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file name rules in licenses

On 17 Jul 2002, Jeff Licquia wrote:

> Another example: Suppose the Python module "foo" has a similar
> restriction.  Is it really free to claim that "foo" is free when I
> cannot fix a bug in "foo" and have that bug fix work in all the programs
> on my system that "import foo"?
> Yet another example: Would we consider it acceptable to rename "ls" to
> "lsf" (for "ls fixed") as a legal requirement for fixing a bug in it?

At some level, this type of requirement is unenforceable, isn't it?  One
can always name it "lsf" and create a wrapper "ls" that execs it.  "lsf"
satisfies the license by having a different name, and the wrapper is brand
new code so not encumbered by someone else's copyright.

It's gross, and I lose respect for the software author who put the stupid
requirement in the license, but it doesn't stop me fixing it nor
distributing the result, so it's free enough for Debian.

The same workaround can be used for most software with negative naming
requirements (a modified copy must not be named "foo").  If one has a
positive requirement (you must have an unmodified "foo"), the same trick
can be used in a parallel directory.  Have a latex-orig contain completely
unmodified files and a latex-local directory that does what needs to be

A license can probably be written such that this doesn't work. In that
case it may be required to distribute a "latex-fixup" script that renames
files, and recommend that people run it in order to use your changes.  
This would be even less desirable, but still technically free.

Note that in either of these cases, Debian would have to decide if the
effort required is worth the effort, and could choose not to carry the
package even if many of us think it (barely) meets DFSG.

Fundamentally, no software can go into Debian without granting all users
the right to make it behave however they want, and to distribute that
result, however stupid.  Some that want the LPPL to restrict that, but I
don't think it succeeds.  As long as the above is available, it seems
DFSG-free to me.

I urge the copyright holders to make life simpler by not trying to impede
these rights, but it's their work and therefore their choice.
Mark Rafn    dagon@dagon.net    <http://www.dagon.net/>  

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