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Re: DFSG and GPL -- source retention

Craig Brozefsky writes:
> rjk@greenend.org.uk writes:

>> Should be it be interpreted that way?  Well, IANAL.  But I would
>> say that someone who assumed "written" to imply a .message file
>> without asking the copyright holder what they thought would be on
>> distinctly shaky ground.
> Look, if someone is going to come after you for distributing GPL
> software online without a paper slip in 19-fucking-98, no
> interpretation,

You mean:-

    If someone is going to come after you for distributing GPL
    software without source and without a paper slip [...etc...]
             This is important.

> no lawyerly advice, no nothing is going to stop you from getting
> trouble form that person in one way or another, even if the "paper"
> part is thrown out.

No, I disagree.  If someone licenses their software under the GPL then
their goals are broadly compatible with Debian's (in particular, as
they relate to the unhindered distribution and modification of
software).  Such people are not going to generate legal hassle without
some good reason.

Is lack of a written-on-paper offer good reason in this context?
Well, perhaps.  I certainly don't think there's any obligation on the
part of the free software community to make life easier for people who
want to distribution without source.

> They obviously would have to have alot of money and time to bring
> such a spurious charge to bear, and I'm sure if it was laughed out
> of court, they could just bring another using any other extremely
> devious reading of the english language.

Interpreting "written" to mean "on paper" is hardly devious - it's a
meaning that's been true for most of the lifetime of the English
language, and it's only recently that computers have started to
introduce ambiguity into the term.

I'd prefer it if the GPL made it clear what it meant here.  I've
mailed RMS to ask him what he thinks on the subject.
> I suppose we should just stop dealing with software all together
> without a lawyer explaining to us just how much a month in
> protection fees we're gonna have to pay to stop from being sued.  If
> we descend to this type of paranoia, the result will be paralysis.

I believe you're overstating the case somewhat.  If you want to push
the boundaries of a license, to test the ambiguities, then it seems
entirely reasonable to me that you should have to hire a lawyer (or
become one).


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