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Re: Debian Package for Phylip

On Wed, 24 Oct 2001 joe@evolution.genetics.washington.edu wrote:
(Sorry for the long quotings. They are just included to get the people
 of Debian-legal informed.)
(Sorry once more Joe, I misspelled the debian-legal address in my first

> > there are many changes.  Perhaps you have a look at the diffs.  The
> > of the drawtree.c and drawgram.c patches is describet in the Debian
> > bug tracking system at the URL I mentioned in my last posting.
> I will be doing that.  Yes, no point in applying the patches directly.
See below about patches ...

> > Just to understand this right:  Do they actually pay you or are you
> > in the process to convince them to pay you?
> In the process of convincing them, if necessary by threatening legal
> They seem willing to pay in principle, but do not want to pay much.
> > If I understand your lizense right they are not allowed to make
> > off of selling PHYLIP.  If they do so in my opinion GPL would be
> > for this case because GPL explicitely forbids including a programm
> > a part of a commercial package.  Only if you want to earn money by
> > your package for royalties for this company you can´t apply the GPL.
> That is the problem.  We are happy to have them use PHYLIP as long as
> don't want an exclusive license and as long as they give us credit and
> a percentage to our University.
> > > From the point of view of our lab, the GPL would have the
> > > effect that any big company could take our code, make millions of
> > > off of it, and all we could do was smile.
> > This is wrong! They are not allowed to make millions of dollars! To
> > this GPL was invented! Your statement applies to BSD lizense which
> > to do *anything*.  GPL allows to take a small fee to get your effort
> > copying, say 1$ maximum for burning a CD.
> I'm not sure you are right.  From www.gnu.org/philosophy/selling.html:
> "Actually we encourage people who redistribute free software to charge
as much
>  as they wish or can."
> and ...
> "Except for one special situation, the GNU General Public License
>  (20k characters) (GNU GPL) has no requirements about how much you can
>  charge for distributing a copy of free software. You can charge
nothing, a
>  penny, a dollar, or a billion dollars. It's up to you, and the
>  so don't complain to us if nobody wants to pay a billion dollars for
a copy."
> Actually, since the company in question wouldn't redistribute the
code, just
> use it and sell access to their computers that run it, I think the
> on them would even be less. The Gnu GPL FAQ says really nothing about
Well, I´m no legal expert but I forward this mail to debian-legal.  May
they could give you some hint.
Regarding to the question if the GPL allows to make billions of dollars
can only say:  The GPL requires to include the license text.  People who
are able to read and pay a billion dollars anyway are worth that the
go bankrott.  I consider the GPL statement more or less in this sense,
the customer pays what he wants to pay.  If the price is to high he can
free to look after a different vendor who ships it for a fair price.

> But if I am wrong about that I was perhaps thinking of "public
domain".  I've
> had people say that it is wonderful that PHYLIP is in the public
domain, and
> that gets a big reaction out of me.
Public domain is not good.  Everybody can do with your software what he
wants.  GPL saves your rights.

> > To make millions of dollars
> > they would have to make much advertising for PHYLIP to sell millions
> > CDs for just one dollar.  Hmmm, I do not see the point why any
> > should not have the right to make your fine program this popular?
> The company in question is not selling CDs anyway, but computer use on
> machines.
As I said, this is a different case.

> > >  Bortzmeyer got quite mad at me
> > > that it wasn't "free", but as I have spent years mailing packages
> > > to parts of the world where they did not have money to buy
programs, I
> > > feel wy have made it pretty free.  I have the staple scars on my
thumb to
> > > prove we have gone to a lot of effort to make it available to
> > In my opinion this is a very big misunderstanding og GPL.  Just save
> > time when mailing the package to anyone.  Let it be done by software
> > vendors if they like to do it.  They are not allowed to make much
> > from it.
> You need to persuade me where in the GPL it says that.
Well they are not allowed might be incorrect, but they *are not able*
(see above) would be the right term.

> > But distributing also costs money and they should be allowed to
> > get back their costs.
> There have been a few inquiries about redistributing.  We would have
> set a very low royalty.  Actually we might have charged only on the
> of their price that was above a reasonable minimum.  The inquiries
came to
> nothing, because they didn't want even to think about that.  But there
> some places on the web, aside from my server, where you can download
> yourself.
> > If you *really* want to have your program distributed
> > into the latest corner of the world you have to enable other people
> > a good distribution facility to do it for you, because you are busy
> > programming.  Moreover, nobody with net access has to pay.  He could
> > download for free.
> They are doing that, and I have over 10,000 registered users.  There
> probably about as many who didn't bother to register (they don't have
> legally).  So it is hard for me to see that we haven't *already*
> reached the farthest corners of the world.  For example PHYLIP is the
> standard phylogeny program in Russia, widely used also in China,
> Brazil.  We are still sending diskette copies to some parts of Africa
> where they don't have the Internet.
> > With your current license vendors of Debian distribution are not
> > to include your program.  I do not see the point in how far this
> > people which have no money to buy programs.  There are vendors which
> > Debian CDs for about 5$.  If PHYLIP would estimate the price for
> > by the relation of lines of code od PHYLIP to the number of all
> > of code on such a CD I guess the money they *make* whith PHYLIP is
> > nearly zero.  Even if they sell Debian bundled with a book for 50$
> > do not make real money from PHYLIP.
> If Debian wanted to license PHYLIP for sale on a CD we would be most
Debian is no vendor! (See http://www.debian.org)  We do not sell any
CD and we will never license any program for sale.  There are vendors
which sell the Debian GNU/Linux distribution.  You would have to do
license agreements with those vendors but I doubt they would care about
a single package.

