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Re: Is this license DFSG free?

On Wed, Jun 15, 2005 at 09:44:55PM -0700, Sean Kellogg wrote:
> > That said, it's usually a bit of a leap to call "discrimination" on a
> > license clause, since on one hand, there's usually some underlying freedom
> > that the person actually has in mind; and on the other hand, every
> > restriction imaginable can be phrased as "discrimination".  The "chinese
> > dissident" test is useful, but "freedom to use software without identifying
> > yourself to a third party" underlies it; the "dissident" case is just one
> > example of *why* that's important.
> Ah, but here is the central point of contention with regards to identification 
> and mandatory contribution.  The crazy "Base Public License" makes no 
> restriction on 'use' nor does it require identification for use.  In fact, it 
> doesn't even require identification when you modify, only when you seek to 
> distribute that modification.

Being able to distribute modifications is as intrinsic to free software
as being able to modify in the first place; permission to modify while
forbidding redistribution is clearly non-free.  I tend to use the word
"use" broadly, including all of the ways one uses free software (eg.
"code reuse"), not merely running the program.  

> Given that we are all concerned about copyrights and having proof that the 
> code is free and not ripped off from SCO or whoever, identification seems to 
> be a worthy goal of free software, which must be balanced against certain 
> privacy concerns.

It doesn't seem to help; identifying myself as the author of some changes
doesn't tell anyone whether I actually have claim as the owner of those
changes (eg. work/school contracts).  I don't see how there's anything to
"balance": either you have to release your identity or you don't; there
doesn't see to be anything in between.  (I'm open to suggestions, of course.)

(For what it's worth, I value being able to be anonymous, but don't actually
want to *be* anonymous.  That is, I attach my name to what I say and create;
I hold people who post and code anonymously in question--"do they consider
what they're writing to have so little value that they don't want themselves
associated with it?"--but I consider the ability to be anonymous, for the
cases where it really is needed, to be important, and I don't think free
licenses should prohibit it.  That's just my personal rationale, as a person
not expecting to be a political dissident or to become stuck on a desert

> All of this leads me to believe that the dissident test, 
> while interesting, covers way too much territory and excludes licenses that 
> should be considered free.  To which I will reiterate that I read the GPL 
> requiring attribution with modification...  Mr. Suffield's statement that FSF 
> says otherwise not withstanding [1].

I don't know where you're getting that.  The GPL says I must say that I
changed the files; nowhere does it require me to say who I am.  "This
file was changed on 11/22/33."

In any event, I don't think your unusual interpretation of the GPL has
any bearing on the DFSG or the usefulness of the dissident test.  "The
GPL might be argued to mean this, so the DFSG must allow it--just in
case" is crazy.

> Yes, a judgment call.  I think that's my point.  But with judgment comes 
> discretion, not obstenence.  Is d-l being true to the DFSG when it takes 
> hardline no-compromise positions like the dissident test?

If a restriction ("no modification", "send me your firstborn", "state your
name and show your papers") inhibits freedom enough to render a license
non-free, then there is no room for "compromise".  Compromise has its place,
but compromising principles is not one of them.

I find it somewhat curious that people throw around the word "compromise"
in the context of the software freedoms as if it's actually desirable--"we
should compromise, give up our principles and our freedoms in order to
have more stuff in Debian!" (Pardon the exaggeration; I have in mind
the attitudes of some others, not you.)

Glenn Maynard

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