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Re: Is this license DFSG free?

On Thu, Jun 16, 2005 at 09:15:06AM -0700, Sean Kellogg wrote:
> 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.

I'm not going to write mail on lists like a license, saying "use, modify,
distribute and distribute modifications" every time I want to say "use";
my fingers and keyboard would rebel.  If I find that someone misunderstands
my use of language, I explain it, as I did here.  If I find that enough
of people are misunderstanding me, then I adjust my language; but I havn't
seen that here.

> > > 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.

Proof of what?  Joe releases code or code modifications, claiming it's under
the GPL.  I integrate that code into mine, or fork it, or otherwise make a
significant investment into it.  A year later, JohnCorp--Joe's employer at
the time--notices this code and my use of it, and notices that under Joe's
employment contract, this code belongs to JohnCorp.  Joe had no right
to release it under the GPL.  I'm up a creek.  I don't know if I'm liable for
damages, but I certainly can lose all rights to use the code that I'm
depending on, since I didn't have them to begin with.  (This isn't contrived;
it's probably the most common case of "proof that code is free".)  How does
Joe putting his name on the code improve the situation?

(The case of "not ripped off from SCO" doesn't seem interesting.  If a person
is stealing code from SCO and claiming it's under the GPL, then he's already
flagrantly ignoring copyright; and even if he put his name on it anyway, it
still isn't telling me that the code was SCO's and not his.)

> 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.

I havn't seen anyone else claiming that the GPL's log requirement is stricter
than it seems; given the repeated arguments that expectations and actual
practice matter, that seems significant.  (The heaps of new, strange, custom
licenses that are thrown at Debian for review don't have the wide use and
expectations of the GPL.)

> > 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.

Are you actually agreeing that you're making the above "crazy" argument?
People can (and do) offer strange, clearly non-free interpretations of
critical licenses all the time (eg. that the MIT license's "supporting
documentation" includes *all* supporting documentation, including every
comment in the source and documentation written by third parties--which
is clearly non-free); the DFSG isn't bent to accomodate them "just in

I don't find "I think the GPL means this, so the DFSG must allow it" valid.
I think anyone making such an argument, instead of "I think this is
beneficial for these reasons, so the DFSG should allow it", has a very weak

> *sigh*  It's sad that compromise has become a dirty word in our politics (both 
> Debian's and the world at large).

It's sad that it hasn't, and that some people criticize Debian for not being
quick to compromise its principles.

I'd like to see what you'd consider to be acceptable compromises.  "Allowing
licenses to require people modifying the work to identify themselves" isn't
a compromise; it's a complete one-sided resignation.  It's hard to get
anything between "allow it" and "disallow it" while being reasonably
consistent ...

Glenn Maynard

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