Several topics come up here with some regularity, but which don't
belong here IMO. The name of the mailing list causes that confusion
understandably, but I think the situation would be improved by some
awareness and appropriate action.
The sorts of topics that are really not appropriate are things like
"If I do X, will that get me around the GPL [or other free software
Or "if the US were the only country, would X be legal for Debian to
do"? [the discussion about whether the advertising clause is
enforceable is of that character, since everyone agrees it is
enforceable in many non-US countries].
Or "who should Debian give credit to and how"?
This is a place for those Debian members (like me, Raul, and others)
to help out Debian members with Debian-related legal issues.
Non-Debian people as always are welcome, providing they post relevant
topics. But "relevant" here does not mean "anything that includes
Debian and some legal issue"--it means legal issues that are actually
important in enabling us to determine what we actually ought to do in
running our project.
Issues about the interpretation of free software licenses in general,
like the recent flame wars, are best taken elsewhere. The newsgroup
gnu.misc.discuss in part exists to proved a forum for those issues, so
that they can be removed from more focused free software mailing
lists, and discussed *away* from the important work of the actual free
software developers (which includes the Debian project, and the
debian-legal part of the Debian project).
The danger is that Debian developers will feel inhibited from posting
important queries like "is it legal for me to put XXX in non-free"?
Or "is license X DFSG compliant"? Or "how should I go about asking
upstream author FooCorp to change their license to be a free software
license"? Those are very important questions, and this list exists to
provide Debian developers a forum in which to discuss those questions
and get reasonable and prompt answers.
The contributions of outsiders are welcome *IF* they advance our
purpose; otherwise, they are best taken elsewhere. (And I repeat,
gnu.misc.discuss is an ideal place for them.) I fear that flamewars
and hostility from outsiders is a force that might inhibit Debian
developers from reading this mailing list when they need to, and that
is a tragedy if it happens.
This post is an attempt to provoke awareness of the issue. As for the
appropriate action, I think the solution is the famous principle: "Sit
on your hands." I'm the first to admit that I'm extremely poor at
that sort of caution. I tend to see an interesting discussion about
which I know something and just dive in with whatever information and
understanding I have.
So I'm going to start trying to divert such off-topic (and potentially
destructive) conversations elsewhere. I'd encourage other Debian
developers to do the same. I'll surely screw up (like I said, I'm not
particularly good at that brand of self-restraint), but even so, I
think it's the right thing to do.