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Re: generated source files, GPL and DFSG

On Sat, Jul 23, 2005 at 02:35:01AM +0100, Matthew Garrett wrote:
> So say we have two drivers for a piece of hardware. One is written
> without comments. One was originally commented, but the comments have
> been removed. Both provide the same amount of information about how they
> work. Both are released under the same license. Both provide exactly the
> same freedoms to our users.
> How is one of these free and the other non-free?

One provided source, the other did not, and Debian considers having source
fundamental to having a free program.

Take it a step further, and say we have two drivers: one written in heavily-
optimized, uncommented assembly, and one written in C, compiled with
optimizations and disassembled.  They look pretty much the same; as you say,
both provide the "same freedoms to our users".  Is disassembly output of a
compiled program "source" to you?  Is one free and the other non-free?

(My answer is probably obvious: a disassembly dump of a program, no matter
how good the disassembler, no matter that it used debug information to
reconstruct function boundaries and resulted in assembly output practically
equivalent to hand-written assembly code, is not source and isn't acceptable
as such--even though a program that was actually written in assembly
and resulted in the same thing would be.)

Glenn Maynard

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