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Re: Bug#153257: TeX Licenses & teTeX (Was: Re: forwarded message from Jeff Licquia)

On Sun, Aug 11, 2002 at 01:01:44AM +0200, Lars Hellström wrote:
> (I've rather gotten the impression that the DFSG is like the Torah
> (even though the text is not necessarily final yet) and debian-legal
> is like the ongoing compilation of the Talmud, but having Methuselah
> around opens up some new perspectives.)

You appear to be confusing the DFSG with tex.web.

> A very plausible reason indeed! It makes much more sense than Branden's
> comments on the subject.

I am sorry that you find terminology like "names of works" and "version
numbers" so bewildering.

> Yet, within this explanation lies the hint of a worrying possibility: that
> there is something severly Debian-centric about the thinking behind this
> guideline.

Exactly, which is why the "name of a work" and its "version number" are
concepts that must be decoupled from the technological means used to
communicate them if the requirement is to have survivability.

Perhaps it would strike you as ironic, but if the meaning of DFSG 4 were
to be interpreted in a way which you seem to regard as more "plausible",
and to be strictly limited to the mechanisms of Debian package naming
and versioning, then redistributors of modified Debian packages would
have carte blanche to advertise their software as being the same as the
original work, everywhere *except* the Debian package name and version.

This would mean that the trademark licenses on TeX and METAFONT, for
instance, would likely be DFSG-non-free, because if they restrict usage
at all, I'm certain the restriction is not limited to Debian package

> C shared libraries are poor analogies to LaTeX packages;

I agree.  That is why when performing a DFSG analysis we must think only
in terms of a work and its license, and treat the technology as a black
box.  This not only better protects the freedoms of Debian's users, it
more effectively protects the rights of the copyright holder (see

> It would seem that the term "functional" needs to be analysed further. Is
> every trait of program A that can be examined by program B functional? If
> the term is to have any content at all, and unless you believe that the
> soul (or something like that) enables all humans to reach insights about
> computing that programs are logically unable to, then the answer is
> obviously no. Thus there can be non-functional aspects of program A that
> program B can check.

You can devise whatever technological mechanisms you choose for
discerning the "actual" name, version, or compatibility of another
program on the system.  The purpose of the DFSG is to guarantee the
user's freedom to support, implement, circumvent, or remove any such
technological mechanism.

Trying to stir up a Dennett-vs.-Penrose style argument is irresponsible
as well as irrelevant.  Let's stick to the subject.

The burden is on the modifier of a work to include natural-language
notices of modification (which might include the renaming or
re-versioning of the work, depending on the license's requirements).
Technological considerations are wholly irrelevant.

Debian has a well-known natural-language file whose purpose is to
contain notices like these.  In a Debian source package, it's called
debian/copyright, and in a Debian binary package, it's installed as

G. Branden Robinson                |     What influenced me to atheism was
Debian GNU/Linux                   |     reading the Bible cover to cover.
branden@debian.org                 |     Twice.
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |     -- J. Michael Straczynski

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