Re: Squeak in Debian?
Agreed on all counts, Brian.
I actually think Squeak should go into non-free on Debian, once the
fonts are removed from the image. I've been meaning to develop a
message to debian-legal about this for quite a while, and now Roland's
post and Alan Kay's Turing award seem to be creating a good time to do
that right now. Here goes.
The initial analysis of Squeak's license for Debian was made by Stephen
Stafford several years ago:
Stephen's main objection is the indemnification clause. After time has
passed, and I have thought about this some more, and there has been no
whiff of legal activity based on this clause, I have come to believe we
in Debian are being overly paranoid about this clause. It's intent is
to be a standard indemnification clause, and it is restricted to giving
distributors liability for Squeak regarding the *distribution* of
Now, I am not a lawyer, and this clause has not been tested in court
anyway, so I cannot tell you for sure what the impact is on Debian. But
I ask: how paranoid should we be? Apple is just trying to cover
themselves in case they are sued regarding Squeak. That is a ridiculous
scenario to begin with, and even if it ever does happen, our liability
is restricted to the amount the case is connected to our distribution of
Squeak. We are already liably for this! If Debian is afraid of
liability for distributing things, then Debian needs to disband. In the
end, anyone can sue anyone if they really want to, and Debian is already
commited to accepting liability for its actions regarding distribution
It is not even clear how many rights Apple has, by the way. The Squeak
stuff that Apple released is largely based on a tape that Apple had
previously received from Xerox PARC in the 70's... specifically, from,
*Alan Kay's* research group at Xerox PARC. Most of those bits belong to
his group (or to the defunct PARC) to begin with!
Others in the world are not letting this license deter them. Squeak has
a vibrant open source community. Its mailing list has 50-100 messages
per day, and its swiki has 177 contributors registered on its Author
Initials page. Squeak includes over 300,000 lines of code in it, mostly
written *after* Squeak was released from Apple. People have used
Squeak across the world in education, commerce, and research. Its EToy
subsystem has been translated to 5 other languages.
People have even used Squeak for research at Disney. Consider that:
*Disney* thought it was safe to use and redistribute Squeak. If Disney,
a company who is very knowledgable of IP, is unafraid, then does Debian
need to be?
The issues other than the indemnification clause are more clearcut. The
fonts clauses become irrelevant if the fonts are removed, and they
certainly can be. The export clause just means Squeak must go into
Incidentally, it seems very unlikely that Squeak's license will change
in the near future. I have attempted to organize license changes, but
have failed to get people under any consensus about what to do.
In sum, I think Squeak should go into non-free once the restricted fonts
are removed from the image. We must choose what level of paranoia we
will have about licenses, and I believe we have been too paranoid about
Squeak's indemnification clause.
To be fair, let me admit that I am biased. I am a heavy Squeak user and
I maintain its Debian packages. However, I believe the above reasoning
is sound. I want Debian to stay true to itself, and I wouldn't argue
for Squeak in Debian if I thought it was wrong.
Any comments, legal folks?
For anyone curious about the state of Squeak's Debian packages, look
"Squeak in Debian"
For anyone curious about the Squeak people's take on all this, look