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Re: Bug#227159: ocaml: license conflict in Emacs Lisp support?

On Mon, Jan 12, 2004 at 05:18:40PM -0500, Brian T. Sniffen wrote:
> Sven Luther wrote:
> >On Mon, Jan 12, 2004 at 02:12:13PM -0500, Brian T. Sniffen wrote:
> >
> >>Sven Luther wrote:
> >>
> >>>On Mon, Jan 12, 2004 at 01:00:54PM -0500, Jeremy Hankins wrote:
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>>Sven Luther <sven.luther@wanadoo.fr> writes:
> >>>>
> >>>>
> >>>>
> >>>>>>uncertain about whether you should disable the automatic generation
> >>>>>>of .elc files.
> >>>>>
> >>>>>Why ? We clearly are not violating the GPL by doing so, so where is
> >>>>>the problem.
> >>>>
> >>>>If the situation is perfectly clear and uncontroversial to you, either
> >>>>you don't know what you're talking about, or everyone else is confused
> >>>>but you.  I put my money on the former.  Saying you disagree is one
> >>>>thing, saying any other perspective is clearly wrong is silly.
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>Come on, we don't distribute binaries of it, so how could this break the
> >>>GPL ?
> >>
> >>Simple: Debian distributes Emacs and this elisp file.  Futher, it 
> >>distributes a mechanism for combining them and causing them to 
> >>interoperate.  Thus, any Debian Distribution installation of both is a 
> >>derived work of both Emacs and this elisp file.  The components must be 
> >>available under the terms of the GPL, so that individual component -- 
> >>the elisp file -- must be available under the terms of the GPL.
> >
> >
> >Yep, but whatever you say, the GPL is a licence which applies on
> >distribution only, not use.
> Indeed.  And you are pointing out that we distribute Emacs and this 
> elisp file together, more closely intermingled than "mere aggregation" 
> would imply.

And, were is the problem ? The GPL is especifically against distributing
the result of the linking of GPLed code with uncompatible code. It
doesn't say anything against distributing GPLed and GPL incompatible but
free code in the same tarball or package, as long as it is not linked
together. If that was not the case, then all our GPLed packages would
have been undistributable, since at least the GPL document itself is
clearly non-free.

I don't know, i have the impression that the response i am getting here
are not based on legal theory and reading and interpreting the licence,
but on some pre-decision made because of that RMS quote. I am quite

> >>>The DFSG issue might be a different story, but even there, i am not sure
> >>>it is correct though, since the GPL cause problem at link time, not at
> >>>binary distribution time. And nothing is stopping us to distribute
> >>>binaries of the .el compiled by a non-GPL lisp compiler or something.
> >>
> >>Good luck finding a non-GPL'd compiler for a dynamically scoped Lisp 
> >>with bindings similar to Elisp.
> >
> >
> >Well, it should be easy to write one, at least one which would parse and
> >use the incriminating files.
> That creation after the fact does not change whether the elisp file was 
> created as a derivative work of Emacs.

Yeah, and ? As long as we don't distribute linked stuff it should be ok.

> >>>>>>So I think talking to the upstream is a good idea.
> >>>>>
> >>>>>Sure, but on more serious ground than this. Notice that the bugreport
> >>>>>claims that RMS thinks that ..., not that it is actually true.
> >>>>
> >>>>Ok.  So, for the sake of argument, assume he's dead wrong, but thinks so
> >>>>nonetheless.  We should still, imho, behave as if he's correct, given
> >>>>that he/FSF owns copyright on emacs.  This is what we normally do: give
> >>>>the copyright holder generous (and sometimes unreasonable) benefit of
> >>>>the doubt in terms of what rights they have and can enforce.  Deciding
> >>>>what to do here doesn't involve taking a position on whether RMS is
> >>>>right or wrong (thank god!).
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>Well, sure, but this would not help me convince upstream.
> >>
> >>Do you really think the upstream authors are so rude?
> >
> >What has that to do with anything ? Look how silly this argument sounds ? 
> >
> >Imagine me telling the upstream author that he should please change the
> >licence of his files, because RMS may feel offended ? Be serious please.
> >
> >This is debian-legal, not debian-please-stay-polite.
> I think it's taken for granted that Debian will try to be polite. 

Oh, come on, let's have a good laugh together. I have not known a more
rude bunch of people than the debian developers. I expect everything
from debian, but politeness is not one of those. And the current
tentative to remove non-free as a threat to upstream authors is
definitively not one on the side of politeness or respect.

> Requests for change are much nicer than threats of legal action.  We 
> don't need a clear threat of a lawsuit to act -- a polite request is 
> enough.  Such is true of most polite people, isn't it?

Yeah, but you have to notice that this is not only a mere change of
licence, it is a request for the upstream author to give away more of
its right to the code he wrote. And also, it may have been a cooperative
writing, which is a bit more complicated as you well know. And what do
you give as reason for why the change is needed ? That it is needed to
be polite to RMS ? Come on, be serious and step into the real world.

> I don't think it's silly to imagine that the upstream author of this 
> elisp file would change the license under which he distributes it when 
> the author of the elisp parser for which he wrote the file requests such.

Yeah, but as i see it, there is no need for such a licence change, and
the upstream author being an intelligent person, will probably
immediately see it, and respond to me : but there is no need for such a
change. And then, were do i stand ? I was expecting help from
debian-legal to know what to respond to him, but look at what i get. 

If you would have told me, indeed there is no need for a licence change,
but you could ask the licence change anyway as a politeness matter to
RMS, then things would have been different, but this uniformed responses
i get, seriously i am disapointed.

> >>>>>He also thinks that GNU documentation is free, which we don't, so i
> >>>>>clearly would like to have a more solid case before i go to upstream
> >>>>>about this.
> >>>>
> >>>>If you want an argument to present to upstream you might try contacting
> >>>>the FSF for a position on the subject.
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>Mmm. I might, but as it is debian packaging issues, i thought it was the
> >>>natural place for this kind of discussion.
> >>
> >>It appears at least as much to be a general issue of GPL-compliance.
> >
> >
> >Which only implies distribution, not use, restrictions.
> Sure.  But given that Debian is in the business of distributing 
> software, it needs to worry.  If the claim "Essentially all Elisp files 
> are derivative of Emacs" is true, then sure, they need to be distributed 
> under a GPL-compatible license, or not at all.  It is polite to respect 
> the wishes of the copyright holder for the source work, and I don't see 
> why you think it's silly to suggest such to the upstream author.

Ok, again, the GPL only implies restriction on distribution of linked binaries.

> What else would you like anyone here to say?  Will you continue to raise 
>  objections until someone advocates the conclusion that you want?  OK, 
> here: "Distribute all the warez you like.  If you can get it for free 
> and can figure out how to put it in a tarball, upload away!"

You notice that this kind of response is not rooted in examination of
the licence, but an emotional one.

Anyway, i have looked at the files in question again, and of the 10 or
so emacs files, two are under the GPL (well, one is even under the GPL
v1 or later), while 7 have no licence text and 1 only is QPLed, i will
thus ask the ocaml-team about this, but this discussion has clearly
given me some serious doubt about the quality of response i will get
from debian-legal, which in the light of the removal of non-free GR
proposal is a seriously inquieting thing.


Sven Luther

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