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Re: Bug#251983: libcwd: QPL license is non-free; package should not be in main

On Sat, Jun 05, 2004 at 01:38:26AM -0400, Nathanael Nerode wrote:
> <snip>
> > If this is agreed upon by everyone - then it makes sense to talk
> > about the choice of venue versus choise of law thing.
> > Provided that libcwd WILL be included in Debian, I am willing to
> > change the wording of the last sentence into one that only states
> > a choice of law, not venue.  But then it must be very clear that
> > that is enough for making the license pass DFSG as such a change
> > would be irrevocable.

First of all, the Debian Project is not in a position to form a contract
with you, explicit or otherwise, as to whether we will distribute any
particular work as part of our operating system.

Please do not undertake any change in your licensing with the
understanding that there is a binding agreement between you and the
Debian Project -- e.g., you change your license, we promise to
distribute your work forever.

Apart from any principled reasons we might have to avoid making such
committments, as a practical matter, it would be nearly impossible for
us to hold to such a promise, as we are comprised entirely of
volunteers.  We are not in a position to, for example, make it a
condition of someone's employment that they keep libcwd packaged and fit
for shipment with the next release of Debian GNU/Linux at all times.

> Well, we went over it very carefully, and those two were the only problem
> issues we saw.

Second of all, the choice-of-law and choice-of-venue clauses were not
the "only problem issues we saw".

Clause 6c[1] of the QPL fails the desert island test[2].

Clause 3b[4] of the QPL forbids free-as-in-beer modification.  That is,
it demands consideration from the author of modifications -- even if
those modifications are distinctly copyrightable -- that are extended
exclusively to the copyright holder in the QPLed work, and not to the
downstream licensees of the modified version.

It is not Free to use your license to compel people to extend a license to
their works to you, above and beyond the reciprocity of your license to

Finally, as a practical matter, the QPL is not GPL-compatible, and any
library licensed under its terms is going to pose exactly the same
problems to the Debian Project as KDE did[5] before the Qt library waas
dual-licensed under the GPL.

When Debian began distributing KDE, that meant nothing more than that
the GNU GPL was DFSG-free, not that the QPL was[6].

I would strongly encourage anyone using the QPL to dual-license their
work under the GNU GPL as well.  (And/or possibly the GNU LGPL,
depending on the problem space their work is meant to attack.)  But
don't just take my word for it.  Ask TrollTech:

  Why does Trolltech dual-license its products?

  Trolltech aims to make the best multiplatform development tool in the world.
  By selling a commercial license, we are able to staff a full-time dedicated
  development team and are able to provide first class support.

  By licensing our products under open source licenses, we are also an active
  part of the open source community. This community has played an important
  role in ensuring the stability and quality of our products. Free software
  developers around the world actively participate in our beta testing cycle.
  As a result, our products reach commercial stability far more quickly (and
  are more thoroughly tested) than standard frameworks. We call this our
  Virtuous Cycle.

  Additionally, the open source community provides:
        An extensive pool of knowledge and expertise

        Free add-on applications, libraries, components and tools (for both
        commercial and free development)

        Books and tutorials[7]

[1] 6. You may develop application programs, reusable components and other
    software items that link with the original or modified versions of
    the Software. These items, when distributed, are subject to the
    following requirements:
    c. If the items are not available to the general public, and the
    initial developer of the Software requests a copy of the items, then
    you must supply one.

[2] Q: How can I tell if a license is a free software license, by
       Debian's standards?

    A: The process involves human judgement. The DFSG is an attempt to
    articulate our criteria. But the DFSG is not a contract. This means
    that if you think you've found a "loophole" in the DFSG then you
    don't quite understand how this works. The DFSG is a potentially
    imperfect attempt to express what "freeness" in software means to
    Debian. It is not something whose letter we argue about. It is not a
    law. Rather, it is a set of guidelines.

    That said, the DFSG is a good start. You might also consider a few
    thought experiments which we often apply. But do keep in mind that
    passing some set of tests is not all there is to freeness. These
    tests aren't the final word either - some other tricky bit of
    nonfreeness might be invented which is not covered by any of our
    current tests, or something might fail a test as it's currently
    worded but still be determined to be free software.

       1. The Desert Island test.

          Imagine a castaway on a desert island with a solar-powered
          computer. This would make it impossible to fulfil any
          requirement to make changes "publicly available" or to send
          patches to some particular place. This holds even if such
          requirements are only "upon request", as the castaway might be
          able to receive messages but be unable to send them. To be
          free, software must be modifiable by this unfortunate
          castaway, who must also be able to legally share modifications
          with friends on the island.[3]

[3] http://people.debian.org/~bap/dfsg-faq.html

[4] 3. You may make modifications to the Software and distribute your
    modifications, in a form that is separate from the Software, such as
    patches. The following restrictions apply to modifications:
    b. When modifications to the Software are released under this
    license, a non-exclusive royalty-free right is granted to the
    initial developer of the Software to distribute your modification
    in future versions of the Software provided such versions remain
    available under these terms in addition to any other license(s) of
    the initial developer.

[5] http://www.debian.org/News/1998/19981008
[6] http://www.trolltech.com/newsroom/announcements/00000043.html
[7] http://www.trolltech.com/company/model.html

G. Branden Robinson                |      Why should I allow that same God
Debian GNU/Linux                   |      to tell me how to raise my kids,
branden@debian.org                 |      who had to drown His own?
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |      -- Robert Green Ingersoll

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