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Re: Bad license on VCG?

On Fri, 2002-08-30 at 20:42, Nick Phillips wrote:
> On Fri, Aug 30, 2002 at 07:57:50PM -0500, Jeff Licquia wrote:
> > Consider the case where a GPLed program is distributed with .o files
> > that are linked in at link time.  The author could say, under the same
> > logic and with a straight face, that the .o is "the preferred form for
> > modification".
> They could, and we'd laugh at them. The point is that we would be perfectly
> within our rights to distribute it, and that whether or not we chose to do
> so would be an entirely separate question.

Please point out exactly which section of the GPL would grant us such
rights.  Remember, rights not explicitly granted are withheld under
default copyright law.

> > C source code is not "special" or "magic"; it is not metaphysically
> > classified by God as source code.  The question as to whether the code
> > is source is properly answered by referring to the definition in the
> > GPL: does anyone really modify the particular file directly when they
> > want to change the program's behavior?  In the case of obfuscated
> > source, the answer clearly is "no".  Thus, the obfuscated C file is
> > "object code", no matter what language specification it technically
> > adheres to.
> Bollocks. If the author calls it source, then for the purposes of deciding
> what we are allowed to do with it under the *author's* license grant, it is
> source.

Well, the author's stated definition of "source" is "the preferred form
for modifying a work".  Since the .o (or the obfuscated C) isn't the
preferred form for modifying the work, we cannot fulfill the conditions
for distribution, since we cannot provide the preferred form for
modifying those C files.

If the author didn't want "source" to mean "the preferred form for
modifying the work", then (s)he shouldn't have used the GPL as his/her
license under which others could deal in the work.

> > Now, in this case, there's no real foul; the author has just chosen a
> > contradictory license, which means that no one really knows what the
> > distribution conditions are.
> You're overdoing it again. The author has provided what they consider to be
> source, and indicated that it is released under the GPL. So we know precisely
> what the conditions are.

The author does not consider the obfuscated C files to be source.  How
do I know?  I read the author's license statement, which reads:

"The source code for a work means the preferred form of the work for
making modifications to it."

So the author does not provide source, but expects us to distribute
source.  Since we cannot fulfill that part of the license, this clause
kicks in:

"If, as a consequence of a court judgment or allegation of patent
infringement or for any other reason (not limited to patent issues),
conditions are imposed on you (whether by court order, agreement or
otherwise) that contradict the conditions of this License, they do not
excuse you from the conditions of this License.  If you cannot
distribute so as to satisfy simultaneously your obligations under this
License and any other pertinent obligations, then as a consequence you
may not distribute the Program at all.  For example, if a patent license
would not permit royalty-free redistribution of the Program by all those
who receive copies directly or indirectly through you, then the only way
you could satisfy both it and this License would be to refrain entirely
from distribution of the Program."

Voila!  We are not allowed to redistribute.

> > If there were third-party GPL code
> > included in that program, however, the third party could demand the
> > "preferred form for modifying" those C files; if the case made it to a
> > courtroom, the onus would be on the author to prove that (s)he really
> > did modify those obfuscated C files when (s)he wanted to change the
> > behavior of that code.
> Quite. But in this case there is no such obligation on the author. The only
> question is what *we* could and should do with it.

I notice you clipped the "no foul" part, where I agree with you.  The
author is not obligated to do anything.  Are you trying to manufacture a
debate where none exists?

I also note that you agree with me on the definition of "source" when a
third party's rights are involved.

> > > I believe the relevant parts of the GPL are intended to prevent degradation
> > > of the usefulness of sources as they are passed 'down the chain', not at
> > > any point before it even enters the chain (as the GPL has no clout there).
> > 
> > So you think RMS intended to allow obfuscated source with the GPL? 
> > That's an awfully difficult claim to prove.
> That does not follow.
> What I'm claiming is that he didn't intend to do something that he knew he
> had no power to do in the first place.

Which is what?  That licensors provide consistent licenses?  No, you
certainly cannot force a licensor to use logic, or to be consistent, or
even to tell the truth.  This fact does not make such licensors any less
confused, contradictory, or dishonest.

You seem to be confusing obligations on the author with license
consistency.  We cannot take the GPL and use it against the author to
force him/her to reveal the non-obfuscated source (unless the author
used third-party GPL code).  However, we can point out the logical
contradiction in the license the author has granted, and state that we
do not know what our rights are.

Now, this whole mess can be straightened out if the author provides a
license that allows the obfuscated C source to be used.  They could
provide, for example, a GPL exception statement to that effect.  One
could claim that such a statement is implicit; one would, I think, have
to be a lawyer to make such a claim, however.

If you don't believe me, think for a minute about why this code couldn't
be linked to third-party GPLed code (which you've already admitted) and
distributed.  If we claim that implicit permission is given to link to
the obfuscated C source, then we are claiming that the "real" license
isn't the GPL; it's the GPL plus some narrowly worded exception clause. 
This is incompatible with the GPL itself, because it relaxes a
restriction imposed by the GPL; you can't relax copyright restrictions. 
(If you think you can, be my guest; start distributing Microsoft Windows
XP under this doctrine and see how long you last.)

Now that we've determined that the GPL does not describe the whole
license, we now have to figure out what the license is.  What exception
statement should we craft to make the license a complete statement of
the author's wishes?  Moreover, are you willing to state to the world
that your crafted exception really reflects the author's intent?  What
if you aren't right?  Are you willing to be sued for altering the
license?  That's why I wouldn't take on the task of determining what the
"implicit license" is unless I were a lawyer (which I'm not).

Of course, we both know that it's not terribly likely that any of this
will happen.  But we don't deal with "likelihoods" in Debian, or try to
"second-guess" people; we expect them to tell us frankly what they want
and don't want.  Look at the whole KDE situation; the copyright holders
for KDE were practically begging everyone to accept a particular
implicit addition to the license all along, and many distributions went
along with it.  We did not, however.  Thankfully, that particular mess
is all in the past; it should be persuasive to you, however, concerning
how Debian deals with these questions.

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