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Re: debian-legal review of licenses

Matthew Palmer <mpalmer@debian.org> writes:

> We have an opinion - the DFSG.  Anything beyond that is mere noise. 

Well, that's the problem.  External free software projects can read and
interpret the DFSG, but that doesn't provide much assurance that their
software won't end up in non-free and everyone's time won't be wasted
while a new revision of a license is generated (or worse, they get tired
of dealing with the mob and decide to deal solely with other groups that
are more capable of cooperation).
>> Specifically, I suggest:
>>  1. a single place where review requests should be sent
> FTP masters and debian-legal.

That's two and neither has authority to provide *advance approval* for a
new license.  If a license can't be approved or rejected (ending up in
non-free or completely disallowed), then both Debian and external
organizations are left in the precarious position where they must
determine on their own as to whether a new license will survive, release
their software under the new license, and wait and see.  If it lands in
non-free, then many months will pass before the issue can be fixed.

Yes, sure, projects can just use the MIT/X11 license or some other well
accepted license (or model on one), but when a license like the Mozilla
or Apache license is revised (in a process that takes years), one that
is used by dozens of projects, a revision could not happen overnight.
Your outlining of the basic process is an illustration of how the system
is flawed.
>> It would be laughably tragic if Debian ends up deciding that future
>> license revisions like Apache or any other free software project must
>> end up in non-free.
> I like the conclusion you've quietly hidden away in there - by referring to
> "free software project" and "non-free" in there, you're commenting that
> Debian must somehow be mislabelling.  Cute.

Not quite and not quiet.  I just took for granted that there was not a
one-to-one mapping between non-non-free and "free software".

What I was saying that if advance approval was the practice, I believe
fewer packages (it's hard to say how many) would be in non-free because
the intent of most projects that consider themselves to be free software
or open source is not to end up in non-free.  Most want to be OSI
approved, most want to be distributed in Debian, etc.  That is why many
companies work with OSI before releasing their licenses, but since the
OSI criteria is slightly different and, more significantly, interpreted
differently, I think everyone would benefit from some sort of advance
DFSG approval and commentary process.

Daniel Quinlan                     anti-spam (SpamAssassin), Linux, and
http://www.pathname.com/~quinlan/    open source consulting

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