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Re: handling Mozilla with kid gloves [was: GUADEC report]

On Thu, 27 Jan 2005 02:12:58 +0000 MJ Ray wrote:

> Mark Brown > > For what it's worth I'd noticed that the summaries had
> vanished - Francesco Poli > So did I.
> Thanks for that

You are welcome!  :)

> and the comments off-list. What would the period
> summaries have done to help you with the Eclipse thread? Or did you
> mean the long licence summaries?

Well, I was personally referring more to long license summaries than to
period ones (how can I call them? debian-legal weekly news? ;-)

> What would they have done?

When the summarizing practice seemed to be going to get established, I
had the opportunity to skip long threads while learning their
conclusions by reading the summary.
Of course, it was a sort of "emergency exit" in case of lack of time to
keep up with long and fast paced discussions.
This solution wasn't obviously meant to replace my partecipation in list
discussions: it was only useful when

 a) one thread growed above my following possibilities (due to lack of
 b) the topic was one I could not contribute much to (due to lack of
    knowledge and/or strong opinion)

 IF a AND b THEN discard_and_wait_for_summary := "yes"

Please note that it was

 a *AND* b

and not

 a *OR* b

I would have probably behaved in such a way (discard and wait for a
summary) with the Eclipse-related threads, if I could have hoped to
actually see a summary...

And, please, do not misunderstand me: I'm not in any way implying that
such threads should not have taken place or that their topic was
On the contrary, Java is an interesting language to me (even though I'm
absolutely ignorant about it, which implies b) and trying to understand
how licenses interact in the case of JVMs, JNI and Java programs was
worth doing.
Those threads have been a bit too long and flamy (that implies a), but I
can understand that the reason is a strong disagreement between the

> Personally, I've been ignoring that thread because it's very large, I
> dislike Java and it didn't seem to be heading towards consensus yet.
> I have less time now, so I changed from period summaries, which are
> interesting statistics to me but not much practical use, to making
> notes that help me with a real problem: how do I answer when asked
> whether I think some software is free software?

That is another important use of (long) license summaries.
The first one is the "emergency exit" thing I explained above.
The second one (not necessarily in order of importance!) is keeping
track of past debian-legal discussions.

Let me try to explain what I mean.

When I find out some useful or interesting piece of software (i.e.
program or documentation or music or ...), I try to determine its
(DFSG-)freeness. Some cases are easy enough (e.g. Expat license with no
strange inconsistencies), but life is seldom easy!  :-(
Thus having a collection of past discussion summaries *is* useful, IMHO.

Moreover, when my conclusion is "non-free!" and still the software seems
to be *very* useful, I try to approach its copyright holders and
persuade them to change license.
This is very difficult (I succeded in some cases, but more often
failed...), since it requires diplomatic abilities.
In order to be more credible when I point out the issues that makes a
license non-free, I usually cite them briefly and then refer to some
summaries and position statements (written by other people) for further
I hope the copyright holder will read at least one of the
"bibliographic" references and thus see that I am not the only one who
thinks the license actually *has* problems.

I think that referring to long threads full of legal technicalities (in
absence of summaries) would not work at all.
Rather, it would probably be counter-productive.
Hence, I feel that summaries are useful.
> Do the long licence summaries do much besides fuelling the project
> red-top's debian-legal hate campaign?

I think that the absence of summaries is even worse, because, I suppose,
debian-legal hate campaigners are often not very interested in legal
details: as a consequence, long (and difficult to follow) threads with
no summarized conclusions would seem even more obscure and opaque
to them.

> As soon as someone starts
> drafting one, it runs reports about -legal "ruling" on a licence.
> Successes are rarely reported, as good news is not news.

Perhaps they don't undertand that moving a package to the section where
it belongs (from the SC standpoint) *is* a success.
Of course, it is surely better when a non-free package becomes free and
stays in main (where it was erroneosly placed before the license

> Really,
> you're better off reading planetdebian if you want to know what's
> going on.


          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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