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Re: d-fsl - German Free Software License

On Tue, 14 Dec 2004 20:55:48 +0000 Martin Michlmayr - Debian Project
Leader wrote:

> In September, I was approached by an important research institute in
> Germany about a new software license, d-fsl.  They are interested in
> making sure that the license conforms with both the Open Source
> Definition as well as the DFSG and have asked for out input.
> Furthermore, they are interested in setting up a committee which will
> have the authority to make new versions of the license and they would
> like to see a representative of Debian on this committee.

Even though I see license proliferation as an undesired phenomenon, I
must say I really appreciate this approach.

My comments about the license text itself follow.

> The license texts (both the English and German version) are included
> below:

As I cannot read German, I will comment the English version only.

> Object Code: The machine-readable form of the 
> Program.

I don't particularly like this definition: for instance, C code saved in
text files *is* machine-readable (otherwise it could not be compiled),
but is not what I would call "Object Code" (at least not in common

> Making Publicly Available: The public 
> distribution of the Program in an immaterial 
> form, in particular, by making it available for 
> download in data networks.
> Distribution: The public passing on of material 
> copies to third parties, in particular, onto 
> storage devices or in connection with hardware.

And private distribution through a data network?
In which category does it fall?
> Section 1 Rights
> (1) You may reproduce and distribute the Program 
> and make it publicly available in an unmodified 
> form.

Note: it seems to me that this license is designed for programs only and
is not usable for more general works (such as documentation, data, ...).
Does this mean that it could be really hard to apply it to a videogame
(when images and sounds are combined with executable code)?

> Section 2 Obligations for Distribution and Making 
> Publicly Available
> (1) If you distribute the Program or make it 
> publicly available, be it in unmodified or 
> modified form, be it in combination with other 
> programs or in connection with hardware, you also 
> have to provide or include the following:
> 2. all references in the Source Code and/or 
> Object Code containing information about the 
> author of the Program;

Does this mean I cannot modify the Program in such a way that *some*
information about the original author is removed?
In other words: have I to keep every single text that gives information
about the original author?
This would be a major limitation to the freedom of modification

Yes, I noticed that we are currently in the _Obligations for
Distribution and Making Publicly Available_ section, but next section
says "Further Obligations", so it seems that the present obligations
apply to distribution of modified versions as well...

> 3. a conspicuous reference to this License and 
> the Internet address <http://www.d-fsl.org>, to
> be displayed in a form that can easily be read by 
> the recipient;

Is this a good idea?
When <http://www.d-fsl.org> becomes obsolete or no longer valid, I will
still be forced to make this (then inaccurate) reference...

> (2) If license and/or contract terms are 
> displayed when the Program is installed and/or 
> started, the following items must also be 
> displayed:

It's good that it says *"If"*...
It's not necessary to do so!

> (4) Provided that you have received Documentation 
> for the Program, you have to deliver this 
> Documentation with the Program, as well, unless 
> free delivery of the Documentation is not 
> permitted by the documentation license.

So I cannot separate Documentation from the Program?
I would think that this limits the freedom to modify (DFSG#3)...

> Section 3 Further Obligations regarding the 
> Distribution of Modified Versions 
> (3) If you distribute or make publicly available 
> the Program or parts thereof - modified or 
> unmodified - in combination with another program 
> licensed under the GNU General Public License 
> (GPL), the Program may also be used under 
> conditions of the GPL, provided it constitutes a 
> "derivative work" together with the other program 
> in the sense of the GPL. In this case, any 
> reference to this License should be removed and 
> replaced by a reference to the GPL.

IIUC, this license `surrenders' to the GNU GPL copyleft in order to be

> Section 9 Text of the License
> (1) This License is written in German and 
> English. Both versions are equally binding. It is 
> assumed that terminology used in the License has 
> the same meaning in both versions. Should, 
> however, differences arise, such meaning is 
> authoritative which best brings into line both 
> versions, taking into consideration the aim and 
> purpose of the License.

This seems good...

> (2) The license board of the German Free Software 
> License may put into force binding new versions 
> of this License inasmuch as this is required and 
> reasonable. New versions of the License will be 
> published on the Internet site <http://www.d-
> fsl.org> with a unique version number. The new 
> version of the License becomes binding for you as 
> soon as you become aware of its publication. 
> Legal remedies against the modification of the 
> License are not restricted by the regulations 
> described above.

So I cannot license a program under a particular version of D-FSL and
not later ones.
An implicit "latest available version" is assumed...

          Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.
  Francesco Poli                             GnuPG Key ID = DD6DFCF4
 Key fingerprint = C979 F34B 27CE 5CD8 DC12  31B5 78F4 279B DD6D FCF4

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