OSD && DFSG - different purposes - constructive suggestion!
This is a suggestion for how we (Debian) can help the OSD people
without too much work, and in a way which would be good for us too.
First, the DFSG is fine and doesn't need any hacking.
However, in explaining to Russ Nelson and others why certain licenses
don't meet our criteria, we bring up certain "smell tests" that we
use. Like the "desert island" scenario, or the "chinese dissident"
one, or how being required to make modifications publicly available
when the modified version has been distributed violates, in our eyes,
Let's write this stuff down in a DFSG FAQ. It would help on
debian-legal because we will be able to say "see DFSG FAQ Q4"
sometimes, thus helping cut off repetitive threads. And it will help
people understand where we're coming from without wading through
Here is a rough outline of which I think it could look like:
Q: Purpose of this DFSG FAQ
A: To answer common questions about the Debian Free Software
Guidelines and how we judge whether some piece of software is free.
Q: What is debian-legal?
A: a mailing list on which we discuss legal questions related to
debian, including in particular whether some particular bit of
software is free. Often this depends on its "license" which me must
judge as to whether it is a free software license.
Q: How do you do this?
A: the process involves human judgment. The DFSG is an attempt to
articulate some of our criteria. But the DFSG is not a contract.
This means that if you think you found a "loophole" in the DFSG then
you don't really understand how this works. The DFSG is a,
potentially imperfect, attempt to express "freeness" in software. It
is not something whose letter we argue about. It is not a law.
Rather, it is a set of guidelines.
Q: How can I tell if some license is free?
A: well, the DFSG is a good start. You might also consider a few
thought experiments which we often apply.
1. the desert island scenario.
Imagine someone stuck on ... impossible to fulfill ...
2. the Chinese Dissident.
Consider a dissident in China who wishes to share a modified bit
of software with other dissidents, but does not want to reveal
his own identity as the modifier or directly reveal the
modifications to the government. Any requirement for ...
Q: what does "no discrimination" mean? Doesn't the GPL discriminate
against companies making proprietary software?
A: Some more examples (beyond those in the DFSG) are ... The GPL
does not discriminate against companies that want to make proprietary
software because they are given the same rights to GPLed software
that anyone else has. They just happen to also want the right to
make the software non-free. No one is given that right, so this is