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Re: DFSG and fonts [was: Bug#91856: Hello]

On Wed, Apr 04, 2001 at 10:56:39AM +0100, Edmund GRIMLEY EVANS wrote:
> > Copyright licenses as legal documents may not be modified except by the
> > holder of the Copyright under law.  As such, NO license is itself able to
> > meet the terms of the DFSG and must be excepted.
> You have misunderstood me, I think, and your reasoning is incorrect.


> Obviously you can't just redistribute someone else's program with a
> modified licence, but you might want to distribute your own program
> with a modified version of the GPL. But the first paragraph of the GPL
> forbids that; you would have to write your own licence from scratch.

RMS is of course not a big fan of license proliferation, however he has
informally said that he has no problem with people borrowing language from
the GPL in writing their own free licenses if they insist.  The language
is after all carefully chosen by the FSF's legal people to say exactly
what it needs to say and be as simple as possible given the level of
clarity and general nitpicking required to try and be sure the language is
interpretted only as intended.  (Obviously this works to varying degrees
as people try to read into the language what they want..)

This is not the same as allowing you to change the GPL itself.  Here is my
primary point of contention with those who insist that the doctrines of
free software apply to all forms of data (or even all forms of speech, but
I seriously digress massively..)

The fact is that it is against the FSF's goals to have the GPL be at all
modifyable.  Given that our goals are similar, we're not likely to declare
the GPL as non-free.  Suggesting that we should, as you seem to be doing,
can only be regarded as flamebait and I just won't participate.

> Most licences do not have a notice saying whether the licence itself
> may be modified and redistributed, but most licences are short enough
> that probably nobody cares. The GPL, on the other hand, is a
> significant work in its own right (nearly 3000 words), and it does
> have its own copyright notice, in the first paragraph. The GPL is not
> itself licensed under a free software licence.

The license which comes with the program must not be modified.

I don't believe the GPL needs to be modifyable personally because I do not
hold it to the same standard as I do the code licensed under it.  I freely
admit that I hold them to different standards, and am equally free with my
justification: Code serves a technical purpose and is necessarily more
important to be able to modify than other forms of speech.  Regardless of
other factors such as integrity of the original work which may influence
such a philisophical view, the technical ramifications of not allowing
modification of code are simple and worrysome - usually leading to the
situation we have with the people in Redmond and other software developers
worldwide: You are locked into proprietary and expensive channels.  Your
bang-for-the-buck is inversely proportional to the dependency you have on
that channel.  And of course, dependency is usually at the least a linear
function of time.

The importance of being able to modify any particular piece of software
may not always be critical to some in all cases, but as a general rule it
is NECESSARY to be able to modify the code you run on your machine.  It is
not so necessary to be able to modify a license document or an icon or a

Of course, these are merely my opinions, and I could be wrong.

Joseph Carter <knghtbrd@debian.org>                Free software developer

While the year 2000 (y2k) problem is not an issue for us, all Linux
implementations will impacted by the year 2038 (y2.038k) issue. The
Debian Project is committed to working with the industry on this issue
and we will have our full plans and strategy posted by the first quarter
of 2020.

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