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Re: libreadline

On Wed, May 08, 2002 at 05:27:50PM -0600, Joel Baker wrote:
> I see nothing in it which asserts that software which complies via
> DFSG 4 is "less free", or provides a "freeness operator" by which to
> make any such comparison.

Jeff rebutted this point adequately, but I'll pound on it some more.
You are confusing "equal" with "equivalent".  Freedom, or "freeness", is
not a discrete quantity like the number of marbles you have.  It's also
not a continuous quantity measurable on a single axis, like voltage[1].
Freedom is a complex philosophical concept, which is why the FSF spends
a lot of time explaining what they mean by it.  So does Debian, in the
form of the DFSG.

That some simpletons prefer to view the world in terms of "my license is
more free than yours" and refuse to countenance any context for freedom, or
definitions of the concept other than their own, does not mean that
everyone suffers from this irrationality.  That News Corporation can
glibly say, "of COURSE you've got a choice in television programming,
we own over 20 different cable channels with a range of entertaining
fare, all carefully selected by us to maximize your viewing pleasure"
does not mean that no one else can plausibly claim that 20 options all
from one vendor doesn't represent real choice.  Of course, some people
claim exactly that, but they're just wrong.

> Encouraging people to make our jobs easier is completely orthogonal to
> the question of freeness.

DFSG 4 makes a value judgement.  I do not know by what circumlocutions
you intend to escape or obscure this fact.

> However, the first assertion points out that I was careless with my
> language, and I do apologize. I believe it would be more accurate to say
> that Debian (as a project, not as developers) has a *practice* of viewing
> DFSG compliance as 9/10ths of the law. Which direction that other 1/10th
> goes in is entirely up to personal biases, in my experience.

I don't see anything here but a sloppy analogy to an even sloppier
quasi-legal concept that doesn't even have relevance to intangible
goods.  What are you trying to say?

> > Licenses that fulfill the letter and spirit of the DFSG in a
> > straightforward and uncomplicated manner are to be valued more than
> > licenses which, through slippery constructions, manage to satisfy the
> > letter of the DFSG while not contributing to users' freedom as much as
> > other licenses do.
> Where is this stated?

Read the list archives of debian-legal.  By analogy, that one cannot
find something in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution
doesn't mean it has no bearing on public policy in the United States.

> I do not see it in the DFSG, or the Social Contract; if you are
> referring to another document, please provide a citation. I,
> personally, agree with the opinion that licenses which clearly satisfy
> the DFSG are 'better', but that's a personal value judgement, and only
> applies to what I choose to write/package/etc.

It goes farther than that.  The package maintainer's opinion of what
satisfies his personal understanding of the DFSG is not solely
determinative.  That Debian collectively renders decisions about a
package's "freeness" (sometimes retrospectively) through a fairly
freewheeling discussion process involving subscribers to debian-legal,
the archive administrators, upstream authors, and interested third
parties does not rob it of legitimacy.  In my DPL platform I called for
a greater formalization of this process, but that's only because I think
it would be prudent, not that we're doomed with destruction if we don't
do it.

> > I have long thought that Debian ought to explicitly recognize certain
> > licenses as being in a "Hall of Fame"; those being licenses that are
> > widely-used, well-understood, and which work well with other licenses.
> > 
> > My suggestion for this list would be:
> > 
> > * MIT/X11
> > * 2- and 3-clause BSD
> > * LGPL
> > * GPL
> DFSG 10 seems to accomplish this?

Not really.  It only mentions a few examples of DFSG-free licenses, and
does not explicitly say that they're considered better than others, or
offer reasons why.

For what it's worth, the original Artistic license, which was the only
one that existed when the DFSG was written (IIRC), is pretty
broadly considered a license with perfectly noble intentions but poor
phrasing.  That's why it was rewritten (and not by Debian).

