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Re: Is this license DFSG free?

On Wednesday 15 June 2005 10:24 pm, Glenn Maynard wrote:
> 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.

But the two have substantially different meenings...  like, seriously 
substantial.  "Use" is not a well defined term in the Copyright statute and 
control of "use" is generally accepted to be beyond the exclusive rights 
granted under (s)106.  Code "reuse" requires copying and likely derivation, 
rights which can and are controlled under a pure license.  For all the 
dicussion on this list recently about whether the GPL is a contract or a 
license, it is important that these destinctions be remembered.

> > 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.)

Sure it does...  courts don't require absolute proof, just proof.  My name and 
a change date is admissable, necessary evidence and absent contradicting 
evidence it is also sufficient evidence.  The balance I speak of is between 
seeking to perserve privacy while maintaining accountability and record 
keeping.  The two are often oposed to one another...  and I think that the 
standard libertarian perspective inherent in the average DD suggests that 
Debian err on the side of privacy.  However, there are instances were privacy 
is NOT respected, like with deb package changelogs.  Not only is a name 
required, but so is a working e-mail address!  Obviously record keeping won 
over any privacy concerns for those who created that system.

> (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 island.)
> > 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."

Grr...  I referenced the langauge above and why this sort of change entry 
wouldn't be enough by my standards if I entered into a GPL agreement with 
others.  Given the ambiguity in the language, and this lists tendency to 
interpret language AGAINST the interest of debian, I don't see why the GPL is 
given such latitude.

> 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.

Sure it does.  If the DFSG exlcudes the GPL than that's the end of the show.  
The loss of applications would be devistating to Debian.  Additionally, the 
DFSG even includes a statement that the GPL is considered a free license, so 
it is actually PART of the definition.  Whatever the GPL allows must be 
considered when evaluating the other aspects of the DFSG.

> > 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.)

*sigh*  It's sad that compromise has become a dirty word in our politics (both 
Debian's and the world at large).  As I think I've noted before, I am a 
political scientist by training, and may well end up a Ph.D in the subject 
before I finally leave school.  I happen to think that compromise is a great 
thing, provided it is done for the right reasons and with the right mindset.  
Sufficie to say, compromise is how groups of unlikeminded people stick 
together.  If Debian cannot compromise, than those who disagree leave.  Maybe 
that's okay...  maybe Debian doesn't care.  But, if a strong membership who 
generally gets a long is important, than compromise has got to be a tool...  
right up there is healthy debate and diplomacy.  So far, in my experience, 
d-l is heavy on healthy debate (some may even disagree on that point) and 
short on the other two.


Sean Kellogg
2nd Year - University of Washington School of Law
GPSS Senator - Student Bar Association
Editor-at-Large - National ACS Blog [http://www.acsblog.org]
w: http://probonogeek.blogspot.com

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