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(forw) Re: ecos license

I thought I had forwarded this mail to debian-legal before since I wanted your
advice on how to proceed further. Plus you are better with (english) words,
too. However, since my providers link and mail was most flanky lately, the
mail might have been lost.

So please let me know what his point of view has to it, legaly. I would like
to see a strong support for embedded systems in debian, And I would like to
have ecos in main.
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Andreas Schuldei wrote:
> When I read the eCos licens I get the impression that it is intended as a
> free, open license. However, there are issues to keep it from beeing free in
> the sense of the Debian free software guidlines and the open source
> definition.
> It says:
> | Any Modification which You create or to which You contribute
> | must be made available in Source Code form under the terms of
> | this License via an accepted Electronic Distribution Mechanism
> | to anyone to whom you made an Executable version available and
> | to the Initial Developer;
> [...]
> | You are responsible for notifying the Initial Developer of the
> | Modification and the location of the Source if a contact means
> | is provided.
> The initial Author is restricting the user by the requirement to give copies
> to or even notify him.

It is a hoop you have to jump through, but it is not a restriction... it
does not prevent you from making modifications. It is something you have to
do if you do distribute modifications to eCos; like the GPL says you have
to distribute the *entire* source to a GPL'd program - is that a
restriction incompatible with the Debian free software guidelines/open
source definition too? Does the DFSG/OSD discriminate on the basis of who
source gets distributed to?

> Also the clause discriminates against anyone who can afford giving his
> neighbour a floppy disk with modified sources but cannot afford using whatever
> "accepted Electronic Distribution Mechanism" the language means.

The same strawman could be applied to the GPL. Suppose you can only afford
4 floppy disks for GNU libc binaries, but not the extra 29 to also provide
the sources.

> As a result the licens fails the debian free software guidline in points 1 and
> 3.

Here is point 1:

Free Redistribution 

      The license of a Debian component may not restrict any party from
selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software
distribution containing programs from several different sources. The
license may not require a royalty or other fee for such sale.

It does not restrict any party from selling or giving away eCos on a CD, in
an FTP site, on floppies. In fact people already have - we used to have a
sourceware CD. There are no royalties.

Here is point 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.

For a start, the clause you cite above is only relevant for modifications
to "Original Code" i.e. code written by Red Hat and distributed under the
RHEPL. It does not apply to new files not based on "Original Code".

Modifications and derived works are allowed. The author of the
Modifications can use them him/herself as much as they like if it's purely
for their own use. However if they *distribute* an executable version, then
you must supply the Modification to the person you provided the executable
to, and you must provide it to Red Hat as well. You may have to jump
through an extra hoop, but modifications and derived works are permitted.
And it may be distributed under the terms of the RHEPL with no extra

I genuinely do not see in what way it conflicts with the open source
definition. Red Hat considers it important that eCos is not distributed
under a "viral" licence like the GPL. Red Hat also believes it benefits the
community that any modifications people make to "Original Code" in eCos can
be made available to the rest of the community. The RHEPL gives this. This
is also mentioned at http://sources.redhat.com/ecos/license-overview.html

Note: I am not a lawyer, and hence the above in no way necessarily
represents the official legal view of Red Hat, nor am I speaking on Red
Hat's behalf. It reflects my personal interpretation and opinions as an
individual. I give no claim to its accuracy. If you really want Red Hat's
official legal view on the matter, I would not be the person to speak to.
I'm answering at all only because you are not likely to get an official
legal statement.

> I would find it really cool if you could fix that and put eCos under a
> free licence. This tool is too good for second best. 

Do you have a licence in mind? What licence would avoid the viral
properties, be appropriate for an embedded system (i.e. not require
distribution of source with your mobile phone), *and* still retain the
benefits of the open source model for the open source community?

Red Hat UK, Rustat House, 62 Clifton Road, Cambridge, UK. CB1 7EG 
Tel: +44 (1223) 271062              ||  These opinions are all my own fault

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