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Re: Packaging Swiss Ephemeris Free Edition for Debian GNU/Linux

Jaldhar H. Vyas wrote:
Dear Mr. Koch and Dr. Treindl,

First of all let me thank you for your Swiss Ephemeris software.  I have
found it to be very useful in the calculation of Hindu Calendars.  I am
writing to you because I am one of the volunteer maintainers of the
Debian GNU/Linux operating system (http://www.debian.org/) and I would
like to package your software for inclusion therein.

Debian has stringent guidelines for the kind of software we include
(http://www.debian.org/social_contract#dfsg)  The Debian Free Software
Guidelines are the basis of the Open Source Definition and are widely
regarded as the gold standard of Free/Open Source software.  While the
Swiss Ephemeris Public License seems to meet our requirements, there are a
few places which are a little unclear and we would appreciate it very much
if you could provide clarifications.

   "without any charge beyond the costs of data transfer."

Did you mean this to prohibit for-profit distribution?

   "This license file and the copyright notices in the source files are the
   only places where the author's names may legally appear without specific
   prior written permission."

Is the intent of this clause to stop the use of your names as endorsements
of derived software or may they truly not be used in any place whatsoever?

   "You may copy and distribute the SE provided that the entire package is
   distributed, including this License."

Does "entire" mean the entire pre-modification version, or entire *after*
it has been modified ?  What if the modifications were so extensive that
there isn't much of the original Swiss Ephemeris code left?

   "If you do not meet the requirements in the SEPL, for example if
   - you develop and distribute software which is sold for a fee higher than a
     reasonable copy charge
   - or/and you develop and distribute software which is not published under an
     Open Source or equivalent license
     you must purchase the Swiss Ephemeris Professional Edition under the Swiss
     Ephemeris Professional License."

This part of the preamble seems to contradict the language in the license
itself.  Is it permitted to include software which is SEPL licensed along
with other software which does not qualify? (i.e. on a CD of non-free
software.)  Do you consider the preamble to be a normative interpretation
of the license terms?

Thankyou in advance for your response and please maintain the cc to


I am afraid we have currently no time to deal with the legal details implied by your questions.

In consequence, we find it simpler if you refrain from including Swiss Ephemeris at this time into a Debian distribution.

We are ware of shortcomings of our license, and that we should replace it with something more clear.

We wanted and want a dual licensing concept, where we force commercial users to use the paid license, and allow (open source && non-commercial) usage via a free license.

But we have other things to do than dealing with the legal stuff.

Our original license was inspired by the QT license. I am aware that they have gone to GPL, in a dual licensing concept, but have not studied their details.

I think nobody has a disadvantage if Swiss Ephemeris is not included in Debian, but has to be downloaded separately from our site.

If you can help us with setting up a license which fulfils our intention and at the same time has no unclear points, you are welcome to provide suggestions.

Best regards
|| Alois Treindl,  Astrodienst AG,  mailto:alois@astro.com
|| Zollikon/Zurich, Switzerland
|| Free astrological charts at      http://www.astro.com/
|| SWISS EPHEMERIS Free Edition at   http://www.astro.com/swisseph/

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