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DFSG#10 and the Open Source Initiative

On Fri, May 21, 2004 at 05:40:17PM -0700, Don Armstrong wrote:
> On Fri, 21 May 2004, Steve Langasek wrote:
> > I think you're probably right that this option, if exercised, would
> > be non-free.  However, I have never seen anyone exercise this
> > particular option -- I had even forgotten it was there.

Hmmm, as had I.

>        8.  If the distribution and/or use of the Program is restricted
>        in certain countries either by patents or by copyrighted
>        interfaces, the original copyright holder who places the
>        Program under this License may add an explicit geographical
>        distribution limitation excluding those countries, so that
>        distribution is permitted only in or among countries not thus
>        excluded. In such case, this License incorporates the
>        limitation as if written in the body of this License. GPL §8
> Yes, GPL §8 if exercised with a non-null country set would fail DFSG
> #5 and #1.

Hmmm, yes.

> Even ignoring the DFSG issues, as a service to the authors of such
> works, Debian should refrain from distributing them in the first
> place.


> Works that are exercising §8 are most likely doing so because the
> author fears criminal or civil retribution in the excluded countries,
> and as Debian is basically worldwide, Debian's distribution of such
> works will likely endanger the authors.

Yes.  That we would rule them non-DFSG-free would thus be a disservice
neither to the author, nor to the Free Software Foundation, nor --
ultimately -- to our users.  After all, if we were to flout such a
restriction and get authors of Free Software into trouble, they're less
likely to contribute to the intellectual commons, and that weakens our
mission, and promotes the shackling of our users to proprietary

I think your observation provides more support for striking DFSG#10 as
such from the document.

The GNU GPL is *not* *always* a DFSG-free license.  Like any other
license, it can be interpreted by a copyright holder in ways that are
not DFSG-free.  That very, very few copyright holders actually do this
is beside the point[1].

I think we should work harder to defeat the meme that slapping a
particular license on your work gets you a "free pass" into Debian main.

Whether a work is DFSG-free or not depends not just on the actual
language of the license, but how the copyright holder (or his agent)
enforces it.

It is counterproductive to lead people to believe that they can slap the
BSD, GPL, or Artistic licenses on a piece of software, apply perverse
interpretations to the terms of that license, insist that Debian endorse
their viewpoint, and then excoriate us as hypocrites if we do not
subordinate our judgement to theirs.

I fear DFSG #10 (unintentionally) encourages this.

It's also worth noting that #10 is the only clause of the DFSG that the
Open Source Initiative (OSI) dropped outright when deriving the Open
Source Definition (OSD)[2].

What they've replaced it with ("License Must Be Technology-Neutral") is
actually quite nice.  As Andrew Suffield said[3], licenses should be
specifications, not solutions.

We could do a lot worse than to be a bit ecumenical with OSI on this
particular point.

[1] In fact, I can only think of one case, but that's a different
[2] http://www.opensource.org/docs/definition.php
[3] Message-ID: <20040519021805.GE28235@suffields.me.uk>

G. Branden Robinson                |     No math genius, eh?  Then perhaps
Debian GNU/Linux                   |     you could explain to me where you
branden@debian.org                 |     got these...       PENROSE TILES!
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |     -- Stephen R. Notley

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