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Re: Proposed: Debian's Five Freedoms for Free Works

Branden Robinson <branden@debian.org> wrote:
> I would say that the controlling preference is that of the person who
> last modified the Work and distributed it in that modified form.  Anyone
> downstream from that person would have to keep the "source" in that form
> and the "binary" together.

I think one formulation that makes this a bit more explicit is this:

  4) The freedom to change the Work for any purpose, to distribute one's
  changes, and to distribute the Work in modified form. Unrestricted
  access to the form of the work which is preferred by its author for
  making modifications, if applicable, is a precondition for this.

(with the possible addition of the words "or translator" after
"author"). This makes explicit the fact that there is no single
preferred form. If you allow individual authors to define their own
preferred version, you solve problems like this --

  Andrea writes a program in C. Marty rewrites Andrea's program in
  Fortran. Ulysses gets Marty's binary and asks for source -- Marty
  can send his Fortran source because it is the form Marty prefers for
  making modifications.

Alternately, assume Marty lives on a "proprietary island" and only
has access to proprietary programming languages. Marty should not be
barred from translating Andrea's program into a proprietary language and
distributing his modifications in that language (which is "preferred"
because its the only thing he's got).

I think any definition of preferred form needs to pass this test. In
other words, I think that any definition of "preferred form" that
requires an "open" or "transparent" format will be non-free. The same
holds true for document formats of course. The person who aims to
prepare a derivative work should have the option of using whatever form
she prefers, and should have no obligation beyond the distribution of
modifications in her preferred form. I am not sure at this point the
extent to which certain exceptions need to be in place in the case
where the author has some vested interest in selling you a proprietary
interpreter (in the extreme case, "pay me $100 for the AES key you need
to decrypt my preferred form"). Any thoughts?


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