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Re: DFSG-freeness of Apache Software Licenses

On Wednesday, November 12, 2003, at 09:39  PM, Brian M. Carlson wrote:
The subscribers of the debian-legal list have examined all three of the
proposed licenses and it seems that the consensus is that none of the
licenses are Free Software licenses, according to the Debian Free
Software Guidelines. You can see the thread of discussion starting at

I have read the comments.  Why are people "judging" the "freeness"
of software according to the DFSG without actually referring to the
DFSG itself?  DFSG determines what is or is not free for Debian, not
someone gabbing on a mailing list, and certainly not a "consensus"
as expressed by three individuals.


Some comments are to the effect that the contributor license is
assigning copyright.  Those comments are misinformed.  Even our signed
CLAs only give the ASF a license.

Several comments are to the effect that the patent license cannot be
terminated.  There is no such restriction in the DFSG.  Furthermore,
the GPL, BSD, and other licenses that Debian claims are free have no
patent license grant at all, which is equivalent to a terminated
license. If the proposed 2.0 license is non-free, then none of your
example licenses are free either.

Your comment regarding "I think that we have prohibited such
litigation-termination licenses as non-free" only applies to
clauses that terminate the ENTIRE license, copyright and patent.
Our termination clause only applies to the patent license -- it has
no effect on redistribution, and no additional effect on use than
what would exist without the patent grant.

One comment is that the NOTICE file might contain a tome of work
that isn't appropriate as a requirement for redistribution.  That
comment is sensible and should be addressed.  However, I will note
that no such restriction exists in the DFSG, since it is well within
the scope of DFSG.4.  It is thus entirely "free", even if it is a
bad idea.

One comment is to the effect that the NOTICE file must contain
legally required terms of use.  That is absurd -- there is no such
restriction in DFSG.  Another comment indicates that allowing
advertisement notices (a.k.a., attribution) in the NOTICE file
would make it not GPL-compatible -- that comment is hopelessly
misinformed.  The GPL does not oppose attribution notices within
the source code -- it even requires them in some cases.  The GPL
compatibility requires that the GPL itself be the superset of all
terms of the derived work, which it would be in this case.  The fact
that GPL requires distribution of source using exactly the same
words as the NOTICE condition makes it sufficient.

One comment is to the effect that the RI and TCK agreements
are not free because they restrict the manner in which a trademarked
namespace can be modified *and* redistributed.  Such restrictions are
well within the constraints of DFSG.4.  Whether or not individuals
dislike it is not relevant -- it is a requirement passed down by
the Java Community Process.  AFAIK, Debian does not redistribute
Java software, so neither the RI nor the TCK licenses apply to Debian.

One comment is that it is 48K of text.  The copy I wrote, including
all of the example text and panic disclaimer, is 13935 bytes, and
the terms and conditions are 1426 words.  The GPL is 18007 bytes,
with 2004 words in the T&C.

The consequences of the license of Apache being non-free (I realize it
has not yet been adopted) is that it would be placed in the non-free
archive, which is not a part of Debian. Software in non-free is not
autobuilt for any architecture (there are 11 on Linux alone) and it does
not receive the same level of quality assurance as software in main
does. It is also possible that non-free will disappear soon.

Given the number of times Debian has violated our original Apache
license by redistributing modified versions of Apache httpd as if
they were the original, but actually containing security faults
and installation incompatibilities introduced by your repackaging
and addition of unreviewed "features", it would actually be a relief
not to be distributed in Debian.

However, the comments suggesting that the 2.0 license is not "free"
have no basis in the DFSG.  There are many good reasons for not
wanting the contributors agreements and patent license in the Apache
licenses, not to mention the Java gunk, but those opinions can and
should be stated on their own merit so that our members can take
them into consideration, without the pollution of inaccurate
statements about the DFSG.  The DFSG is far more liberal than the
opinions expressed on your mailing list.


Roy T. Fielding, co-founder, The Apache Software Foundation
                 (fielding@apache.org)  <http://www.apache.org/>

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