Draft Summary: MPL is not DFSG free
Hi all -
The consensus from debian-legal archives and current discussion seems to be the
MPL is non-free. Below is a summary of reasons, compiled from commentary on the
MPL and the similar Nokia license reviewed last August.
By the way, the following software is apparently licensed under the MPL, but
not being relicensed like Mozilla:
1. Firebird Database
6. MPEG4IP (being packaged?)
The Mozilla Public License (MPL) is not DFSG free:
1. It does not allow derived works to be distributed under the same terms as
the original software (DFSG #3).
2. It requires distributors to retroactively notify recipients about third-party
legal problems with the software (Dissident test).
3. It restricts court venue, permitting licensors to harass licensees and
effectively revoke the license. (Tentacles of Evil test)
Additionally, to distribute the software, the license requires:
1. Maintaining and updating a LEGAL text file inside the distribution. [clause
2. Keeping source available online for at least 12 months, or 6 months after
another version [clause 3.2].
These requirements might make distribution of MPL software impractical for
| 2.1. The Initial Developer Grant.
| (d) Notwithstanding Section 2.1(b) above, no patent license is
| granted: 1) for code that You delete from the Original Code; 2)
| separate from the Original Code; or 3) for infringements caused
| by: i) the modification of the Original Code or ii) the
| combination of the Original Code with other software or devices.
This clause rescinds clause 2.1(b) if the source is modified. This violates
DFSG #3. Specifically, the author must allow derived works to be distributed
under the same terms as the original software.
| 3.2. Availability of Source Code.
| Any Modification which You create or to which You contribute must be
| made available in Source Code form under the terms of this License
| either on the same media as an Executable version or via an accepted
| Electronic Distribution Mechanism to anyone to whom you made an
| Executable version available; and if made available via Electronic
| Distribution Mechanism, must remain available for at least twelve (12)
| months after the date it initially became available, or at least six
| (6) months after a subsequent version of that particular Modification
| has been made available to such recipients. You are responsible for
| ensuring that the Source Code version remains available even if the
| Electronic Distribution Mechanism is maintained by a third party.
This means if someone puts the source and binaries up on an ftp site, they are
"To keep the source there for at least 12 months, and at least 6 months after a
particular version. We can speculate about whether this is DFSG-free or not,
but it certainly can't be distributed by Debian. Debian does not keep around
the source to all of the old versions for at least six months."
| 3.4. Intellectual Property Matters
| (a) Third Party Claims.
| If Contributor has knowledge that a license under a third party's
| intellectual property rights is required to exercise the rights
| granted by such Contributor under Sections 2.1 or 2.2,
| Contributor must include a text file with the Source Code
| distribution titled "LEGAL" which describes the claim and the
| party making the claim in sufficient detail that a recipient will
| know whom to contact. If Contributor obtains such knowledge after
| the Modification is made available as described in Section 3.2,
| Contributor shall promptly modify the LEGAL file in all copies
| Contributor makes available thereafter and shall take other steps
| (such as notifying appropriate mailing lists or newsgroups)
| reasonably calculated to inform those who received the Covered
| Code that new knowledge has been obtained.
This fails the dissident test.
| 11. MISCELLANEOUS.
| This License represents the complete agreement concerning subject
| matter hereof. If any provision of this License is held to be
| unenforceable, such provision shall be reformed only to the extent
| necessary to make it enforceable. This License shall be governed by
| California law provisions (except to the extent applicable law, if
| any, provides otherwise), excluding its conflict-of-law provisions.
| With respect to disputes in which at least one party is a citizen of,
| or an entity chartered or registered to do business in the United
| States of America, any litigation relating to this License shall be
| subject to the jurisdiction of the Federal Courts of the Northern
| District of California, with venue lying in Santa Clara County,
| California, with the losing party responsible for costs, including
| without limitation, court costs and reasonable attorneys' fees and
This clause restricts court venue to Santa Clara County, CA. Venue restrictions
may force licensees to travel unreasonable distances to defend themselves in
court, and could be used to effectively revoke the license (Tentacles of Evil).
For example, if the licensor filed a frivolous lawsuit against a licensee, the
latter would be forced to travel to the licensor's home court or hire a
representative, since most jurisdictions summarily rule against absent
Full license text: