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Re: REVISED PROPOSAL regarding DFSG 3 and 4, licenses, and modifiable text

On Sun, Dec 02, 2001 at 02:14:51PM +1000, Anthony Towns wrote:
> On Sat, Dec 01, 2001 at 05:51:29PM -0500, Branden Robinson wrote:
> > [Debian Policy group: I am not sure if the Debian Policy Manual is an
> > appropriate forum for any of the following material.  I invite your
> > opinions.]
> -policy is traditionally for technical policy, which the DFSG isn't. A
> -legal FAQ or HOWTO or similar isn't an unreasonable thing to start.

Okay, consider me smacked down for daring to raise this on -policy.
I'll take it you don't welcome the parts of this proposal that advise
people as to how to handle specific situations in the debian/copyright
file, even though Policy 13.6 already addresses similar issues.

I'll respond here as well as -legal, but note Mail-Followup-To:.

> > 1) Copyright notices used as such (i.e., not as examples) are permitted
> > to be held non-modifiable.
> > 	This guideline is proposed to legitimize the status quo within
> > 	Debian.
> The status-quo's already quite legitimite, rabble rousers on mailing
> lists aside, especially wrt licenses and copyright notices and the like.
> "Clarifying some excpetions" or something is probably more accurate.

Whatever.  If fiat is legitimate, that is.  I'm not sure what your point
is.  A rose is a rose is a rose.  DFSG 3 contains absolutely no
implication of the existence of any exception to its terms.

> > 2) License text used as such (i.e., not as an example) [...] is permitted 
> > to be held non-modifiable.  
> > 	Only actual contractual license terms are protected under this
> > 	interpretive clause.  Material that is used to inform, persuade,
> > 	exhort, or otherwise interact with the (putative) licensee but
> > 	which is not legally binding is not covered by this clause.
> This doesn't particularly match current practice.

Do you mean particularly, or precisely?  I can name plenty of
particulars where we have accepted as DFSG-free licenses that contain
contractual terms as well as desiderata.

Take, for instance, the GPL.

> If upstream has a license that says "You can do what you like with
> this, but if you distribute it to someone, you must pass on all the
> rights you have, and you must include this complete text, unmodified.
> Also, if you like this program, please scratch a dog behind the ears."
> that's fine, even though the latter sentence is not contractually
> obligating.

Yes.  Your point?  What is contractually binding is covered by clause 2)
of my proposal.  What is not is covered by clause 3), or not at all if
license is granted to modify it freely (since it would unambiguously
satisfy DFSG 3 and 4).

> > 3) An amount of non-modifiable auxiliary material which is not legally
> > binding upon a licensee is permitted to exist in conjunction with the
> > license terms, and the packaging of the work so licensed should reflect
> > this.  Such material may not exceed 32 binary kilobytes (32,768 bytes)
> That doesn't make any sense at all. If you want to say "Auxiliary
> material to the license must be fairly small", that's fine, but making
> up a byte size, and then going on with other strange controtions is
> just nuts. These are *guidelines* remember. Most people are still able
> to tell the difference between "big" and "small".

Let me guess.  You're one of the people who didn't read the thread
before replying!

> > 	The last sentence is merely a fancy way of saying [...]
> Also, it's probably a better idea to avoid the fancy ways of saying
> things if they're unclear enough that you need to restate them in
> simpler language.

It's probably a good idea to avoid shitting on people for making an
effort to be clear by using a little colloquial grease.  Specific
suggestions for clarification of my existing wording are welcome.
Contrived objections to my proposals are not.

Your one substantive objection is noted.  It's "nuts" to specify a byte
limit, but a megabyte of unmodifiable material in a DFSG-free package as
long as there is, say, 9 megabytes of modifiable content is not.  Got
it.  On the other hand, we have another gentleman on the debian-legal
list who feels that the byte limit in 3) should be zero.  He's also not
the only one who feels that way.  Therefore, leaving terms like "fairly
small" open to the interpretation of the developers presumes a common
standard of reasonableness that may not exist, because some developers
do not feel the existence of any non-modifiable text is justifiable.
This is a perfectly defensible position, and asking such people to
manufacture a pragmatic stance in which they do not believe is unfair.
It is also not courteous for us to attempt to impose a dilemma upon
such people by demanding that they not package certain software.
Therefore, one logical way of resolving this difference of opinion is by
specifying a numeric limit, rather than expecting them to be able to
duplicate the judgement of some specific other developer who may elect
to take them to task for not being "reasonable enough" in their
interpretation of inherently approximate terms like "big" and "small".
These are *guidelines*, remember.  People can get package-specific
waivers (probably without even asking for them) if the issue is

More generally, recall that the Debian Project is a heterogenous
organization containing people of many different ages, philosophical
beliefs, and cultural backgrounds, not to mention differing levels of
fluency in English.  In such an environment, I think it's better to have
an objective -- if arbitrary -- standard in place, as long as there is
an escape hatch for exceptional cases, rather than expecting some sort
of collective consciousness to assert itself in the reader's mind and
guide a person's way.  Debian Developers agreed to abide by the Social
Contract when they joined the project.  They did not agree to share
Branden Robinson's or Anthony Towns's notions of what is "reasonable".

You'll probably want to review clause 5) of my original proposal, which
I thought went without saying.  Quite clearly, it doesn't.  You can find
it in the list archives, for which I provided a URL in the original

G. Branden Robinson                |    A celibate clergy is an especially
Debian GNU/Linux                   |    good idea, because it tends to
branden@debian.org                 |    suppress any hereditary propensity
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |    toward fanaticism.    -- Carl Sagan

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