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Re: Perl module license clarification

On Wed, Feb 05, 2003 at 08:41:25PM +0000, James Troup wrote:
> Branden Robinson <branden@debian.org> writes:
> > Yes, isn't there quite a lot of stuff in main that already has this
> > "problem"?  Would it be inaccurate to say that there's a whole heck
> > of a lot of precedent indicating that using this license language is
> > acceptable?
> Only for perl packages AFAIK, and precedent doesn't mean all that
> much?

Well, that depends on how conscious and deliberate the precedent is.

> e.g. there was plenty of precedent for "overlooking" the SSL vs. GPL
> problem, that doesn't mean IMO that we shouldn't have ever started
> dealing with it.

That's true, but I think the SSL vs. GPL problem was overlooked because
a lot of people didn't really understand how the GPL applied to our
situation.  In other words, they weren't really aware of the licensing.  In
contrast, my suspicion is that most people who package Perl modules do
actually notice the language "under the same terms as Perl itself", and
comprehend that to mean the work is licensed under both the old Artistic
and GNU GPL version 2, which as far as I know is a perfectly reasonable

In other words, precedents have to be judged independently for their

> > One way to interpret this language might be "this work is licensed under
> > any license that has ever applied to Perl, past or present".  Since that
> > set uncontroversially includes version 2 of the GNU GPL, this
> > interpretation should plant all works so licensed firmly into
> > DFSG-orthodoxy.
> > 
> > Does anyone have a problem with the above interpretation?
> Well, some of what I said on debian-perl applies.
> http://lists.debian.org/debian-perl/2003/debian-perl-200301/msg00004.html
> And also see:
> http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2003/debian-legal-200302/msg00044.html

Yes, I've reviewed these messages.  I am unsure how much of a problem
sudden relicensing of Perl really is.  Should it happen, we (Debian)
will have ample warning and opportunity to pour cement over everything
licensed under this delegation approach.  I imagine the rest of the
world would do so as well, and someone would probably fork CPAN itself
to ensure that there was no trouble.

And because I think that would be the result if Perl were to be
relicensed in a way unfriendly to the Free Software community, I don't
think the Perl developers are going to let it happen.  While one can
tell from their language that they are clearly perverse folks[1], I've
not seen much evidence that they are perverse about licensing -- the
Clarified Artistic is a vast improvement on the original Artistic

> Incidentally, people might want to read the two threads about this
> subject on debian-perl.

I've read one; I'll catch up on the other.

> Ardo has a serious chip on his shoulder about the whole thing. 

In the thread I read, I saw no evidence of this.

> The fact is I rejected a package of his which (AFAICR) said little
> more than "same terms as perl" and at best had a pointer to perl's
> copyright file.  If people want to ignore the issues like "what is
> Perl" and similar, that's fine, but I don't think it's unreasonable to
> ask for at least a pointer to one of the licenses in base-files[1] (as
> required by policy).

That's reasonable.   We can hem and haw about what it "really means" to
delegate one's licensing decisions to the Perl developers, but it
shouldn't be a big deal to ask someone to comply with Debian Policy in
the copyright department.

> We've rejected (and will continue to reject) packages for similar
> things (e.g. mozilla-locale-foo referring to mozilla's copyright file
> or an external MPL file).

I've been asked to do something similar with XFree86, and I have refused
for this reason.

> Both Colin and I already told Ardo how to proceed but that doesn't
> matter because he's got an agenda and it's not about getting
> clarification.

I think it should be possible to resolve this dispute without worrying
about other people's motivations.

[1] you guessed right, that's a joke!

G. Branden Robinson                |      When dogma enters the brain, all
Debian GNU/Linux                   |      intellectual activity ceases.
branden@debian.org                 |      -- Robert Anton Wilson
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |

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