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Re: d-fsl - German Free Software License

In addition to the issues raised by others, I'd like to point out the

> Public/publicly: Not solely directed towards a 
> certain group of people who have a personal 
> connection to each other or are associated 
> through their affiliation with a legal person or 
> public organisation.
> Making Publicly Available: The public 
> distribution of the Program in an immaterial 
> form, in particular, by making it available for 
> download in data networks.  

Note these definitions.

> Distribution: The public passing on of material 
> copies to third parties, in particular, onto 
> storage devices or in connection with hardware.  

This should *not* say "public" here.  That defines Distribution to mean
only public distribution (under the definition of "public" above), and
does not include private distribution.  Given that Distribution is later
granted in the license, that would imply that private distribution is
not allowed at all.  Furthermore, if private distribution *is* allowed,
then this definition would open up a hole in the copyleft, saying that
your obligations, such as distribution of source and granting of any
applicable rights, do not arise for private distribution, because that
isn't considered Distribution.  I suggest deleting the word "public".

> Complete Source Code: The Source Code in the form 
> used for preparation and/or modification together 
> with the configuration files and software tools 
> required for compilation and installation, 
> provided that these are not commonly used in the 
> required form (e.g. standard compiler) or can be 
> downloaded by any Internet user without license 
> fee.

This also seems to open a few holes in the copyleft:

First, it is not clear that the "provided that" applies only to
"configuration files and software tools" and not also "The Source Code".

Second, "not commonly used in the required form" doesn't make much
sense; it is clear from the example that they are trying to do something
like the GPL's OS exception, but their text isn't very clear.  (Might I
suggest actually using the GPL's OS exception? :) )

Third, it seems to allow the use of any arbitrary component, as long as
that component is freely-downloadable.

Fourth, it isn't clear if the "configuration files and software tools"
that do need to be included must be included in source form or not.

Finally, "required for compilation" could probably be construed to
include just about anything, such as a library linked to the program.

> (6) If you acquire any other intellectual or 
> industrial property right to this Program apart 
> from a copyright, in particular a patent or 
> utility model, you license this intellectual or 
> industrial property right for modified or 
> unmodified versions of the Program to the extent 
> that is necessary to make due use of the rights 
> arising from this License. 

Several minor issues with this clause:

First, it seems to imply that it only applies to such rights that you
acquire after accepting this license, which would greatly limit its
usefulness; it should really apply any time you exercise rights provided
by this license, and require that you license any applicable rights you
have.  I would suggest s/acquire/hold/

Second, being under the "Further Obligations regarding the Distribution
of Modified Versions" section seems to imply that you only need to
license your patents/etc if you distribute a modified version; I don't
think that's actually the case, but it seems unclear.  The clause should
be positioned and worded such as to clearly be a condition of exercising
any right provided by this license.

Finally, it doesn't really seem necessary to exclude copyrights from
this clause.  Leaving that exclusion out would just reinforce the
copyleft of the license, saying that to exercise your rights under this
license, you must license any applicable copyrights you hold (which
would be those on the part of the work you have supplied) compatibly
with this license.

> Section 4 Further Obligations for the 
> Distribution of the Object Code
> (1) If you distribute the Program in Object Code 
> form only, apart from the obligations defined in 
> Sections 2 and 3, you have to either:
> 1. make the Complete Source Code publicly 
> available in the Internet and - when distributing 
> the Object Code - make a clear reference to the 
> complete Internet address from which the Source 
> Code can be downloaded; or
> 2.  distribute the Complete Source Code on a 
> customary data carrier, taking into consideration 
> Sections 2 and 3.

This seems fine, assuming a reasonable definition of "customary data
carrier" (which as others have mentioned is not necessarily a safe

> (2) If you make the Program publicly available in 
> Object Code form, apart from the obligations 
> defined in Sections 2 and 3 you must also make 
> the Complete Source Code publicly available in 
> the Internet and make a clear reference to the 
> complete Internet address.

This, however, has a problem.  The definition of "making publicly
available" above includes any public "immaterial" distribution, but the
requirement for distribution of source here specifically requires
Internet distribution.  Consider what would happen if you made the
software available on Internet2, or on AOL's "walled garden" network, or
on a BBS, etc.  You would need to supply source via the Internet, even
if you didn't supply the binary via the Internet.  You should be allowed
to make the source available via the same mechanism as the binary.

I would suggest that the easiest and best fix for this problem would be
to unify clauses (1) and (2) of this section into one clause, and
include the same sub-clauses currently under (1) under the new unified
clause, along with a new sub-clause allowing distribution via the same
mechanism.  That way, for either public or private distribution, you may
satisfy the requirement for providing source via either (1) the
Internet, (2) a "customary data carrier", or (new sub-clause 3) the same
mechanism you used for the binary.

> 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. 

On the one hand, this makes slightly more sense than saying "English is
authoritative" or "German is authoritative"; on the other hand, the
wording of the second part of the clause implies that in case of
ambiguity, you would need to understand both versions, and determine
what meaning satisfies both and best fits the "aim and purpose of the

- Josh Triplett

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