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Re: FilterProxy and DFSG-compliancy?

Bob McElrath <rsmcelrath@students.wisc.edu> wrote:
>==== Colin Watson [cjw44@flatline.org.uk] wrote:
>> What next? "You may not use this gcc to compile censorware programs?"
>> "You may not compile things I disapprove of against this glibc?" If you
>> have any contact with the author, please try to make him understand.
>I fear you have misinterpreted my license.

I don't think so, I may just not have expressed myself clearly enough.
I'll try to do so below. (I'm moving this to debian-legal, too, which I
think is more amenable to long rants about licensing.)

>You *may* use FilterProxy (or some derivative) to implement censorware.
>(Note that you would have to fork, since I wouldn't have anything to do
>with it)  By my license, however, the censorware cannot be applied
>without the knowledge and consent of the users of the proxy.  I think
>this is reasonable.

It's not that I disagree with the sentiments. I happen to agree with
them - but this is completely beside the point. The point of making
software free is that I do *not* impose my personal feelings about how
people should use my software upon the users.

Had I been writing FilterProxy, I would have considered there to be no
problem with including a rant in the package, perhaps in a README file -
a strong recommendation that people don't apply the software without the
knowledge and consent of the people using it, or a statement that you'll
ignore support questions from people applying it in such a way, or
whatever. But the principle has to be that, if a user wants to use a
piece of software in a way incompatible with the author's beliefs, they
are free to do so.

Elsewhere, you compared your restriction to that in the GPL, saying that
it was fine for the GPL to make sure that software wasn't restricted so,
by extension, it was OK for your licence to make sure that network usage
wasn't restricted. The problem with this is that the restriction in the
GPL is a restriction only on distribution, not on use, and it is
intended partly to maintain freedom from restrictions on use. Once a
user has acquired a piece of software, they *must* be able to do
whatever they like with it. The nightmare alternative is that every one
of the thousands of pieces of software on your system has a different
little restriction on how you're allowed to use it, half of which you
happen to agree with and half of which you don't, and you've got to keep
track of all of them or risk being sued.

In the last few years, I've written various pieces of Usenet
news-related software. To start with, before I became involved in
Debian, I thought about putting clauses in the licence saying "you must
not use this software to send spam". I still hope people won't. But when
I release the software under a free licence I'm giving it to people,
saying "share this among yourselves, and do what you like with it". I
don't feel I should be imposing my private beliefs on them, regardless
of how right I think they are; for instance, I wouldn't tell them that
they could only use the software in ways which were compatible with my
religion. Apart from anything else, I'd never actually bother to enforce
the restriction if it did turn out that somebody was going against my
wishes. :)

>I hope that my software could be included in "main".  However, if it is
>determined that my license is incompatible with the DFSG, I would rather
>FilterProxy be in non-free than remove the license.

Well, you have the complete right to licence your software however you
like, and nobody's going to try to take that away from you. Like I say,
I respect and agree with your opinions on behind-the-door censorship. It
would be great, though, if you would move these opinions out of the
licence and make them strong recommendations in the documentation. Usage
restrictions in licences, no matter how noble, are still restrictions on
fields of endeavour, and make the software - however good - non-free.


Colin Watson                                     [cjw44@flatline.org.uk]

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