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Re: Draft Summary: MPL is not DFSG free

Lex Spoon wrote:

> 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?
> 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.  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.

Ah yes.  There are potential contracts which you may agree to by doing
certain things, embedded in the license.  You might say the license gives
you perpetual offers to enter into certain contracts.  That doesn't make
the license itself a contract.  I think Brian Thomas Sniffen mentioned that
when a license has multiple "options", you only need one free "path"
through the license.

The GPL preamble, also, specifically says that it does not intend to
restrict any of your existing fair use or other rights.  Most licenses
don't say that.  :-)

> 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.
OK, agreed.  Now what was the issue at hand again?....  :-)

> 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.

The idea is this: It must only restrict activities which you would otherwise
be unable to do.

For instance, the BSD advertising clause restricts advertising of products
containing the software.  Without a license, you can't even *make* such
products, let alone distribute them, so you can't (legally) advertise them

The various requirements of ChangeLogs, NOTICE files, distribution only as
patches, etc., all are restrictions on activities otherwise prohibited by
copyright law.  In fact, there are *lots* of restrictions you can have in a
license -- many which we think are non-free, many which seem to be free --
which only touch activities which are impossible without a license.  

Prohibiting, in the license, activities which you could legally do if you
had no license at all -- that is what we considered non-free because of
this issue.  Given that the collection of things you're allowed to do
without any copyright license is *remarkably* small, I don't think it's
acceptable to give up any of them.

There are none so blind as those who will not see.

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