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Re: OSD && DFSG convergence

[CC:ed to debian-policy, which seems a more likely forum for discussing
changes to core documents.]

Hi Russ,

On Sun, Jan 26, 2003 at 12:55:05PM -0500, Russell Nelson wrote:
> Hi.  I'm the vice-president of the Open Source Initiative, and I'm
> writing to you today in that stead.

> We want to explore convergence between the Open Source Definition, and
> the Debian Free Software Guidelines.  OSI is interested in mending
> differences in our community, so that we can stand together.

> Is there anything in the OSD which would prevent the Debian project
> from adopting it whole cloth?  Is there anything the Debian project
> would like to see changed in the OSD before it could adopt the OSD?

I suspect that I speak for a fair number of developers in saying that
self-determination is important to us with respect to such a fundamental
document.  While I'm sure the Debian community would be happy to
consider any improvements to the DFSG that you might propose, I think
Debian would need to ratify such changes on an individual basis; and it
seems to me that having two versions of the OSD in active use would be
unnecessarily confusing -- so continuing to use the name "DFSG" seems
the better option, to me.

Also, are you asking Debian to automatically accept as suitable any
licenses that the OSI approves?  Debian has at times disagreed with the
OSI about the freeness of some licenses, and I believe it's a good
thing that Debian is able to interpret a license's freeness for itself.
If Debian (in the form of the debian-legal mailing list and the
ftpmasters) continues to render its own interpretation of the OSD, do
you still see benefits to convergence in the text of the guidelines?

> Regardless of the merits of this proposal, I see two problems with the
> current DFSG.  One is that software must comply with the DFSG to be a
> part of Debian, and yet the DFSG does not admit the possibility of
> public-domain unlicensed software.  Then again, neither does the OSD,
> because we're only applying it to licenses.  Another problem is that
> the DFSG does not prohibit a license from requiring a specific form of
> affirmative assent known as click-wrap.  Our recently-passed change to 
> the OSD fixes that problem.

For your first example, I'm not aware that Debian has ever turned away
public domain software due to the lack of license; and in any case,
providing a DFSG-compliant license for PD software is trivial, owing to
the nature of the public domain.  I'm inclined to believe that your
second example is also a minor issue, because if the software is
DFSG-compliant in all other respects, it should be possible to legally
remove the click-wrap requirement from the code -- just as you can
charge someone a fee for giving them GPL software, but you cannot
prevent them from giving it away for free once they have it.

Can you provide a reference to the changes to the OSD text for our

Steve Langasek
postmodern programmer

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