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Re: FilterProxy and DFSG

Scripsit Bob McElrath <rsmcelrath@students.wisc.edu>
> Sam TH [sam@uchicago.edu] wrote:

> > This brings up an interesting question: is FilterProxy really
> > non-free?  Since the non-free portions of its license are legally
> > irrelevant, do they still make it non-free?

> I do not think Debian should be making assessments of the legality of
> other people's licenses,

Assessing the legal consequences of a license is a necessary step in
determining whether it meets the DFSG.

The interesting question still stands: If a licence contains a clause
that is unacceptable from a DFSG-viewpoint but happens to be void or
unenforceable in the jurisdictions which the debian-legal crowd are
familiar with, is the licence DFSG-free or not?

I would argue that it isn't. The author tries to deny the users rights
that we believe the users ought to have. I don't think we should
ignore that some jurisdiction (possibly even the ones we know, 2 years
from now) might allow the author to take those rights away. Users
ought to be able to trust that software in Debian comes with certain
rights that, to the best of our knowledge, the author does not intend
to try to take away later.

Of course this argument cannot be extended to a rigid principle that
"if there is any jurisdiction anywhere where the software is non-free,
we cannot distribute". For example, one could imagine a jurisdiction
where the right to copy a copyrighted work need to be given in writing
to a specific person. Most GPLed software would not be free there.

I think it would be reasonable to draw the line where the autor
tries to reserve rights that are not granted by international
copyright conventions. By its nature, the DFSG cannot enumerate
all possible rights that authors may try to reserve (The right
to write programs that produce compatible data files? The right
to mention the program's name in a public forum? The right to use
the same binary name for a program of your own?) - but I don't
think that would make it more acceptable to try to reserve it.

> I need to ensure that I am legally protected from "contributory
> copyright infringement".  That is, let's say some large ISP decides to
> deploy FilterProxy for all their customers, filtering their ads.  Let's
> say some large advertiser gets irked that their ads are not reaching the
> ISP's customers.  In essence, FilterProxy is violating the copyright

If you live in a jurisdiction that would make a software author liable
for such issues, there is not much hope anyway. You can either hold
your breath and hope not to get caught, quit writing software, or move
to the free world.

Henning Makholm                           "Nobody is going to start shouting
                                       about moral philosophy on my bridge."

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