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Fwd: figlet license change from Artistic to Clarified Artistic or Artistic 2.0?

This is just a particularly interesting part of the private
discussions I've been holding with FIGlet authors/copyright holders.
Any comments?

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: John Cowan <jcowan@reutershealth.com>
Date: Thu, 14 Oct 2004 13:27:26 -0400
Subject: Re: figlet license change from Artistic to Clarified Artistic
or Artistic 2.0?
To: Carlos Laviola <carlos.laviola@gmail.com>
Cc: Ian Chai <ianchai@rbacomm.com>, chappellg@member.ams.org, John
Cowan <cowan@ccil.org>, Christiaan Keet <keet@plig.net>

Disclaimer:  IANAL, but I have talked extensively with those who are.
I'm sorry for the length and geekiness of this email, but I think the
issues need to be made crystal clear here so we can get a resolution
once and for all.

Carlos Laviola scripsit:

> Thanks for that, but I think I'd need permission from the other
> copyright holders -- in this case, everyone involved in this
> discussion -- for that change to happen. They contributed code under
> Artistic back then.

Since none of us can possibly suffer a commercial loss, and since FIGlet
is not registered with the Copyright Office, there is no one with standing
to sue for statutory damages (actual damages being obviously $0).  Still,
I agree that unanimous consent is a good thing, where achievable.

> There are also some issues with the default fonts, which have statements
> such as
> Shadow by Glenn Chappell 6/93 -- based on Standard & SmShadow
> Includes ISO Latin-1
> figlet release 2.1 -- 12 Aug 1994
> Permission is hereby given to modify this font, as long as the
> modifier's name is placed on a comment line.
> The "(...) as long as the modifier's name is placed on a comment line"
> is a lot like the advertisement clause on the older BSD-like licenses.

Not at all.  The old 4-clause BSD license required that any *advertising*
of any product incorporating licensed code had to mention the name of the
licensor as a source of the code.  That is not at all the same as saying
that the *code itself* must mention the name of anyone who changes it.
Many free licenses, notably the GPL (clause 2a) and the MPL (clause 3.3),
require at least that much.

> I know this is all a bit too anal, but since Glenn seems to be the one
> that has created all of those fonts, perhaps he could change those
> license terms to something that emphasizes that free modification and
> redistribution -- which is key in free software -- of the fonts is
> allowed, no strings attached.

I agree.

> I'm also happy to say that I have convinced Edward B. Hamrick, who is
> the copyright holder of zipio.c, zipio.h, inflate.c, inflate.h, crc.c
> and crc.h -- all part of the FIGlet distribution -- to release the
> code in this files into the public domain. Being on the public domain
> now, these too can fall under the Academic Free License 2.1.

Umm.  How sure are you that a declaration that something is in the
public domain actually makes it so?  Lawyers don't agree on this point.
If Debian has accepted such public-domain declarations in the past,
well and good.

> I must admit that I lack the legal expertise to claim that the AFL 2.1
> conforms to the Debian Free Software Guidelines, since it talks about
> needlessly complicated things like patents and jurisdictions.

Both the Open Source Initiative and the Free Software Foundation have
analyzed the AFL and declared it conformant to their definitions of "open
source" and "free".  The FSF also claims that the AFL is incompatible
with the GNU GPL, but I (and the author of the AFL) believe this to be
incorrect, and a failure to reflect on the sublicenseability (that is,
the right of a distributor of original or modified works to replace the
AFL with his own license, proprietary or open) of the AFL.  I have asked
the AFL's author to make this point clearer in AFL 2.2.

I agree that "patents and jurisdictions" are needlessly complicated,
but that doesn't mean they can be ignored.  Eventually the copyright
holders will die and the copyrights will be passed to their heirs, who
may not be so friendly to the cause of free software.  Amateur licenses
(I don't mean the GPL here) don't have the necessary teeth.  The AFL,
on the other hand, is a contract between licensor and licensee whereby
the licensor makes promises (mostly to refrain from certain things)
that the licensee can readily enforce in court.

> Wouldn't you agree on choosing a more thoroughly analyzed license,
> such as the GPL, version 2, for FIGlet?

Definitely not.  Copyleft licenses are antithetical to the spirit of

In my personal opinion, the GPL is also dangerously obsolete.

> > Christiaan, when you get back from vacation, please modify the FIGlet
> > distribution accordingly.

I of course second this request.

John Cowan  jcowan@reutershealth.com  www.reutershealth.com  www.ccil.org/~cowan
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the
continent, a part of the main.  If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a
manor of thy friends or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for
whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.  --John Donne

Carlos Laviola

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