Summary : ocaml, QPL and the DFSG.
Ok, i have been counseled to stop doing a tantrum about this issue, and to
sumarize my position about this.
The reproach which is being done is twofold :
1) 6c of the QPL. I believe there has been some serious misunderstanding on
all parts about this clause in almost all posts previous to this.
Let's quote the whole of section 6).
6. You may develop application programs, reusable components and other
software items that link with the original or modified versions of the
Software. These items, when distributed, are subject to the following
a. You must ensure that all recipients of machine-executable
forms of these items are also able to receive and use the
complete machine-readable source code to the items without any
charge beyond the costs of data transfer.
b. You must explicitly license all recipients of your items to
use and re-distribute original and modified versions of the
items in both machine-executable and source code forms. The
recipients must be able to do so without any charges whatsoever,
and they must be able to re-distribute to anyone they choose.
c. If the items are not available to the general public, and the
initial developer of the Software requests a copy of the items,
then you must supply one.
Well, i have some feeling that this is a clause directly targeted to try to
void the GPL incompatibility, at least point a nd b, i will come to c later
Notice, and this is the point we have missed previously, that this doesn't
even remotely apply to modified versions of the software, which are mentioned
earlier, and where not subject to DFSG-doubt.
What this mean, is that works linked with the software, and distributed, must
be acompanied by source, and that the recipient of the binary+source in
question gets the same right to redistribute and modify it. releasing those
under the GPL is ok, as is releasing those under the QPL.
Now, the clause which causes problem is the 6c, which states that upstream
might also want to get those works linked with the software. I understand that
this may be considered non-free, but let's go over the DFSG points one by one,
and not start with discutable chinese disident or desert island stuff which
only muddy the water.
DFSG 1) it was claimed that giving the linked items back to upstream on
request is considered a fee, which may invalidate this licence. How much of
this claim is realistic, and does it constitute a fee ? After all, you lose
nothing if you give it to upstream, so it doesn't cost you.
DFSG 2) and 3) Obviously fine given 6a and 6b.
DFSG 4) Not applicable here.
DFSG 5) and 6) it was claimed that one of those is broken by the desert island
or chinese dissident tests, i have seen no consensus as a quick overview of
the thread prior to my involvement shows. I personally dispute those claims as
not only irrealistic, but also as not applying here, since the request should
be done nominally. Still a clarification asking for the data transfer fee
being covered by the requestor, and a time limit has happens with the GPL
might be a good idea, even if the former might be implicitly granted by
DFSG 7) I think this is ok. Nobody seemed to dispute it.
DFSG 8) Obviously ok.
DFSG 9) Well, since there is only mention of link-time restriction, and none
whatsoever on distribution media.
So that's it.
So to resume this point, a time limit associated with 6c might be nice,
altough not really necessary, and the real problem is DFSG 1). Let's look at
it in detail :
1) Free Redistribution
The license of a Debian component may not restrict any party from selling or
giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution
containing programs from several different sources. The license may not
require a royalty or other fee for such sale.
the first sentence is of no moment here, the point at hand is the : "The
license may not require a royalty or other fee for such sale.". Again, the
main point here is if upstream access, not of modifications, but of code
linked with the library, under a licence governed by 6a and 6b, constitute a
royalty or fee. This is debatable.
Even if it does indeed constitute a royalty, notice that QPL 6) mentions :
6. You may develop application programs, reusable components and other
software items that link with ...
So my understanding is that this only applies with the stuff that links to the
QPL covered work. Which would mean that the QPL covered work is a library.
In the case of ocaml, only the compiler suite is distributed under the QPL
(well and some emacs .el file, but i will remove them in the next upload
anyway, or upstream will change the licence to either a dual licence, GPL and
QPL, or some other neat solution). It has not the prupose of being linked
with, so it may be argued that this would not fall under QPL 6) at all. he
runtime part is under a LGPL + exception, taken from the libgcc, under RMSs
One last point though, in a later thread about the emacs .el files, it was
argued, that altough we technically don't distribute linked code (since the
.el are compiled at installation time, and linked at runtime), we should honor
RMS's request as emacs author as a matter of courtesy. And i am ready to
remove those .el files upon those courtesy point.
Well, elementary courtesy in this case would mean that evidently if you make a
work that links with and thus profits from the upstream author works, and he
request a copy of it, you shall give it to him. So two cases, two measures ?
Ok, i believe i have the first point Josh mentioned covered, let's go to the
2) Choice of the court of venue being set to versaille, france, this being
the domicile of the ocaml authors, not some court chosen for tactical
reasons like the amsterdam court in the original QPL licence.
First point to notice, that the choice of law in the licence of being the
french law has not been disputed here, and there thus seems to be a general
consensus of it being ok.
Second, it is argued that the choice of venue is not DFSG free, because it
means a trigger happy lawsuit harrasment from the upstream author over some
user could be possible.
Well, as my personal knowledge of both the french judicial system (but IANAL),
and the upstream authors, and with the authority of over 6 years of
maintainership and good interaction with them, i believe this threat to be
bogus, and thus had a real hardtime accepting it. Also, in any sane legal
system, it should only affect those users who willingly violate the licence,
even after a cease-and-desist letter, and i would say they deserve what they
I will go over the DFSG points in a while, but let's first mention another
point. Altough the Social contract places our priorities at our users and
free software, where do the upstream author enter in consideration ? The
upstream authors without with debian would hardly exist.
I believe that, in this most hypothetic case of lawsuits, we have to strike a
balance between the interest of the users, and those of upstream, who would
hardly be willing to release the software if it would mean some possible legal
hurdle for them. And in all the responses here the user was given uttermost
priority, even if it did mean that the upstream author would have trouble
prosecuting violators, which would mean a loss to us all.
In the ocaml case, the upstream authors being a small team of 6-10 people from
the academic world, and wanting to be as unbothered as possible in all these
issues, also may fear the violation of the ocaml licence by entities such as
sun or microsoft, which would gain from the ocaml technology in both java and
C#, and fear that a court of venue in the US may render any chance of getting
justice void, given the money governed US legal system. This is just a
personal guess about what might be their motivations though.
Well, nothing in the DFSG makes mention of this kind of legal problems, so we
can hardly claim that this would make it DFSG-non-free, even though we may
have more or less justified to think so.
So, in conclusion, as far as strict adherence to the DFSG is concerned, only
the poing 6c) may be problematic, and then only by breaking the DFSG 1), and
by considering that the courtesy of sending upstream a version of your
distributed work that links with the library, as requested by upstream
constitutes a royalty or fee.
Ok, hope i have been reasonable and kind here, if a bit long maybe, but i
apologize for this, as i am not a native english speaker, nor a a lawyer at
heart with much succint expresiveness, but one does ones best. I also
apologize for any rudeness i might have shown, but as said my debian-legal
antecedent are a bit bad, and i was really unhappy that we were draggued into
this again, even though it was supposedly a settled issues since years, by
both us and the FSF.
Please don't drop me or debian-ocaml from the replies, i didn't find how to
set the mail-followup-to thingy in mutt, ? didn't show how to do this easily,
and so i only added a reply-to, which i know some would consider anathema to
be used for this purpose.