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Re: DFSG#10 [was: Re: Draft Debian-legal summary of the LGPL]

Raul Miller wrote:

On Fri, May 21, 2004 at 10:55:47PM +0200, Francesco Poli wrote:

"if the GPL is not-quite-free, but it's considered free anyway only
because it's grandfathered by DFSG#10, why cannot the
<put_your_favourite_non-free_license_here> be grandfathered as well?"

Except, it is free.

People have been "not comfortable" with it for ages.  Most of that
discomfort has had to do with how difficult it is to turn GPLed software
into non-free software.

I think we can live while people spout such rhetoric.

Paragraphs 2a (some interpretations), 2c, 4 (RMS's interpretation of it, at any rate), and 8 of the GPL are very similar to 'problem paragraphs' in other licenses that have been recently declared non-DFSG-free.

2a has (IIRC) been discussed earlier in this thread. Some interpretations of it may be non-free. Some people may consider the more drastic interpretations of it to be an unacceptable burden on distributors of derivative works.

In the case of interpretation, the author's intent counts more than that of the licensee; if the more drastic interpretations of 2a are indeed nonfree, the GPL could be either free or nonfree, depending on how the author interpreted it. (As an aside, could a GPL interpreted more drastically be incompatible with a GPL interpreted more liberally, despite the license text being identical?)

2c has been discussed earlier in this very thread, and succinctly summarised by Don Armstrong[1]. In my opinion, 2c is icky. Nowhere near as icky as the 'APL', but still icky, and very slightly non-free.

4 may be non-free: as RMS understands it, violating the GPL for a given work terminates any rights you have to it, now and in the future, even those which would otherwise be granted by having another copy of the work distributed to you. This may (/may/) violate DFSG #9 (if you were to violate the GPL in one work, you then couldn't distribute the same code in a different work), or may (/may/) violate the spirit of the DFSG.

8 bears a lot of resemblance to "don't break the law" clauses, which used to be considered DFSG free, but which now are increasingly not. This option, if exercised, may be counter to DFSG #5, or possibly DFSG #1, and may possibly fail the 'dissident test'.

In my opinion, the GPL is not as 'comfortably' Free as (for instance) 2-clause BSD; these objections are not just rhetoric, indeed the GPL may have to be 'grandfathered', as (if certain options are exercised) it fails the DFSG, as it is interpreted nowadays. While I can live without ReiserFS, I don't think there'd be much of an operating system left without the GPLed components.

[1] - http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=1Yma6-4cF-19%40gated-at.bofh.it
Lewis Jardine

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