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Re: Choice of venue, was: GUADEC report

Matthew Garrett <mgarrett@chiark.greenend.org.uk> writes:

> Brian Thomas Sniffen <bts@alum.mit.edu> wrote:
>>Matthew Garrett <mjg59@srcf.ucam.org> writes:
>>> At which point it becomes non-free. Or is it your belief that it should 
>>> never be possible to turn a free license into a non-free one? The GPL 
>>> contains a clause that explicitly allows for that to happen.
>>No, it doesn't.  It terminates only a license I'm already violating.
>>At that point, what do I care?
> Read GPL 7.

Yes, it says nothing about termination.  It only says that the GPL is
not relaxed because of difficulty in practicing it.  If something else
prevents you from acting in a GPL-free way, then the GPL does not
bend to let you act in a non-free way instead.  The last sentence of
GPL 7 is instructive:

  This section is intended to make thoroughly clear what is believed
  to be a consequence of the rest of this License.

It's not turning the GPL into a non-free license -- just saying that
if something *else* puts you into a freedom-less situation, well,
you're screwed.

I assumed you were talking about GPL 4, the actual termination clause. 

>>> What field of endeavour does a clause along the lines of "The copyright
>>> holder may terminate this license at any time" discriminate against? How 
>>> does this field of endeavour fall under DFSG 6 without it being read in 
>>> an extremely broad fashion?
>>Lots of them.  Nuclear power plants, for example, or commercial
>>distribution.  How, you say, when it doesn't mention them?  Because
>>it's got a arbitrary rewriting clause written in.  At some point, the
>>licensor can say, "By the way, I terminate the license for all nuclear
>>power plant operators," and from that instant on the operators are in
> No, by that argument means it discriminates against all fields of
> endeavour. Were the copyright holder to terminate the license of a
> specific subgroup, it would then discriminate against a particular field
> of endeavour. At that point, it would be unambiguously non-free.

And a license which might, at some point and without warning, become
non-free is already non-free.  Heck, what if one of these initial
authors reads this thread and decides Debian is Evil, so he terminates
Debian's license to distribute his software.  A license with a
termination clause isn't a real license.  It's an upper bound for how
much license you have, and you never know where you are underneath
that bound.


Brian Sniffen                                       bts@alum.mit.edu

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