[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

DFSG-freeness judged by each package maintainer

----- Forwarded message from Rick Moen <rick@linuxmafia.com> -----

Date: Wed, 11 Aug 2004 13:35:16 -0700
From: Rick Moen <rick@linuxmafia.com>
To: pkg-doc-linux-devel@lists.alioth.debian.org
Cc: p@dirac.org
Subject: (forw) Re: [vox-tech] [OT] The AFPL (was: some PDF problems: screen and print rendering do not match)

Hullo, Colin and Frank.  I hope you'll take this in the spirit intended.
Summary:  If the Debian LDP Maintainers consider allegations about
licensing on "http://www.debian.org/legal/"; or
"http://wiki.debian.net/index.cgi?DFSGLicences"; to be binding upon them,
then they have, I believe, erred:  Debian developers are supposed to
_consult_ to debian-legal mailing list on licensing issues, but then
must make up their own minds on DFSG-freeness questions (absent a GR,
etc. to the contrary).

Accordingly, I hope you will consider Mr. Salzman's "Linux Gamers' HOWTO" 
and his "Debian Jigdo HOWTO" on their merits, as (to the best of my
ability to tell) it is categorically incorrect to state that "OSL has
been declared non-free by Debian".  If _you_ decide that OSL is
DFSG-nonfree in -=your=- view, that is a different matter, but you should
then please state so to Mr. Salzman.

Thank you for your time, and I (as a longtime Debian sysadmin)
appreciate your work.

----- Forwarded message from Rick Moen <rick@linuxmafia.com> -----

Date: Wed, 11 Aug 2004 12:16:23 -0700
To: vox-tech@lists.lugod.org
From: Rick Moen <rick@linuxmafia.com>
Reply-To: lugod's technical discussion forum <vox-tech@lists.lugod.org>
Subject: Re: [vox-tech] [OT] The AFPL (was: some PDF problems: screen and
	print rendering do not match)

Quoting Peter Jay Salzman (p@dirac.org):

> You were probably wondering why I railed against Debian legal.  It
> probably looked like it came form left field.   :)
> I just learned a few days ago that the Linux Gamers' HOWTO and Debian
> Jigdo HOWTO were moved into doc-linux-nonfree because they're released
> under the OSL, and the OSL has been declared non-free by Debian.

I've been vaguely aware that the entire Debian-docs situation has been
going slightly nutso.  Unfortunately, I've been too busy to wade
hip-deep into debian-legal and try to argue -- as that can eat your life.

> When I asked for an explanation, the Debian LDP Maintainers pointed me
> to this web page:
>    http://www.debian.org/legal/licenses/dls-007-osl
> which looks about as official as anything can get!

And yet it's not.

A lot of people have been fooled by such things -- possibly including
the aforementioned Debian LDP maintainers.  Those pages are posted by (I
believe) Barak A. Perlmutter, and are HTML regurgitations of on-list posted
summaries by Jeremy Hankins (and perhaps others).  The summaries, in
turn, are agglutinations of the views of, well, _everyone and anyone_
who posted an opinion to debian-legal.  (Which gets me back to the
earlier point about featherless bipeds.)

So, you -- and the Debian LDP maintainers -- should be asking yourself:
At what point, and by what mechanism, did those become the official view
of the Debian Project and binding upon Debian developers?  The answer is:  
Never, and by no mechanism at all.  It's just a Web page.

