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Re: TeX Licenses & teTeX (Was: Re: forwarded message from Jeff Licquia)

* Boris Veytsman <borisv@lk.net> [020808 00:16]:
> TeX and LaTeX are not just great programs. They are also document
> exchange programs. I need to know that TeX on my installation is the
> same as TeX on the e-print server or on my publisher's machine. 
> Of course, Debian is free to distribute its own freeTeX instead of
> Knuthian TeX under, say, GPL. I doubt it would be a wise move,
> however: it would be useless for most TeX users precisely because
> there will be no guarantee of exact compatibility.

I think the problem is, that this is about freedom. In an ideal world
with ideal humans, there may be no need for freedom, but in this world
most involved with Debian have learned, that unfreeness in software is
no nice state.

I will try to describe some worst-case scenario, to describe, what it is
about. Imaginge there is a documentclass, let us call it "article", and
some package[1], let us call it "important". For the sake of the argument,
let us assume that "important" has some very complex macro in it and in
only used an usefull useable with including the output of some 
interactive program, that contains this macro (in the output). 
Imagine this beeing used by 1000 of people in 100 of files, which
each have 100 of this outputs in it and regularly need to be extended
by addionally of such outputs and some text and the whole file needs
to be TeX't. (For example some complex financal reports of the
corporations since the beginning, in a very strange laws and situations).
Now consider the author of the "important" package goes mad or bad[2],
and changes the macro very badly in a new version. For example assume
some field containing an md5sum should now be the text the md5sum is
generated from and there way to get the old files(which are still needed
for years) to be converted. Assume futhermore the author of the program
generating the output to be using this package will only support the
old version, as there is no migration path.
As my knowledge LaTeX is not very deep (only using it), I do not know
if this might be possible, but assume "article" gets an new option
introducing a new internal command, that conflicts with an
badly named internal command of the old "important" package, and the 
auther refuses to change this, as the new "important"-package has
not this problem and he wants not anger the "important"-author.

I hope this constructs a situation, that it is so dodgy, that doing
something the author does not want us to do is the only possibility
to ensure Debian's (or better tetex's or the hole cummunities) part
in making LateX an exchangeable and stable system for what it is made.

Even if it may be unrealistic or parts even impossible, I hope the try
may show some people, that we are talking about freedom in order to
archieve a good. The DFSG are there to ensure everybody can make sure
that the software is useable. 

While LaTeX is a very nice and good system to typeset, the given
example might show some people not so involved with Free Software,
that if such situations can not be resolved, Debian has the duty
to put LaTeX from the distribution to non-free. 

If the licence really gets unfree (in our sense), keeping it in
Debian (i.e. main) would signalise that it might not be insane
to use it for anything important. 
But using anyting for something important, where the author
(or the authors or some council or whatever) reserves the right
to bring it into an useable state for himself and to define
him self what state it should be, *is* insane.

  Bernhard R. Link

[1]: In the \includepackage-sense, not the dpkg-sense.
[2]: I do not see why LaTeX-authors should be more secure against it,
     than say judges or policemen.

<gEistiO> sagen wir mal...ich hab alle sourcen in /lost+found/waimea
<me> gEistiO: [...] Warum lost+found?
<gEistiO> wo haette ich es denn sonst hingeben solln?

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