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Re: DFSG FAQ (draft)

Barak Pearlmutter <barak@cs.may.ie> writes:

> If people think it could be of some official use, I'd be pleased if it
> were taken over into a more formal location.

| Unless the material is dual-licensed under the GFDL and an accepted
| free license, Debian in general does not consider material under the
| GFDL to be free.

I think it's premature to include such a statement in an official
document.  As far as I can tell, only a very vocal minority shares
this point of view.

I'd like suggest a further question and anser:

X.  If some software is free according to Debian's standards, do I
    still face legal risks when I use, modify or distribute it?

We sincerely hope you don't, but our process does not guarantee this.
As stated above, Debian just looks at the license of the software to
decide whether it meets the project's standards for free software.

However, beyond that, there are sill many causes for legal problems,
some of them listed below.

   o The software has been misappropriated, and a license has been
     applied to it without approval of the actual copyright owner.  In
     this case, Debian's evaluation is based on false premises and
     therefore useless.

   o The software includes code which is copyrighted by third parties
     and not released under a free license, or the license terms are
     violated (e.g. if they are incompatible with other license
     requirements).  As Debian only examines the license and not the
     actual code, this cannot be detected (in particular if the
     problematic code is copied without proper attribution).  However,
     in a few cases, such license violations are detected (in
     particular between the GPL and requirements for advertising).

   o The software can infringe trademarks.  Distributors may be held
     liable in some countries.  Currently, Debian does not check for
     trademarks and their misuse.

   o The software can infringe patents.  Again, distributors may be
     held liable.  Debian checks only a very short list of well-known,
     but rather arbitrary patents, and this check is only performed on
     a case-by-case basis.

   o Use of the software might be illegal according to local law.

   o Distribution of the software could be illegal, as a result of
     import or export restrictions and/or regulations of what software
     can legally implement.

As a result, Debian's claim that a particular computer program is free
software is a *political* statement, not a statement of legal
relevance on which you can rely, be it as a user, software developer
or distributor.

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