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Re: forwarded message from Jeff Licquia

On Wed, Jul 17, 2002 at 02:44:19PM +0100, David Carlisle wrote:

> Speaking as a LaTeX developer, and as one of the authors of the LPPL I
> agree with those aims and would say that LPPL is perfectly compatible
> with them.

> I agree that anyone should be free to modify latex in any way and
> distribute that modification. I just don't agree that they should leave
> my email address at the top as the place where people should report
> bugs, and I don't agree that they should call the software by the same
> name, so as to deliberately trick users who believe they are using one
> piece of software into using a different piece of software.

> As a matter of fact we did read the DFSG while drafting the original
> version 1 of the LPPL. I believed then and still believe now that it is
> compatible. Nothing in any of the multitude of threads has shown
> any real bar on LPPL being DFSG compatible. Some minor wording issues
> that Frank has been addressing, but nothing in principle.

> What has been clear is that some people at Debian don't like clause 4
> and are trying to force licences that do not require that clause.
> If Debian want to do that that is their right of course, but it is not
> the current published guidelines. If Debian does change its guidelines
> and drop clause 4 then clearly LPPL would not meet the new criteria.
> Neither would the TeX or Computer Modern licences. If Debian wish to
> distribute its core free Debian distribution witout tex (and presumably
> without texinfo) again that is their right and there is nothing we in
> the LaTeX project can do about that as we don't control the Licence on
> TeX. 

Speaking in the abstract, and in light of the fact that TeX macros *as
installed on the system* can be considered source code, I believe that
the desire to prevent people from using the same name for modified
versions of macro files is compatible with the DFSG, possibly even
without the benefit of DFSG 4.  However, I also don't think that
copyright law gives you the protection you're really looking for,
because unless you have the legal budget of the Scientologists, a name
cannot be protected under copyright law; and therefore, your license has
no power over anyone who chooses to implement a macro from scratch and
give it the same name as a macro file in your software.  The best
protection, IMHO (and IANAL) comes from trademarks on the names rather
than copyright licenses on your existing macros.

On the copyright license front, DFSG 4 reads:

  Integrity of The Author's Source Code

  The license may restrict source-code from being distributed in
  modified form _only_ if the license allows the distribution of "patch
  files" with the source code for the purpose of modifying the program at
  build time.  The license must explicitly permit distribution of
  software built from modified source code. The license may require
  derived works to carry a different name or version number from the
  original software. (This is a compromise. The Debian group encourages
  all authors not to restrict any files, source or binary, from being

So, to be DFSG free, the license must permit us to distribute software
built from modified source code, and this freedom must even apply to
TeX macro files; but the license may require us to use different names
for derived works.  A modified version of a TeX macro is a derived
work, so your license can impose this restriction and still be

Your goals (which seem to differ markedly from the opinions of at least
some members of the LaTeX community, judging by this thread) seem
consistent with the DFSG.  The devil, of course, is in the details of
the license text.  One would conclude that if your goals are consistent
with the DFSG, and the license text is not, that the license doesn't
truly reflect your actual goals and would need to be revised for our
mutual benefit.

Steve Langasek
postmodern programmer

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