DFSG2: Why we need clear guidelines, not woolly ones
Several people have complained that the DFSG2 are too legalistic or
hard to interpret. Frankly, I'm flabbergasted.
We have spend endless hours here on -devel arguing about whether
such-and-such a stupid restriction counts as `discrimination against
fields of endeavour'. Surely noone can deny this ? This is one of
the problems I'm trying to solve.
Why is it that we have these arguments ?
Two reasons: firstly, the DFSG1 is written in vague and woolly terms,
not precise language. Note that the DFSG2 is not in legalese - it's
still in English, and I think you'll find that matching any particular
licence to the DFSG2 is a much easier task than with the DFSG1.
But, the main reason ? Because the DFSG1 is nothing more than a
single gigantic loophole attached to a few requirements !
1. Some software licences require you to send a postcard to the author
2. On debian-legal we had a licence which said that the author wanted
you to have sex everytime you used their program ! Now, as it
happens, the licence just encourages, rather than making it a
requirement. But, let us suppose that it had made it a requirement.
I don't see how you can possibly argue that these licences don't meet
I saw someone on -legal claim that they might fall foul of the
`discrimination against fields of endeavour' clause. This is
obviously nonsense, but they were proposing it because that clause is
the only one which can remotely be interpreted to mean `and the
software mustn't have other annoying restrictions' !
If we're going to retain an informal DFSG and have arguments about it
we need at the very least to include an exception clause that gives us
discretion about new unreasonable conditions that come up. Something
11. No Other Onerous Restrictions
The licence must not have other restrictions or conditions which
make the software hard to use, maintain or develop.
But, if we do that, what political position will we find ourselves in
when MegaFooCorp want us to ship their program and having included a
questionable clause in their licence ?
Answer: just the same one as we're currently in with KDE and QT. Even
though we act with the best intentions, everyone will assume that
we're trying to shift the goalposts, or make special rules.
I think it's very important that MegaFooCorp can decide in advance
what our conditions are, and then just have their lawyers draft a
licence to meet them. Then, we can say `yes, that's fine'.
Or, if the conditions are too onerous and they want to maintain more
restrictions, then at least this is clear from the start and there are
no hard feelings, or they can contact us to ask whether we would be
prepared to add a new exception for their obviously-reasonable but