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Re: Is this license DFSG free?

On Sat, 2005-11-06 at 14:09 -0700, Sean Kellogg wrote:
> Debian-legal, a self-appointed group of 
> various legal, political, an philosophical stripes, is making substantive 
> policy decisions based on thin air?

Pretty much, yes. The decision-making power eventually lies with
ftp-masters, but AFAIK they generally accept the consensus on d-l.

I think the key point to remember is that there are two ways a license
can prohibit exercising the rights required by the DFSG: either
implicitly, or explicitly. Explicitly, a license could say:

        You MAY NOT make or distribute Derivative Works.
That's clearly non-free. But a license could also _allow_ making and
distributing Derivative Works, but put such a high burden on the
licensee as to make the freedom effectively impossible to exercise:

        You MAY make and distribute Derivative Works provided that You
        square the circle.
        You MAY make and distribute Derivative Works provided that You
        travel faster than the speed of light.
        You MAY make and distribute Derivative Works provided that You
        light a cigar with a million-dollar bill.

Dot dot dot. It's probably fair, albeit simplistic, to think of
requirements in a license as a spectrum between total lack of
restriction and total prohibition:

 Without         Unacceptably                              Entirely
 restriction     burdensome                              prohibited

The point at which requirements are unacceptably burdensome -- where
they effectively prevent exercise of the rights required by the DFSG for
some or all people -- is admittedly vague.

This is where the tests in the DFSG FAQ come in. They provide a good
mnemonic for determining where in the spectrum a requirement lies. If a
requirement "fails" the Dissident Test, for example, that means that
it's probably too burdensome to be considered truly free. Note that the
tests are for on-the-edge cases; that's the area of the spectrum where
we need some help in license analysis, after all.

Hope that helps,


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