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Re: Sun Java available from non-free

On Sat, 20 May 2006 16:18:44 -0500 Anthony Towns wrote:

> Anyway, the background is that James Troup, Jeroen van Wolffelaar and
> myself examined the license before accepting it into non-free (which
> is three times the usual examination,

It may be three times the usual examination, but when the license is not
*clearly* suitable for the archive under consideration (non-free, in
this case), the general recommendation is to check with debian-legal,
Do you three think that the DLJ is trivially suitable for the non-free
I don't.

> and was done given the inability
> to examine the license in public),

Why weren't you able to examine the license in public?
The license was going to be made public shortly after (and with a
trumpeting announce that Debian had accepted it for the non-free

> and both James and Jeroen had
> extensive contact with Sun to ensure that the tricky clauses were
> actually okay.

Unfortunately that didn't mean the tricky clauses were fixed or made
harmless in any (legally binding) way.
I can believe that many fine people within Sun Microsystems are willing
to cooperate with Debian in a friendly fashion; but, without legally
binding statements from Sun legal department, how can we trust Sun to
never change mind and become aggressive (even despite the desires of the
above-mentioned fine people)?

> There are three factors that are particularly relevant: the first is
> Sun's intentions and ability and interest to work with us as a proxy
> for the broader free software community -- this is an important issue
> because it ensures that we can resolve any problems with the license,

That is really good, but... why haven't you resolved the problems with
the license *before* uploading the packages to the archive?
It seems it would have been straightforward and easy to accomplish, at
least from what you say; yet it wasn't done... 

> and reduces the concern that Sun will try to screw us over, as it
> would become a PR problem rather than just a quiet argument on the
> lists;

I don't buy the PR argument.
Unfortunately many many people out there are not very interested in
dissecting licenses and in telling "real" and "fake" free software
apart. Even less in examining potential issues with non-free packages.

I don't know how much Sun decision-makers are worried that a move
against Debian could be bad PR...

> the second is that both the legal principle of estoppel and the
> general common sense principle of not going back on your word if you
> want people to work with you prevents Sun from realistically saying
> "the FAQ is completely wrong and should be ignored";

Both the FAQ itself and the DLJ state that the FAQ is not legally
The precise terms are to be found in the license: as long as the license
is unchanged or unamended (with legally binding additions), the issues
should not be considered solved...

> and the third
> aspect, which is probably most important, is that should any of these
> problems actually happen, we can fairly simply just drop Sun Java from
> non-free if we can't come to a better conclusion.

As has already been pointed out: what if Sun Java manages to enter a
future stable (or oldstable) release?
How quickly can Debian "effectively" drop a package from there?

> That's not to say the license issues aren't problems, they are, and I
> hope debian-legal will be able to work with Sun both on helping them
> improve their non-free license, and in the future, helping them work
> through their concerns in applying a free license to Java. Obviously
> the Sun and Java guys have different priorities to -legal, but that
> doesn't mean it's not worth working together to solve what problems
> can be.

Exactly. Working together is what has not been done yet. At least, not
enough on the legal/license side.

> In particular, saying "sure, you spent all that time writing a FAQ,
> but we're going to pretend you didn't" isn't a good way to start a
> productive relationship

They really should spend time in writing a more carefully worded
license, rather than drafting non-legally-binding explanations that seem
to be inconsistent with the actual terms and conditions.

> Unfortunately the possibility of Sun Java being relicensed suitably
> for non-free wasn't mentioned to us in enough time to build up a
> relationship with -legal folks that wouldn't primarily involve telling
> the Sun guys how this wasn't going to work. Fortunately James and
> Jeroen have been able to build a reasonably effective relationship
> with the Sun folks involved in the time provided; hopefully now that
> it's public, -legal in general will have the time and opportunity to
> do likewise, in a more thorough and transparent way.

It would be bad PR if Debian will have to remove Sun Java from the
archive, shortly after public announcements that it accepted it in.
I think that more time was needed to review possible issues, before
deciding that Debian could go on and publicly state that everything was

> Tom Marble has begun responding to concerns raised on -legal [0] and
> I would strongly encourage folks to work with him and other Sun folks
> in a positive and constructive manner so that we can further encourage
> Sun's current forays into the free software world, hopefully resulting
> in them immersing themselves completely, eventually.

I really hope we can solve the issues in a graceful manner.
Even better, I hope that Sun Java can become DFSG-free as quickly as
possible, thus greatly improving its acceptance among the Free Software
community and consequently enhancing the level of feedback and
contributions that Sun can get from this cooperation.

    :-(   This Universe is buggy! Where's the Creator's BTS?   ;-)
  Francesco Poli                             GnuPG Key ID = DD6DFCF4
 Key fingerprint = C979 F34B 27CE 5CD8 DC12  31B5 78F4 279B DD6D FCF4

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