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Re: Ian's DFSG2 would harm Debian and Free Software

On Wed, 2 Dec 1998, Avus wrote:

> Please consider the first part as FYI.
> I would, however, be interested in replies concerning the second part,
> the patch clause discussion.
I have made my points before, but on further consideration, I have come to
the conclusion that Ian and I see different aspects of the same problem,
and are comming at this from two different perspectives.

My position stems from the fact that the copyright is the author's legal
authority to license the copyright material. That authority extends over,
and only over the material, as written by the author.

We do not consider software as non-free when the copyright demands an
unchanged copy accompany any and every copy of the copyright software.

We do not consider software as non-free that demands that a copy of the
source be "provided" with each and every distribution of that software.

Why should we then consider the requirement, that each and every
distribution of the software contain (or "provide") the original,
unmodified, source and copyright notice, as somehow making the software
not free?

As long as the other freedoms are allowed (modified binaries and modified
source in some form) this is the most protected free software I can
imagine. It provides the user the freedom to take advantage of either the
distributors version of the software or the original author's version, at
their choice, but more important, it protects the original copyright and
license from "dilution" from the contributions of others.

Technically, this doesn't effect Debian, as our source format already
provides the upstream source against a Debian diff. The reported
difficulty with CVS is a straw man as best I can tell. If this is a
version management system, the CVS archive should be able to serve the
original unmodified source or the current version, or any version
inbetween. That is what version management systems are supposed to provide
and I find it hard to believe that CVS is not up to the task.

Now, finally, we get down to the problem that I believe is troubling Ian.

No matter how I look at the problem, it seems to me that the only way a
patch can be distributed with the original source is if that patch is
distributed under the "same" copyright and license. This, in effect, makes
the new patch the "intelectual property" of the original author. This is
part of what is viewed in the GPL as its "infectious" quality.

Ian is concerned because the original author can then incorporate those
changes into a new version, released under a completely closed license,
and effectively "steal" the work of the community for their own gain.

Since the last "free" version contains all of the work done by this
community, and it can be freely built upon, this doesn't look like a
restriction in freedom. The originally free software is still free and
available, and can be made to compete with the "proprietary" version with
little or no effort.

In a sense this forces the patches to be as free as the original work,
which should be seen as a good thing instead of a loss of freedom.

While the need for patches for modification causes some logistical
problems, we should never seek to simplify those logistics at the expense
of freedom.


_-_-_-_-_-   Author of "The Debian Linux User's Guide"  _-_-_-_-_-_-

aka   Dale Scheetz                   Phone:   1 (850) 656-9769
      Flexible Software              11000 McCrackin Road
      e-mail:  dwarf@polaris.net     Tallahassee, FL  32308

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