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Re: PHPNuke license

On Fri, Feb 28, 2003 at 01:07:21PM -0600, John Goerzen wrote:
> I didn't try to reach a conclusion about DFSG-freeness with the above
> statement for the precise reason that I couldn't find a consensus on the
> issue with my quick list searching.  I'm just saying "I don't like the BSD
> advertising clause, and this is like that, and I dont like it either."

Okay.  Ultimately I think we should try to reform the DFSG or our
interpretation of it such that the advertising clause is no longer
regarded as DFSG; it is impractical, and the vast majority of important
software that used to carry the 4-clause BSD license has transitioned to
the 3-clause BSD license (or a different license entirely).

> I agree with your assesment.
> However, I would like to play devil's advocate for a second:
>   A person could consider a Web application to be a program that
>   "reads commands interactively" in the same sense that a GUI app does.
>   In this sense, GPL 2c is binding upon us to leave that in place.
>   This is the argument made by the FSF staffer I cited before.

It's a stretch.  Given the GNU FDL and some rumblings about what might
be in GNU GPL v3, it may be that the FSF is going to be in a mood to
repudiate http://www.fsf.org/philosophy/bsd.html sometime soon.  (I
sincerely hope I'm wrong about that.)

I for one, still find myself in strong sympathy with the arguments put
forward in that article, and I think it is inconsistent to apply its
reasoning solely to the old 4-clause BSD license.

Furthermore, a broad interpretation of 2c would be inconsistent with the
way most FSF programs actually work.  The stuff in GNU coreutils doesn't
generally spew a copyright notice and warranty disclaimer to standard
output or standard error when these programs are are run for their
typical uses; otherwise normal shell sessions would be awash in legal
notices and we'd need 100,000 lines of scrollback in our terminals just
so we could get some work done.

Which FSF staffer advocated this extremely broad interpretation of 2c?
If this heresy is the new GNU orthodoxy we may have some problems.

> The problem with that argument is that 2c does not state HOW the notice has
> to be stated.  It could be in an "About" box on the site.  The Yale LawMeme
> is taking the position that embedding it in a comment in the HTML source is
> sufficient.  I think that is a shaky argument along the lines of "well I
> embedded a copyright notice in the X protocol stream, it's not my fault that
> it's black on black text..."

I don't think it's that shaky.  There's a large middle ground between
obfuscating something and ramming it down their throats.

As I have said before (in one of the long threads about the LPPL), this
is not the sort of issue we need to be solving by specifying precise
technological requirements in license texts.

> Another issue raised here is that we could be dealing with a little
> different set of circumstances if you consider the act of viewing a web page
> as distributing parts of the source code to PHPNuke, possibly modified. 
> This is a whole quagmire and trying to figure out its implications is not a
> quick exercise.

Yes, I do not think it is ethical to slap your own copyright on someone
else's work.  If I write a novel and put it up on the web, and my
publishing technology happens to be PHPNuke, the copyright holders of
PHPNuke have no claim on my original work (they'd better not, or PHPNuke
violates DFSG 9, "License Must Not Contaminate Other Software"), and
nothing should appear to the viewer that would imply thus.

> I'm not saying I endorse either of those positions; just that they have been
> advanced and we should take note of them.

Agreed.  The FSF's apparent change of heart regarding
http://www.fsf.org/philosophy/bsd.html is a little saddening.

> > I'll note that the GNU GPL's 2c), for instance, does not mandate that
> > the announcement of the copyright notice and warranty disclaimer be
> > placed into files output or processed by the software, which is what
> > PHPNuke is doing.
> It does mandate that it be shown or available to the user.  So you are
> correct that they are going beyond that, though.

Just for the record, 2c says "you must cause it...to print or display an

> > Moreover, the copyright holders of PHPNuke are compelling us as
> > licensees to impose a "futher restriction" on the exercise by users of
> > this Debian package of their rights under the GNU GPL.  This is not
> > permitted by GPL clause 6, and therefore the Debian Project "may not
> > distribute the Program at all." (GPL clause 7)
> I'm not sure this really makes sense.  We have seen other software licensed
> with "GPL with exceptions" before -- such as software that uses OpenSSL.  I
> think this is a case of the copyright holder using "GPL with exceptions".

This isn't worded like a "GPL with exceptions" clause, and more to the
point, it isn't the GPL with an exception granting extra permissions, as
OpenSSL-using software is.  That's what we mean when we say "GPL with
exceptions".  It is the GPL with an extra *restriction*, which causes
problems with sections 6 and 7 of the GPL.

"GPL with exceptions" doesn't mean "GPL plus any old thing the copyright
holder wants to toss in".  A GPL'ed work with exceptions has to remain
compatible with other GPLed works, or a very large part of the rationale
behind the GPL -- to create a software "freedom zone" where code can
interoperate and be shared without fear of appropriation by
proprietarians -- is defeated.

G. Branden Robinson                |      "I came, I saw, she conquered."
Debian GNU/Linux                   |      The original Latin seems to have
branden@debian.org                 |      been garbled.
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |      -- Robert Heinlein

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