At some point, you're likely to also come across
http://wiki.debian.net/index.cgi?DFSGLicences , maintained by Joachim
Breitner.  It has no official sanction whatsoever.  Again, just a Web

You might want to point that out to the Debian LDP maintainers, and 
suggest that they re-read the Debian Constitution
(http://www.debian.org/devel/constitution), especially section 2:

   Each decision in the Project is made by one or more of the following:

   1. The Developers, by way of General Resolution or an election;
   2. The Project Leader;
   3. The Technical Committee and/or its Chairman;
   4. The individual Developer working on a particular task;
   5. Delegates appointed by the Project Leader for specific tasks.
   6. The Project Secretary;

See "debian-legal", let alone "some guy with write access to a /legal
directory on the Debian Web site" in that list?  I don't.  Can you find
a General Resolution, a decision of the Project Leader, or a decision by
one of his delegates, making its contents binding on developers?  I

It's just a Web page that states (note!) neither who created it nor what
if anything its authority is, creating the impression among many that it's,
in your words, "as official as anything can get".  Personally, I think
that's a little shady, given that -- to the best of my knowledge -- the
answers to those questions are "just some developer" and "no authority".

In fact, let's step back to the big picture, and do an overview of "who
makes decisions for Debian".  (I'm cribbing from a post I made on this 
same subject to the LDP's general-discussion mailing list.  Sorry about

Ultimately, the Debian Project consists of its 1000+ recognised                 
developers as a theoretical committee of the whole, but, starting in            
1998 they adopted a Debian Constitution
(http://www.debian.org/devel/constitution), now amended to version 1.3.
The Constitution provides that decisions shall be made by the Project
Leader (elected for one-year terms by the developers), a Project
Secretary (appointed for one-year terms by the Project Leader and the           
sitting Project Secretary), Delegates appointed by the Project Leader to        
be in charge of powers and decisions delegated by the Leader, a
Technical Committee, and developers themselves.  Developers may act
through General Resolutions voted on by all developers of record.
Supermajorities are required to override the Technical Committee or amend       
the Constitution; otherwise, a majority is sovereign on any matter.

Here's the official archive of General Resolutions approved and turned
down:  http://www.debian.org/vote/  Unofficially, one can also find them
in Debian Weekly News's archive.

Developers are supposed to be guided by the New Maintainer's Guide and          
the Debian Policy Manual (http://www.debian.org/doc/debian-policy/).
The latter's maintained by members of the Debian Policy mailing list,
charge with updating it for Technical Committee decisions, etc.  On
licensing, it says (section 2.2 et seq.):                                       
   Every package in main and non-US/main must comply with the DFSG              
   (Debian Free Software Guidelines).  [...]   [and]
   must meet all policy requirements presented in this manual.

   Every package in contrib and non-US/contrib must comply with the
   DFSG.   [...]  [and]  must meet all policy requirements presented in
   this manual.

   When in doubt about a copyright, send mail to
   debian-legal@lists.debian.org. Be prepared to provide us with the
   copyright statement.

So, the answer to my question (and yours) appears to be that any                
material being considered for inclusion in one of the Debian collections        
will be scrutinised for DFSG-freeness by the individual package                 
maintainer responsible for it, and he alone gets to decide that
question, but is encouraged to seek advice from the membership of
debian-legal if he's in doubt.

Accordingly, I doubt there's such thing as a definitive list of
DFSG-free licences; I have to wonder about the authority of any that are        
claimed to exist.

As a matter of process, if a maintainer makes an erroneous                
judgement call, anyone else can (and does!) file a bug report (in the           
public Bug Tracking System, http://bugs.debian.org/) against the package        
for Policy non-compliance, and any Debian developer can then take action        
to fix the bug.  E.g., if the maintainer is being truculent (or ignoring        
the problem), one of his peers could conceivably do an NMU, a                   
non-maintainer upload, to fix the problem.                                      
I suppose any intractible dispute would get escalated to the Technical          
It seems to work fairly well.  I once noticed a licensing conflict within       
the Securing Debian Manual, and politely raised it as a question on             
debian-legal.  Developer Brandon Robinson confirmed my analysis and             
suggested I file a bug in the BTS.  I did, and the maintainer fixed it          
in about a day.       

[snip other discussion]

Cheers,                        My pid is Inigo Montoya.  You kill -9    
Rick Moen                      my parent process.  Prepare to vi.

Reply to: