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Re: defending freedom and evolving licenses (Re: Choice of venue, was: GUADEC report)

Branden Robinson <branden@debian.org> wrote:

>The main thing I don't understand in the recent discussion is that, if we
>don't take personal offense at a licensor's bad license, why should we
>expect the licensor to take offense if we bounce it for failing the DFSG?
>Why do we act as if their time is more valuable than ours?  Why do we act
>as if they're doing anyone any favors by adding yet another new license to
>the very complex mosaic that already exists?

Ah, but the issue is that people's licenses have been bounced for things
which /aren't/ clearly DFSG failures. That does lead to some amount of
bad blood.

>New licenses *should* be met with strict scrutiny.  It's better for us,
>better for our users, and better for the community.  Ultimately, we can
>even expect it to lead to better licenses.

In the long run, I'd expect it to end up leading to a larger number of
GPL compatible licenses. If the body of GPL code in existence continues
to increase at its current rate, not being able to subsume some amount
of that is going to end up being harmful (there's an inherent survival
disadvantage to having to spend effort inventing something that's
already been written...)

In the long run, licenses like the QPL are only going to carry on
existing because the vendor wants to be able to provide their closed
version as well. Weirdly, there's actually an incentive for companies to
produce licenses that are all incompatible with each other - nobody
wants a situation where a competitor ends up being allowed to use some
of your code in their product. And, eventually, that'll just lead to the
commercial codebases being outcompeted.

>Of course, maybe some people think it's a *bad* thing when Debian discusses
>a license with an upstream, the wording gets clarified or a well-known
>license adopted instead, and mutual gratitude is expressed.  (Anyone who
>thinks this doesn't happen, hasn't been reading this mailing list -- or
>DWN, which occasionally covers high-profile instances.)

I'm entirely happy that licenses get discussed upstream. In several
cases it's made an improvement. Occasionally, the manner in which it
happens isn't ideal. With hindsight, the GFDL situation could have
arrived in the same place with less bad blood between us and RMS (though
I guess there's an argument that bad blood between us and RMS isn't a
bad thing, and it certainly gives us more credibility in certain
quarters :) )

>(Hah, and I'll bet you thought I was using "evolve" as a transitive verb in
>my Subject: line.  Fooled ya! :) )

No, if I'd thought that I'd have been on a plane right now. I have a
much higher opinion of your use of language than you seem to think...

Matthew Garrett | mjg59-chiark.mail.debian.legal@srcf.ucam.org

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