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Re: Overinterpretation of DFSG? QR code for receiving donation is non-free???

On Tue, 31 Mar 2020 at 22:22:21 -0400, Jeremy Bicha wrote:
> I think this goes back to the epic "Editorial amendments" GR which,
> among other things, applied DFSG beyond code to other things like
> image files [1]. Over 15 years later, it's still really hard to figure
> out how to apply the aspirational guideline to things that are not
> code. The burden of compliance with various interpretations is very
> inconsistently imposed on Debian contributors.

Note that "preferred form for modification" does not appear anywhere
in the DFSG. It's a term borrowed from the GPL, which we sometimes use
to try to reason about what "must include source code" really means.

I think it might be a more helpful framing, particularly for non-code,
to think of the DFSG in terms of *a* preferred form for modification,
rather than *the* preferred form for modification.

Crucially, unlike licenses like the GPL, the DFSG is a set of
self-imposed rules that the Debian project applies to itself, not
a condition of license compliance - so it can mean whatever there is
project consensus that it means, and we are under no obligation to
interpret it pessimistically out of fear that a judge in a copyright
lawsuit would do the same.

The reason we are distributing source code (in cases where the copyright
license does not require us to do so) is to be able to read, understand
and modify the software we ship. For executable program code, it's
obvious what that means. For non-code files, it's a lot less obvious,
but it's perhaps best understood by asking "does this help us to meet
our goals?" rather than "does this follow an objective rule?".

> I believe that the overwhelmingly majority of people who would want to
> update or change a QR code image would create a whole new image from
> scratch with one of many QR code generators (some are open source;
> some aren't) instead of trying to use an app like the GNU Image
> Manipulation Program (or some specialized decoder/recoder app) to try
> to tweak the file.

If you know out-of-band what string (URL etc.) the QR code encodes, or
if you don't care what the string is because the change you are making
is exactly that you are replacing that string, then yes, clearly you'd
re-encode it from scratch rather than decoding.

However, a QR code losslessly and machine-recoverably encodes the string
that was used to create it - isn't that the entire point of QR codes? -
so if all you have is the QR code, I think that is an *equally* valid
form for modification. If you just have the QR code and you've lost
the associated string, decoding the QR code gets you back to where you
started, the same as if you were swapping backwards and forwards between
PNG and XPM versions of the same graphic.


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