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

On Thu, 3 Dec 1998, Craig Sanders wrote:

> On Thu, 3 Dec 1998, Tyson Dowd wrote:
> > On 02-Dec-1998, Dale Scheetz <dwarf@polaris.net> wrote:
> >
> > > While the need for patches for modification causes some logistical
> > > problems, we should never seek to simplify those logistics at the
> > > expense of freedom.
> >
> > The logistical problems caused by patches are rather small, and can be
> > managed easily.  For an example, I invite people to look at the Debian
> > source archives.  Actually the Redhat sources are even better because
> > of RPMs multiple patch feature.
> >
> > I would oppose any DFSG that discriminated on a relatively benign
> > irritation like this.  I think that worrying about it wastes a lot
> > more time than actually applying some patches.
> i don't know about Ian or anyone else, but my objection to licenses that
> only allow mods to be distributed as patches is that they unneccessarily
> restrict freedom in two ways:

There is some confusion about what is being discussed here. What we are
actually talking about is "immutable source", or the requirement that the
original source be provided unchanged. This requirement does not
necessarily require "patch only" distribution. It only requires that you
make the original source available as easily as you make the modified
source available. The patch is one way to distribute the changes, and
while it is the simplest one it is not the only method possible. A license
with an "immutable source" clause that allows distribution of the changed
version only imposes additional administrative details and some bulk.

> firstly, they make it an enormous hassle to fork the source code....so
> much hassle that it isn't worth doing. sometimes forking is necessary
> and/or useful. sometimes it is done for good reasons, sometimes for "bad"
> reasons....the reason for forking doesn't matter, it's a freedom we should
> be able to take for granted with free software.

With a proper license forking is no problem, and the freedom that is
maintained is the users freedom to choose the original work over the
forked version. Properly used "immutable source" provides additional
freedoms not provided in other licenses.

> secondly (and more importantly), they prevent the code from being re-used
> in another free software project. this is not just a hassle, it's a fairly
> severe curtailment of free software freedom.
The license need not prevent re-use simply because it requires original
source. If I say "You can do anything with this source code as long as you
provide the unchanged original with all derived work." there is no
curtailment of software freedom.

> that said, i am NOT in favour of changing the DFSG at this moment
> in time. i think the reasons for debian accepting the patch clause
> compromise are as valid today as they were last june.
> i can accept the need for this compromise, but i don't have to like
> it...and i think debian should work hard to convince people that doing
> this is a bad idea.

I see it as a very bad idea to require mutable source. My reasons stem
from the fact that the copyright is the legal authority for the license,
and a license that allows the original work to be modified weakens the
power of the copyright (as it no longer applies to the modified work).

As I have said repeatedly, requiring the preservation of the original
unmodified source does not need to restrict the freedom of use of that
software (although I agree that it might, this is due to other failures of
the license and not the "immutable source" clause) and since it protects
the original copyright it actually guarantees the continued freedom of
that source.


_-_-_-_-_-   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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