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Re: The Show So Far

On Tue, Mar 11, 2003 at 12:49:19PM -0800, Thomas Bushnell, BSG wrote:
> So IIUC, Anthony Towns is especially exercised by the alleged
> difficulty with the QPL's apparent forced publication requirement,
> which he things should be no difficulty at all.

No, I'm not decided on it. I don't see what the difficulty is. I'm not
making any positive claims yet.

> Why a Forced Publication Requirement is Not Free
> ------------------------------------------------
> The basic reason here is "for the same reason a forced-disclosure of
> your tax returns" is not free.  Even if it's only on request, even if
> the requestor offers to pay your costs, it's still not free.  We
> wouldn't tolerate the one, we shouldn't tolerate the other.  We
> wouldn't accept "you must chant the Hare Krishna".  Adding a
> restriction, is an impingement on freedom.  But free software licenses
> do have restrictions?  How is that OK?  Read on.

If the taxGPL required you to distribute your tax return when you
distributed binaries, that would be non-free, so the analogy doesn't
work that well.

The basic tests we make are:

	(a) can you get source, and is it possible to make and distribute
	    modifications at all under any circumstances?

	(b) can Debian package it, maintain it and distribute it,
	    without going to too much trouble?

	(c) if you're a broke student, stuck on a desert island, with just
	    enough resources to hack on the code, can you do so, and pass
	    it on to the beatiful MOTAS who's stranded there with you,
	    so you can impress 'em with your leet hackcing skills?

These are all technical tests: if (a) fails, we have no hope of doing
anything with it, if (b) fails, Debian can't distribute it, and if (c)
fails, maintaining it is going to be overly difficult since some of us
are broke students, and others can't reasonably communicate with everyone
on the planet.

I think it would be really nice to be able to justify tests like:

	(d) can you use it completely naively - without reading,
	    understanding or thinking about the license - without running
	    the risk of violating the license

	(e) can you modify it to make it useful, then use it similarly

on similar technical grounds; since those things do have real benefits
to users.

But not having patch clauses or notice-when-interactive requirements
also has benefits to users -- that alone just isn't enough.

> Anthony Towns is quite right that it is illegitimate to argue "this is
> a genuine pain, so it must be non-free".  

I think there's a difference between having people be *unable* to hack
on the software (in the case of the desert island, or the broke student),
and having people be *unwilling* to hack on it (in the case of Microsoft
and the GPL, or the protestor and the QPL).

The AGPL makes it *impossible* to use the code in a system that can't
run an HTTP server; whereas patch clauses, changelog requirements and
little notices when run interactivity, while rather annoying, don't get
in the way of anything really useful.

But the sort of pain the GPL causes is much more voluntary: you can
hack on the code, you just can't base a business on monopoly control of
the sources.

> By contrast, forced publication requirements *are* an imposition on freedom.

Please stop with the argument by assertion.

The GPL is an imposition on freedom. It's an imposition on your freedom to
distribute binaries without source. It's an imposition on your freedom to
convert non-interactive programs to interactive ones. It's an imposition
on your freedom to make changes without having to document them.

> Are they a genuine pain?  Anthony Towns, IIUC, would only accept them
> if one need not pay for the forced publication.  The purpose of the
> Dissident and Lawyer tests is to show that monetary payment is not the
> only sort of genuine pain that is relevant.  

The validity of the "dissident" and "lawyer" tests are under
question. Given that they want to keep their source code secret, they're
in pretty much the same situation as Microsoft -- and our answer to
Microsoft is that they're welcome to use free software, but they'll need
to check their licenses.

> The "ASP loophole", it seems to me, is merely another technical means
> for a dynamic link, and should be subject to exactly the same
> requirements as for all other kinds of dynamic linking.

That would imply that all GPL clients for which there are no GPL servers
are undistributable. I don't believe that interpretation has any legal
justification, either; there is simply no copying or modification
taking place.


Anthony Towns <aj@humbug.org.au> <http://azure.humbug.org.au/~aj/>
I don't speak for anyone save myself. GPG signed mail preferred.

  ``Dear Anthony Towns: [...] Congratulations -- 
        you are now certified as a Red Hat Certified Engineer!''

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