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Re: Draft Summary: MPL is not DFSG free

"Lex Spoon" <lex@cc.gatech.edu> writes:

> Nathanael Nerode <neroden@twcny.rr.com> wrote:
>> > What do you mean?  In order to gain the licenses GPL grants you, you
>> > must comply with all of the terms.  Some of those terms require that you
>> > perform in some way, e.g. by distributing source code.
>> Actually, as far as I can tell, they don't.  They grant permission to do
>> specific things which you otherwise have no permission to do (such as
>> distributing source code).  Interestingly, every restriction in the GPL I
>> could find is merely a restriction on what activities it permits you to do;
>> they do not restrict your outside activities.  If you accept the license,
>> the things you are then permitted to do are a *strict superset* of the
>> things you were permitted to do before.
> Sort of, but please consider it more closely.
> First, the GPL states explicitly that you must "accept" the terms or
> that you do not get permission to do anything with the code.  Should we
> argue with a statement that the text says itself?

It does not say that.  Your first premise begs the question of whether
this is a contract.  This argument is fallacious.

> Second, while acceptance alone does not obligate anything of you, some
> obligations do kick in if you try to use some of the rights you have
> been granted.  For example, if you take the option to distribute
> binaries of modifications and then post the source code separately, then
> you are *obliged* from then onwards to keep the source code available to
> whoever has received the binary distribution.

Not by the GPL, you're not.  You *are* obliged to  do so by the offer,
valid for three years, which you issued.  But not by the GPL.

>  This is a restriction on
> your behavior, and that restriction has arisen because you agreed to the
> terms of the GPL.  You have gained the right to distribute binary-only
> copies, but in compensation you have agreed to post the source code
> somewhere.

Your last sentence is not found in the GPL, nor is anything like it.
In any case, even stipulating that this is a non-free path doesn't
validate your argument, since non-free paths through a license don't
reduce the freedom of the free paths.

> IANAL, but calling this anything but a contract seems to really confuse
> matters.  Let's try and focus on what the real issue is, which is not
> some technical legal distinction.  

Seeing these two sentences adjacent to one another makes it very hard
to take the second seriously.

If you're willing to stop claiming its a contract, I'm sure everyone
else is willing to stop pointing out the flaws in that idea.

> Further, the general principle has not been established to my
> satisfaction that a reasonably free license must have absolutely no
> strings attached.  If it's only minor requirements, along the same
> annoyance level as advertising clauses, then surely the license
> agreement is still okay.

If I gave you a license that said you could modify, distribute, etc.,
but that you were obliged to place one advertisement at nominal cost
-- free message board posts count -- per year about it, that is very
clearly non-free.  And no matter how far you run out the interval,
it's still non-free.

A demand for even one post-card in exchange for the license is

Why is the BSD advertising clause different?  Because it does not
impose any restrictions in behavior on me.  It only loosens the
restrictions from copyright law, though not as far as I might like.
There are "strings attached": I must not talk about Berkeley in some
ways and talk about them in others, for example.  

Brian Sniffen                                       bts@alum.mit.edu

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