things in life are
   difficult or inconvenient, but that doesn't mean we aren't free to do

4) Patents.  Do be honest, I don't even understand what we're trying to
   accomplish with this part, however, I think the latest DFSG2 draft is
   getting better.  The point of this new clause may be that software is not
   free if the author of the software patents it and doesn't freely license
   the patent.
   To rephrase: patents are a way of introducing restrictions beyond the
   ones in the license agreement.  A "do anything you want with this"
   license is certainly DFSG-free, but if the software is the RSAREF library
   and you can't license the patent from RSA commercially without a fee,
   then the software isn't _really_ free.
   Since all packages of Debian are supposed to be freely usable/modifiable,
   we would be lying to our users by including such a package in main.
   That said, the current DFSG2 draft doesn't seem to solve these problems,
   but merely aggravates the people who need to work around them.  It won't,
   for example, be enough to convince RSA to cancel their patent.

> Some of that can happen, some of it probably won't.  Point is, do you really
> want a new version of a software which hasn't changed at all to suddenly be
> non-free?  Do you want a core piece of software RMS considers part of the
> GNU system to be non-free?  Do you want to let any idiot who gets into power
> someplace to dictate what is non-free?  If you think so, then the DFSG2
> should stand.  If like me, you think that's absolutely ludicrous, probably
> you want this to FAIL and FAIL SOON and FAIL MISERABLY.

I agree with you that DFSG2 is bad.  I agree with Ian that DFSG1 needs

We aren't voting on DFSG2 yet.  You shouldn't decide right now whether it
should "fail" or "stand" but rather offer constructive criticism to help
clean up the (admittedly rather problematic) mess.

And so on that note, here's my advice: start with the DFSG1 and amend it
slightly to clean up the points we missed.  We don't need a whole new
document, just some changes.

Don't write legalese: DFSG is not a license, has no legal power, is not
legally binding.  The 'G' is for GUIDELINES.  Take them as such.  They
aren't rules.  When you write legalese, you assume that people don't have
brains.  As free software developers, we know that we do.  Allow us to use

And FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE, make sure the QPL passes the new DFSG!

But Joseph: don't fall into the trap of thinking that because the DFSG2 is
bad, the DFSG1 is completely okay.  It does have some holes, and we should
fix them.

Have fun,


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