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Re: GNOME Font Copyright

On Feb 25, J.B. Nicholson-Owens wrote:

> I asked if my understanding of the exchange was correct--GNOME
> distributes Bitstream's non-free Vera fonts and in exchange Bitstream
> eventually supplies DFSG-free software.

I believe this is incorrect -- I don't think that GNOME is compelled to
distribute nonfree "beta" versions in order to receive the final free
version -- but if you want a definitive answer you should contact Jim
Gettys of the GNOME Foundation <Jim.Gettys@hp.com>, who worked with
Bitstream to make the Vera fonts free.

My understanding is that the software is ready for use, while the
legal steps to finalize the license are not.  Bitstream and GNOME have
decided to offer a "preview" of an upcoming free software product.

Many important Free Software projects have been temporarily non-free
for similar reasons; for example, the hpijs project was under a semi-
restricted license until legal reviews allowed the owner to make the
software completely free.  If the intermediate non-free stage helps the
owner's transition to free software, then I am in favor of it.

> I'm trying to learn precisely why GNOME chose to distribute non-free
> software.

Sometimes you make free software by writing code.  Other times you make
free software by getting involved with non-free software and guiding it
on the path toward being free.

I understand the position that all non-free software distribution harms
users, without exception.  RMS gives some well-reasoned arguments for
this view.  But I disagree with him, and apparently at least some
members of the GNOME Foundation do too.

> I think the can't-distribute-fonts-alone-for-a-fee clause is
> counterproductive [...]

I agree that it is counterproductive.  I also feel that certain
requirements of the Artistic License and the GNU GPL are counter-
productive, but I am willing to put up with some inconvenience
in order to honor the authors' wishes.

The important thing to me is that the software gives me the freedoms
that ensure I can use it productively.  Authors often protect their own
interests in ways that cause extra hassle for others distributing their
software.  As long as I still have the rights I require, I will still
use the software even if it means potential extra work for me.

The FSF makes a distinction between licenses that eliminate freedoms,
and licenses that annoy users who practice those freedoms.  About the
original BSD license, for example, they say: "The flaw is not fatal;
that is, it does not render the software non-free. But it does cause
practical problems, including incompatibility with the GNU GPL."

Of course, even if we consider the draft license free, it is reasonable
to want to remove the practical problems.  Has anyone sent feedback to
Bitstream and the GNOME Foundation suggesting alternate terms that might
be acceptable for Bitstream?

I think the language in Section 5 of the Artistic License ("do not
advertise this Package as a product of your own") might be a less
cumbersome way for Bitstream to protect their interests.

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