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

Nicolas Kratz <nick@ikarus.dyndns.org> writes:
> On Thu, Jun 12, 2003 at 11:00:51PM -0500, Branden Robinson 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.
>> Unfortunately I can see an easy way to abuse this: Malicious proprieteer
>> "A" takes a Free Work and modifies its Source extensively.  "A" then
>> distributes the modified Work and Source to complicit agent "B", who
>> converts the Source into a less useful format and makes a trivial
>> change.  Agent "B" then distributes the modified Work along with the
>> Source in the hobbled form he can -- with some legitimacy -- claim to be
>> his "preferred form for modifying the work".
> Hmmm... Wouldn't distributing the modified Free Work, even if it's only
> distributed to "B", require "A" to make available the modified Free Work
> to third parties? Then one could start from there, and utterly disregard
> "B"s obfuscated version.
> I'm pretty sure that is the case with the GPL, not sure about other
> licenses.

B would have irrevocable permission to transfer its rights to anyone
it pleased (which is just what A wanted), but A would not necessarily
have any obligation to do any further distributing, or, even if it did
continue, to distribute to any particular person. The one exception is
the theme of section 3 of the GPL: if A distributes a binary, A must
either distribute the source alongside or must include an offer to
distribute the source to any third party who requests it within 3
years; presumably others would find out about the offer from B if B
decided to redistribute the binary non-commerically. But B needn't
disclose this offer; B could intentionally make itself ineligible to
transfer A's offer by conducting its own distribution commercially;
and, even more simply, A could just give B the source in the first

Gregory K. Johnson

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