Furthermore, DFSG 10 doesn't even address the issue of the variants of
the BSD license, which has important implications for that part of the
user community that modifies its own systems and distributes its work.
(Debian developers are not the only developers in the world who use
Debian, believe it or not! :) )

> Certainly, I could see perhaps an update to include the LGPL (since
> the GPL is there already, and if anything it is more compatible, by
> purpose) and MIT/X11, but I'd say that we do, in fact, already
> recognize such licenses (which is a good thing).

And I'd like to make such a thing more explicit.  It doesn't have to be
part of the DFSG document itself.  I envision it as a tool to help
people select licenses for their projects that Debian can be
enthusiastic about.  A lot of software developers just don't want to be
bothered about licensing issues and don't want to become armchair
IP lawyers; they just want to hack.  I think Debian could play a role in
helping these people to make such decisions in a way that reduces the
amount of annoying mail they get down the road from distributors who
want to ship their software but cannot because the author wrote his own
license, which didn't cover all the bases.

> All I all, I personally find the GPL's restrictions to be far more of an
> encumberance than someone who just wants a little credit for the work that
> they put into something, and thus have a clause requiring advertising to
> make some acknowlegement of their work if it's used.

Yours is a minority opinion.  While various Debian developers have
varied opinions about the Free Software Foundation and, say, Richard M.
Stallman, I'm willing to bet that most of them don't contort their faces
with disgust every time they have to run gcc, wishing they had a "truly
free" compiler instead.

I think it's a very safe bet that the Regents of the University of
California abandoned the advertising clause because their lawyers
decided it was untenable.[2]  Huge institutions like that don't loosen
licensing terms out of charity.

> But that's only my opinion, and if you want to start deciding
> "freeness" values, well, I think that the S:N ratio on d-d will drop
> even further than it already is. I'd rather just settle for deciding
> if things meet the DFSG, and leave it at that - it seems like a
> significant part of these codifiy what "Free" means for us.

You are conflating "freeness" values with any other value judgement
Debian might care to make about a license.  I think Debian has the right
to prefer, and ask for, license terms that go above and beyond what the
DFSG minimally requires.  Remember clause 4 of the Social Contract?  It
is not just our own definition of "Free Software" that we are attempting
to serve.

> Or, to summarize it, if we're going to get into making that sort of
> value judgement, I want the values used to judge to be mine. You want
> them to be yours. This does not scale well.

This is a straw man argument.  (For those who don't know what that term
means -- not naming any names here *cough* -- I'll explain it.)  I am
not adopting the position you cite at all, and it is not the only
alternative to yours.  You are asserting that all value judgements in
the context of the DFSG are judgements of "freeness" on some sort of
sliding scale.  Not only is that untrue, but the conception of
"freeness" as being representable on a sliding scale is fallaciously

[1] simple DC voltages; *two* axes isn't enough either, you EE

[2] I have to admit that, despite asking legally-minded people over the
years, I've never been able to track down a cite for a case that
establishes that your copyright license cannot place restrictions on
other people's commercial advertising.  Last month, in Thompson v.
Western States Medical Center, though, the Supreme Court asserted a
pretty laissez-faire attitude towards the content of commercial
advertising ("A divided U.S. Supreme Court struck down on Monday the
federal government's ban that prevented pharmacies from advertising for
a particular drug mixed and created for a patient's specific needs.
The high court, by a 5-4 vote, said the ban amounted to
unconstitutional restrictions on commercial speech protected by the
First Amendment. The ruling was a setback for the federal government,
which defended the ban.")  This ruling is certainly not squarely on
point, since it deals with a restriction on commercial speech instead of
a compulsion to make certain statements in commercial speech.  And, of
course, it's one of those typical 5-4 rulings that promises more strife
down the road.  So, I'd love it if someone could provide me a better
cite that would seem to motivate

G. Branden Robinson                |      "To be is to do"   -- Plato
Debian GNU/Linux                   |      "To do is to be"   -- Aristotle
branden@debian.org                 |      "Do be do be do"   -- Sinatra
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |

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