[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: Question(s) for clarifications with respect to the LPPL discussion

Scripsit Lars Hellström  <Lars.Hellstrom@math.umu.se>

> The discussion between Jeff and me turned up another main concern,
> regarding the distribution of modified works. In his opinion (which I now
> suspect holds for at least those jurisdictions where copyright is something
> which just arises rather than has to be claimed) it could be a problem that
> the LPPL does not say anything about the copyrights of the authors of the
> original (LPPLed work) to a modified derivative thereof. It appears that
> they in principle could later demand that an arbitrarily restrictive
> license should be applied for the derivative work.

I don't think this is an actual problem. We have many licences that
say "you may modify and distribute your modifications if you do
so-and-so", and we've always interpreted that as meaning "and I
promise that as long as you do so-and-so I will give my permission
to the distibution of the derived work without any further

> I think we can agree that the LaTeX community practice here is that authors
> give up all copyright to derivative work. Appearently e.g. the GPL and the
> BSD license instead handle this matter implicitly, by requiring that any
> derivative is licensed in the same way.

Hm, I'd say that the GPL is quite explicit about what goes on in this
case. Well, maybe not in the sense that there is a single sentence
that says so, but when one reads the preamble, the meaning clearly
gets through: "I, RMS hereby give you this program to use, enjoy and
modify as you please. But if you modify it, I will still assert my
copyright on the derived work, and I'm going to use that copyright
to enforce that the derived work is never distributed without source.
Oh, and on the other hand, I require you to allow restristribution
of your part of the modified source. Agree?"

The BSD licence takes the opposite approach and indeed is silent about
the licencing of derived works. Here it is universally agreed [1] that
this means that the list of conditions in the license is exhaustive
- thus, the author is expected to have waived his right to later add
new conditions and have them apply to the copies that are already out
in the world.

[1] except by the University of Washington (but that is a different story).

> The problem isn't really that it is _possible_ to mess up LaTeX (or some
> other LPPLed package), but that people would be _tempted_ to (in tiny
> steps) mess things up if the filename restrictions were simply removed.
> There could be other ways of getting the same effect, but this one has the
> advantage of being in line with popular sense of justice because it follows
> a tradition (for better or worse; mostly better) that exists for many
> related pieces of software.

I'm sure it will be possible to find a way to *allow* a reasonably
painless fork without actually encouraging it. That ought to be our
objective in this discussion, rather than the flaming that has been
going on from both sides (which is not to imply that Lars Hellström
in particular has taken part in the flames).

This way does not need to be a continuous extension of the usual
rules. I think it would be quite acceptable [2] for the Debian side
of the debate if the LPPL could say something along the lines of
(in human language, will need to be translated to legalese later):

   If you want to fork LaTeX you must do so-and-so (remove banners,
   change all addresses, grep -i latex all over the source to make
   sure nothing remains except in comments that give credit to what
   you used as your starting points, rename latex.ltx to something
   else {which is acceptable because its name does not occur in other
   source files} etc etc etc).
   Once you have done this, you will have a forked project which will
   so far be completely technically equivalent to LaTeX, because
   you're not allowed to modify anything until you've gone through
   the procedure. Now go ahead and hack, and watch your karma drop
   as you do it.

   Normally you don't want to fork LaTeX. We also allow you to simply
   make a copy of a file with a new name, and hack of the file with
   the new name instead. You will be required to pet a cat and do
   (various other thing that would be obscenely nonfree according to
   the DFSG and which I insert mainly to make the point that it does
   not matter that the "normal alternative" would not be free if it
   was the only thing provided). This is the Right Thing to do in
   any situation we can imagine.

> So why is "don't modify unless you change the name first" the method used
> in the TeX community to prohibit (c)? Becuase it works!

The problem is that it works too well - it makes it prohibitively
difficult to do a fork, technically. I'm going to elaborate on this in
my next message, replying to Frank Mittelbach. Stay tuned.

Henning Makholm           "Larry wants to replicate all the time ... ah, no,
                   all I meant was that he likes to have a bang everywhere."

To UNSUBSCRIBE, email to debian-legal-request@lists.debian.org
with a subject of "unsubscribe". Trouble? Contact listmaster@lists.debian.org

Reply to: