Re: DFSG FAQ (draft)
Scripsit Florian Weimer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> 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?
I can see the point, but I think the answer you propose sounds too
much like automatic CYA-legalese. In particular, I have to disagree
with the ending:
> 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.
In my opinion we actually try our damnedest to make sure, to the best
of our knowledge, that people *can* rely of having the DFSG freedoms
when they use software from Debian. To claim that we're doing all of
this solely to make a political statement would be dishonest in the
extreme, in addition to being a great joke considering the differences
in political views among d-l regular that occasionally escalate into
I'd be more comfortable with an ending that called a spade a space,
perhaps something like
In short, while we try our best to include only free software in
Debian, we can and do make mistakes on occasion. When that happens
and is found out, we shall be immensely embarrassed, but we cannot
be liable legally to users or distributors who, trusting our
judgement, suffered losses because of the mistake.
We expect our users and distributors to understand that the
existence of some software in Debian does not constitue any
guarantee that it is free. It merely means that either we have not
yet become aware of any reasons why it is not free, or that we have
found such reasons but have not yet taken action on them. 
Users and distributors must understand that they alone must bear the
legal risk inherent in relying on information that they got for free
from a self-appointed team of mostly unknown unpaid volunteers who
gathered it in their own time and using their own, mostly lay,
knowledge. If you cannot accept that risk yourself, we must advise
you either not to use or distribute Debian, or to hire a lawyer for
yourself and have him/her research the legal state of each piece of
 Perhaps then there should also be a follow-up question along the
Q. How can I find out if there are known doubts about the freedom of
a particular package in Debian but for some reason they have not
yet led to it being removed from the archive?
A. If someone becomes sufficiently convinced that a package already
in Debian is not free after all, they will file a
release-critical bug against the package, so your first step
would be to search our bug-tracking database at
It is common for such bugs staying open for several weeks or
months without the package actually being removed, for example
because the Debian maintainer hopes to be able to reslove the
situation through dialogue with the upstream author.
If you want to track even preliminary suspicions that have not
yet reached that degree of certainty, you will need to follow
debian-legal or read its archives.
except that I don't know if that can say with a straight face that
such RC bugs will always filed if the maintainer acknowledges the
problem and is working with upstream to get the license changed or
Henning Makholm "Punctuation, is? fun!"