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Summary Update: MPL inconclusive, clarifications needed



Dear debian-legal subscribers,

Certain developers and others are promoting the idea that debian-legal 
has declared the Mozilla Public Licence, which I don't think we have, 
but sadly the thread has died out. I think that the large number of 
responses to the "draft summary" shows that there is no debian-legal 
consensual view of the MPL yet.

With two questions remaining, I am pretty convinced that the copyright 
aspect of the MPL is a DFSG-free licence, but the patent aspect is 
not. If
  1. there are no patents covering the software;
  2. the licensor agrees that publishing a changelog passes for steps 
reasonably calculated to inform past recipients; AND
  3. we figure out that this choice of venue wording is not a problem;
then MPL-covered works seem DFSG-free. From 2 above, you should notice 
that each work will need investigation.

I am continuing to investigate this licence, but here is my view so 
far of the problems, which I invite you to discuss and help explore.


> 1. It does not allow derived works to be distributed under the same 
> terms as
> the original software (DFSG #3).

If there are no active patents covering the software, I think clauses 
2.1(b) and 2.1(d) are no-ops. If there were active patents, the work 
would not be free software unless there is a free patent licence 
issued. The patent aspects of the MPL wouldn't be enough, but it 
doesn't seem worse than many other free licences and doesn't impact 
copyright aspects. (Dankon, edmundo.)

Following a Jim Marhaus message, I looked up Apache's claims about the 
FSF view of the GPL. I've not understood much about "implied patent 
licences" before, so that was another thing I've tried to read around. 
I think their only interaction here is to confirm that the MPL is not 
a DFSG-free license of patents.

No consensus was reached on the Nokia Open Source L as far as I can 
see, following Jim Marhaus's reference to support the claim "Debian 
previously classified [...] as non-free". Much work under it seems 
likely to be non-free because of Nokia's patents. The reference 
offered as showing that SGI B is considered non-free only showed one 
post to me, not a discussion.

After these dud references, I was intruiged by Jim Marhaus. He is not 
a debian developer, offers no homepage, yet has been fairly swiftly 
trying to lead debian-legal towards saying that the MPL is non-free. 
Searching on his name found main three types of appearances, one type 
across multiple lists promoting the idea that debian-legal had 
concluded MPL is non-free, a second type on the procmail lists and a 
third about Excel VBA on Mac. Would Jim Marhaus or someone who knows 
him please introduce him to us?

I heartily encourage past behaviour of only reacting to patents when 
we must.


> 2. It requires distributors to retroactively notify recipients about 
> third-party legal problems with the software (Dissident test).

No, it requires "take other steps [...] reasonably calculated to 
inform". I've asked what steps are regarded as "reasonably calculated 
to inform" by Mozilla, to help clarify this laywerbomb.

I see little to suggest that the distributor should identify 
themselves further, so I don't understand the "dissident test" 
citation here. The clause only seems to require that the party making 
the claim against the software be identified.

This could make a licence non-free in the hands of a hostile licensor 
for the reasons given above, so it is worth getting that clarification 
IMO.


> 3. It restricts court venue, permitting licensors to harass licensees 
> and
> effectively revoke the license. (Tentacles of Evil test)

However, the choice of venue does only apply when one party is in the 
US and anyway says that the losing party is liable for the costs. I am 
not sure this is clear-cut and it smacks of wording copied without 
consideration from the NPL. In any case, it seems not much worse than 
the usual "place of origin or place of hurt" customs for copyright 
dispute locations, from how current US practice was described my 
Nathanael Nerode and apparently confirmed by others. (Apologies for 
ignoring the interesting discussions of German law, but the choice of 
venue looks US-only.)

I didn't find the reference given in the draft summary particularly 
helpful in understanding why this makes something non-free, and 
similar terms are in some licences the FSF regards as free copyright 
licences. Does anyone have some more, please?

Amusingly, non-US users of this licence (BrickOS, OpenH323, maybe 
more) are committing themselves to using Santa Clara county to 
prosecute US violators, which is the opposite of the usual use of 
these venue clauses.


> Additionally, to distribute the software, the license requires:
> 1. Maintaining and updating a LEGAL text file inside the 
> distribution. [clause
> 3.4(a)].

I'm not sure I see the problem here?

> 2. Keeping source available online for at least 12 months, or 6 
> months after
> another version [clause 3.2].

Yes, this looks like a practical problem for debian and MPL users to 
work out together.


I hope this summary advances the discussion.

Best wishes,
-- 
MJR/slef
My Opinion Only and possibly not of any group I know.
http://www.ttllp.co.uk/ for creative copyleft computing
http://mjr.towers.org.uk/ for info about me
RFC3156 defines security multipart formats for MIME with OpenPGP.

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