The profit you get from Debian is a broad user base which has a good
response in the bug tracking system.  This is why I marked your quote
about patches with "see below".  Debian just helps users in building
a good quality software distribution and gives back response to the
authors.  Debian lives from volunteers.  If a volunteer (like me) needs
a program (like your Phylip) he can package it and include it into
the distribution.  But Debian as a whole does not need those software.
If it can´t be included for some reasons (for instance the well known
image viewer xv was removed recently from Debian) it is no harm for
Debian.  People who would really need software which is not included
into Debian could use their lokal copy.  But the author of the program
lacks two important advantages:  publicity and response via bug tracking
system.  So it is also in your interest (and in the interest of UW which
contributes to the free software world) to enhance the quality of your
software.  You will get no money from Debian but co-workers.

> merciful in what we charged, probably charging nothing as long as the
> of the CD's is low.  BUT ... we wouldn't be allowing it to be under
the GPL
We do not care about the price vendors will offer Debian CDs and we will
not include any software, which makes its distribution dependend from
price it is offered for.  This would not fit DFSG.

> for the reasons I have mentioned, unless you can clear up the issue of
> reselling prices, and charges for running it.
> > > The PHYLIP license may not comply with someone else's standard,
but it
> > > complies with our feeling that the software should be free to
> > > and even to companies, but when it is resold or access to it is
sold, we
> > > should get a royalty.  I don't know of any GNU license that allows
us this.
> > If you really want to make money this way (which would be perfectly
OK in
> > my opinion!) GPL is not the right thing for you.  That´s true.  I´m
> > lizense expert, but if you want *this* I could foreward your
question to
> > debian-lizense list.  There are experts.
> > But if you want to *prevent* people from making money with *your*
> > product, than GPL is the thing which was made for people like you
> We don't want to prevent anyone making money, as long as we get a fair
cut of
> it, and it isn't restricted.  If the Debian experts can suggest some
> of GPL (say GPG, which might stand for "GPG's not GPL") then they can
do so and
> I will pass the information on the UW's Intellectual Property Office.
> > > If you know of one, do let me know.  If it has to be put in the
> > > section of Debian, well maybe the Debian folks should think of
> > > that section and renaming parts of it, because right now the
> > > situation exists where one has to say that it is available for
free from
> > > the non-free section!  However that is a terminology problem
Debian has
> > > to consider on its own.
> > The Debian sense of "free" includes the freedom of the vendor to
> > (well Debian is a *distribution*) in the sense of letting the vendor
> > There are other cases of non-free software in Debian:
> Again, we are happy to let them live as long as they grease our palms
in the
> appropriate way.
As I said: For greasing your palms are two ways: Spending money or
some work.  We offer testers and bugfixes.

> > - pine:  You are not allowed to distribute changed binary versions,
> >   Debian has to change some pathes.  So pine is distributed as
> >   package and users have to build the Debian package themselves
> >   just prevents the average user from using pine and this is sad.
> Interestingly, Pine is owned by the same people who now own PHYLIP:
> University.
O dear.  The Debian legal team would have a hard fight ;-)).

> > - former versions of remind:  This program is GPL with exception
> >   nobody is allowed to port it to M$-windows and people from company
> >   xyz (there was a certain company named, my be they fired the
author ;-))? )
> >   are not allowed to use it.  Strange lizense but it discriminates
> >   persons (porters and people of the named company) and so it
> >   with item 5 of DFSG:
> >     No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups
> >     The license must not discriminate against any person or group of
> >   If you ask me this is a really hard point but I would really like
> >   prevent fascists or terrorists from using my software, but it is
> >   to differentiate and moreover the bad people would ignore such
> >   statements anyway.
> I agree.  Up until 1993 I refused to distribute PHYLIP to the Republic
> South Africa or to support it there.  This was dropped in version 3.5c
> as it was clear that the boycotts of SA were about to end.  Probably
> UW who now own it would not agree to such a restriction. Actually I
did not
> try to restrict them from getting a copy, I just refused to help.  The
> South Africans do get it now but some of them are still mad at me.
> > So the term *free* in the Debian sense is well defined and very
> > It preserves the freedom of authors and distributors.  The GPL is
> > strict:  It prevents that distributors become rich and that code can
> > be stolen by other people.
> I wonder whether it prevents the distributors from charging a high
I repeat. Everybody who can read the GPL has the ability to pay the
or just look for another vendor / website.  I see no real chance to get
rich by selling GPL software.

> > Anyway it would help if there would be an extra Lizense file in the
> > package which belongs to all files I could quote in the Debian
> > I could offer help of our license people if you are not sure, if it
> > DFSG free and perhaps they are able to suggest you a license which
> > DFSG free and fits your intention more than GPL.
> I would be happy to hear of this. We are undoubtable going to have a
> complete license file in the final 3.6 version.
> Thanks for your efforts on this.  Will try to be responsive to any
> questions.
Well, see the debian-legal list CCed and people from debian-legal please
CC me and Joe because we are not subscribed to this list.

Kind regards


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