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Re: Minified files and source code requirement

Paul Wise <pabs@debian.org> writes:

> I completely disagree with this because I thought free software was
> about equality.

> Free software licenses bring back the equality broken by copyright law.

> These licenses are completely irrelevant if we do not have equality of
> access to the source form of a work.

I think the full implications of that belief would render most of the
archive non-free.  The typical free software project has a ton of
supporting resources of moderate to mild use in making further
modifications that are not generally available to anyone wanting to modify
it, ranging from accumulated internal documentation to personal email
archives to test suites to manipulation tools to version control
repositories with substantial code history.  Most are not released with
the source; many are non-free (usually by omission; no one ever even
thought to put a license on them).

Insofar as those things can be made available, I think that's great, and
something to be encouraged, but I think it's far, far too aggressive, and
faintly absurd in its implications, to say that something is not free
software unless everyone has an equal ability to modify it as the original

It feels to me like people keep trying to reduce the requirement for
source to absolute rules, since absolute rules are easy to enforce and
reason about, but this particular area is simply not amenable to absolute
rules.  We only have a clear grasp of the definition of "source" for code,
and even there it's hazy given some code production tactics (such as
starting with autogenerated code from some tool and then editing it
manually, possibly over the years losing the original tool so that the
process couldn't be reproduced even if one wanted to).  Once we move
beyond code, this is just a hard problem and doesn't have simple answers,
and applying hard-line rules achieves little other than alienating Debian
from upstream developers.

In other words, given the haziness in this area and the wildly divergent
practices of people when creating non-code works, I think we should look
at whether the provided "source" provides reasonable opportunity to meet
the core definition of free software, namely the ability to study and
adopt the work for one's own purposes and republish one's modifications,
and not get too hung up on whether the exact tools and steps the original
author took are included.

We don't require that C source come complete with the author's preferred
editor and macros.

Russ Allbery (rra@debian.org)               <http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>

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