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Re: OSD && DFSG - different purposes - constructive suggestion!

Anthony Towns <aj@azure.humbug.org.au> writes:

> Uh, no. The difference is here that we want to allow the people to do
> free software development on the island, assuming they already have the
> abilitiy to. The copyright license is the sole worry we have here --
> nothing else affects what they're permitted to do.

Yes, I agree.  I'm not saying there is no difference.

> In the dissident case, we're trying to protect the people from having to
> reveal their changes to the government they're protesting. But this just
> doesn't make any real sense: the code they're hacking on is the least of
> their worries - it's the contents of their databases, not their bugfix to
> select query processing that they need to keep private; and furthermore
> it's the government's laws that will put them most at risk here -- of
> being accused of spying, eg -- not the copyright license. So from what
> I can see, we're protecting something of little value, and then doing
> a bad job of it.

I don't think we can expect a free software license to fix the world.
And it's important to realize that the test is a standin for a less
extreme situation.

For example, consider the person who doesn't want the fact that they
work on free software to be public knowledge for many reasons--perhaps
it would be personally or professionally embarrassing.  We should not
force this person to do the development "in the open".

It is in this respect that I said the two tests were similar: both use
an extreme case, but only really as a stand-in for much more frequent

> > I'm not entirely happy about the GPL's interactivity requirement, but
> > the only thing that makes me think it's reasonable is that it is (in
> > some places) the only way to have the no-warranty clause be honored by
> > the courts, and the original author should be able to limit his
> > warranty damages.  The forced-ad-on-web-pages doesn't meet any purpose
> > except the author's vanity.

> Nonsense: its purpose is to make the following requirement effective in
> ensuring people contribute their changes back to the community. You know,
> closing the ASP Loophole, and all that.

I overspoke.  I should have said that it doesn't meet any purpose that
I find is legitimate.  Free software does *not* require contributions
to "the community".  It never has in the past, at least.  The GPL does
*not* require you contribute your changes to "the community".  I'm all
for the community, but free software is about *freedom*, not about

Mind you--I'm a great fan of communitarianism.  But I want even the
nasty evil non-communitarians to have freedom.  

One can certainly use a license like this to enforce communitarianism,
but then one might as well use the license to enforce all the other
social goods I care about.  We could require contributions to the Red
Cross, or prohibit the use of the software by racial bigots.  But I
don't want that in a free software license, because it would impinge
freedom, even though the end sought is a good end.  In other words,
even things which might promote the cause of free software can still
be impingements on freedom.

It happens that one very happy by-product of free software licensing
has been communitarianism, and I'm entirely pleased with that result.
But as soon as it becomes an *enforced* result, rather than a
byproduct of free software, the software ceases to be free.

Rather like free speech: One consequence of free speech is that it's
harder to get away with all kinds of lies.  But as soon as you
prohibit the publication of lies, you no longer have free speech.  So
we must let the Nazis march in Skokie, not because we like the Nazis,
but because if we prohibit them, we have given in to the Nazis.

> If you receive a request like that, then you can provide them with a
> copy of your current changes after receiving payment for your costs in
> doing so, and you've not only satisfied the license, you've probably
> successfully confused them so they won't ask you again in future. When
> you make further changes, you're not obligated to do anything until you
> receive another request. I can play word games just as easily as you.

I see nothing in the license that you are entitled to require costs.
Nor does the license restrict itself to past changes at the time of
the request.  If it did, it wouldn't be nearly as problematic--it
might even be fine; I haven't thought about that case.  But the
license as it sits has no such limitation on the original author's
right to obtain your changes from you.

There is also no limitation how the author makes the request.  From
the license terms, a publicly posted message directed to the world
would be sufficient; as soon as you became aware of the request, you
would be obligated to send your changes.  (If you didn't know about
the request, then it seems to me that you wouldn't have any
obligation.)  Nothing in the license says that the request has to be
individually generated or directed at some specific person.

> If you want the possible term defined more precisely, consider something 
> more like:
> 	"If you have distributed a modified version of The Work, then if
> 	 you receive a request by the Primary Copyright Holder (named
> 	 above), you must provide a copy of your modifications as at the
> 	 time you receive the request, at cost, to the Primary Copyright
> 	 Holder."

I'm speaking of the actual QPL, not possible future variations.  As I
note above, this may fix one problem, but I'd still not be entirely
happy with it.


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