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Re: LaTeX & DFSG

On Fri, 2002-07-19 at 14:34, Boris Veytsman wrote:
> > From: Jeff Licquia <licquia@debian.org>
> > Date: 18 Jul 2002 18:30:19 -0500
> > Let's take an example that will likely resonate with typesetters a bit
> > more: the euro.  How did you arrange to add the euro symbol to TeX and
> > LaTeX?  What would have happened if I would have needed a euro symbol
> > before it was added?
> This is a technical question, so please excuse my rather technical
> answer. On the other hand this answer might be instructive in the way
> (La)TeX works and why we do not want to change the kernel.

[discussion of process to add euro, math symbols, etc. removed]

> Well, as you see, this community has its own way of modifying
> programs. We have traditions that predate GPL, Linux and even C. We
> are quite happy with the way the things are.

I think this is the main issue.  You have a tradition for allowing
modification that is different from what we're used to.  The question is
whether this tradition meets the qualifications of DFSG 3 and 4.

Rather than make reference to "patch files" and other things that may
mean different things to different people, it may be good to talk about
what constitutes a modifiable program.  Here's one description:

 - A program is modifiable if a user has the legal right to change the
program's behavior in an arbitrary way without excessive inconvenience
or requirements.

Now, the sticky word here is "excessive".  In one respect, LD_PRELOAD
can be used to change any program's behavior no matter the license, but
I think we'd agree that this would be an excessive requirement.

Taken at a "stupid level", your requirement for filename changes also
seems excessive.  At face value, the cascading change requirements
(change references in this other file, which is also a change requiring
rename, which means more references to the new file have to be changed,
etc.) would make it nearly impossible to practically make changes to
LaTeX.  Further, it's not clear whether further modifications beyond the
first set require yet more name changes, for reasons I've discussed

The data point that we were missing is that you consider it OK to "get
around" the absolute requirement to change filenames if the result isn't
called LaTeX, and that you even have a documented procedure for doing
this.  This significantly lowers the modification barrier to the point
where, it seems, most Debian people don't consider the requirement to be

So, the issue at hand seems to be to get the above data point propagated
into the license in a clear and unambiguous way.

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