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Re: DRAFT: debian-legal summary of the QPL

On Fri, Jul 23, 2004 at 05:08:05AM -0400, Glenn Maynard wrote:
> On Fri, Jul 23, 2004 at 05:54:29PM +1000, Matthew Palmer wrote:
> > > "The license of a Debian component may not restrict any party from selling
> > > or giving away the software ..."
> > > 
> > > I believe "may not restrict" is the operative phrase; this is a restriction.
> > 
> > I think we need to include the rest of that sentence is important, though:
> > "as a component of an aggregate software distribution...".  I would
> > fully support an amendment which made it explicit that DFSG #1 applied to
> > individual distribution also, but as written I think it is mostly a
> > protection for commercial Debian distributors, and a restatement of DFSG #9.
> The "component of an aggregate ..." phrase is usually read as a specific
> restriction which is allowed: restrictions like "this may only be distributed
> along with other programs"[1] are free.  DFSG#1 certainly applies to non-
> aggregate distribution, as well.

I'd challenge "certainly".  It's the most reasonable interpretation,
considering that we want to allow people to use the software itself, too,
but throwing "certainly" in there is a little strong.

> I think it's pretty much the same thing, anyway; most licenses apply
> restrictions on distribution--not caring whether it's aggregated or not.
> The QPL's restrictions on distribution still apply if aggregated with
> other works, so DFSG#1 applies even if we accept your argument.

Well, reading the whole sentence as one entity, it could be interpreted that
DFSG #1 ONLY disallows aggregate prohibition, since there is no mention of
non-aggregate distribution at all.  Also, reading the second sentence as a
followup of the first, it only disallows upstream for charging a fee for
distribution of the software as part of the aggregate.

Note that I don't agree with this interpretation, because it causes too much
trouble in too many cases, but I think it's an interpretation that can
easily be argued for.

It's one of the reasons that I'm in favour of a few "enhancements" to the
DFSG -- think of them as "editorial changes to the DFSG" <grin>.  They
shouldn't change the meaning of the DFSG for the common interpretation, but
it'll reduce the ambiguity so no doubt some people will think it's a major

> [1] Bundling with "hello world" to form a trivial aggregate is generally
> expected to satisfy this; anything stronger, such as "must be bundled with
> at least 10 megs of other stuff" would probably be non-free.

Working around "not by itself" problems by trivial bundling is right up
there with "this licence clause isn't a problem because the law doesn't
allow the licensor to do that" in terms of arguments that shouldn't be made. 
It's acting in bad faith, in my opinion.  We shouldn't be looking for
workarounds, we should be evaluating licensor intent (as expressed by the
chosen licence and any clarifications received) and judging that against the
DFSG, without playing the "how can we work around this to get it in" game.

- Matt

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