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

Interesting Licensing Issue -- Crafty

Maybe I'm uninformed, but Crafty, a computer chess program, is in the
very near future going to have a licensing problem that is new to me.
As of Crafty v16.5, Crafty meets the Debian definition of "free", but
v16.6 (maybe) and v16.7 (for sure) will have a new license.

The problem is that persons other than the original author, Dr. Hyatt,
have been entering Crafty into computer chess competitions.  These
persons are downloading the source *** maybe *** changing two or three
lines, recompiling the source, giving it a different name like "voyager"
or "bionic impakt", and then entering the resulting executable in chess

If you've been following the Crafty mailing list, you know that the
proposed modifications to the license are substantial, but for now I
just want to get at the heart of the matter.

Can Dr. Hyatt, the original author of Crafty, restrict use of the
program such that he is the only person who can enter the original
program into a chess competition and still have a license that is Debian

Can Dr. Hyatt forbid any derived works from being entered into a chess
competition and still be Debian free?

Professor Hyatt's main objection is that new computer chess programmers
will be at an unfair disadvantage and will give up because it seems to
them that everyone's new program is beating their new program.

My sense of "right" tells me that Professor Hyatt's restrictions are
fair and reasonable.  Furthermore, my reading of the "Debian Free
Software Guidelines" (DFSG) ( http://www.debian.org/social_contract )
tells me that such a restriction does not change an otherwise Debian
free license into a non-free one.  Specifically, please consider the

3. Derived Works

  "The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must
  allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of
  the original software."

The original software restricts tournament play.  Thus, derived works
are simply subject to "the same terms as the license of the original

5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups 

   "The license must not discriminate against any person or group of

I believe this is provision is also met.  First, no one to whom Crafty
is distributed can enter the program into a tournament.  Thus, there is
no class of discriminated persons.  The author is simply reserving a
right for himself much like the right an author can reserve to "require
derived works to carry a different name" under paragraph 4 of the DFSG.

Second, this restriction is simply in place to prevent unethical persons
from defrauding the chess tournaments, and I have to believe the DFSG 
allows licenses that prohibit fraud.

6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor

     "The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the
     program in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not
     restrict the program from being used in a business, or from being
     used for genetic research."

I'm just including this paragraph so I can so that it is off point.  A
chess tournament is not a "field of endeavor."  If someone would like to
argue that a chess tournament is a field of endeavor then I would argue
that Crafty passes muster for the same reasons it passes muster under
paragraph 5 above.

The other 7 paragraphs also seem to be off point, but check for

Paul Serice

Reply to: