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Non-DD's in debian-legal

Disclaimer: I am not a DD, nor in the n-m queue.  I'm also
re-crossposting to debian-devel, because I don't think this discussion
could usefully be had on debian-legal -- and it's not a licensing issue

Anthony Towns <aj@azure.humbug.org.au> writes:

> I don't believe that saying someone isn't a developer is contemptuous.
> It's very easy to fall under the misapprehension that the views of
> some participants on debian-legal represent the views of the Debian
> project as a whole,

This statement could, of course, be generalized to refer to any mailing
list and any group of participants, and it would still be just as true.
If this is a particular problem for d-l it's because people often ask
d-l for a definitive judgement on a license, and the list is simply not
set up to deliver on that request.  There have been a few attempts
(summaries, for example), but they never worked well.

> however, and particularly when that applies to
> individuals who aren't members of the Debian project, that does a
> serious disservice to people who are.

I'm not sure I understand this part, though.  Do you think that folks
like myself, who are not DD's, should not participate in the discussions
on d-l?  Do you think that those of us who are not DD's should put a
disclaimer (IANADD) on every message to the list?  I can tell you from
experience that the latter gets pretty distracting after a while.  This
is a serious question, btw, because you're pointing to what you
evidently consider to be a serious problem, yet you're not suggesting a

For whatever reason, this issue seems to be a particular problem for
d-l.  Every so often someone claims that the results of discussions on
d-l aren't valid because d-l is populated by a bunch of non-DD's, or
tries to discount someone's argument because that person isn't a DD.
Mostly I write that off as sour grapes over being on the losing side of
an argument.  But when it comes from a duly elected official in the
Debian organization, I have to take a step back and wonder what the
problem is.

My opinion, for what it's worth, is that most DD's, despite occasionally
having strong opinions on licensing ("*This* license is _free_, @#$^!")
are totally uninterested in taking the time to sort through the
nitpicking arguments about language, jurisdiction, and law, etc., that
are needed to make a decision on a particular license or work.  That
leaves a vacuum on d-l, where such discussions are supposed to take

So that leaves those of us who may not be DD's but (by whatever
perversion of character) are actually interested in discussing licenses,
and motivated to ensure that the quality of the licensing of Debian
software remains as high as that of the software itself.  We, naturally
enough, have helped to fill that vacuum.  Unfortunately, licensing
issues tend toward flame wars because, as I mentioned before, people
tend to have strong opinions without wanting to take the time to ground
those opinions in the facts.  These flame-fests lead some people to try
to find reasons to discount their opponents, and on d-l that reason is
often simply that some of the participants are not DD's.

So I don't think this problem is going away, nor do I think it's a
serious one.  After all, if DD's really think licensing issues should be
discussed behind closed doors, they're free to pass a GR taking
debian-legal private.  But if you have a different opinion on the issue,
I'd like to hear it.

(Note that I am not at all talking about the whole Sun java bit.  I
personally find it hard to get worked up about non-free software going
into non-free.  Perhaps legal counsel should have been sought, but
that's not my call.)

Jeremy Hankins <nowan@nowan.org>
PGP fingerprint: 748F 4D16 538E 75D6 8333  9E10 D212 B5ED 37D0 0A03

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