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Re: Dispossessing the FSF

Thaddeus H. Black writes:

> I used to be a flag-waving FSF patriot, but for reasons
> people familiar with the present GFDL GR debate will
> appreciate, the FSF has lost my trust.  My question is
> as follows.  The FSF retains special authority
> unilaterally to extend the GPL, LGPL, FDL, etc.  For my
> own free software, can I take this special authority
> away from the FSF and transfer it to the Debian Project?
> That is, can I license my software with
>     This program is free software; you can
>     redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms
>     of the GNU General Public License; either the
>     Free Software Foundation's version 2, or (at
>     your option, without regard to FSF approval) any
>     successor thereto the Debian Project has ever
>     promulgated or approved.
> My intent, very regrettably, is to undermine my hero
> Richard M. Stallman's future credibility to speak on
> behalf of free-software developerdom, and to set a
> correct example for others who feel that they should do
> likewise.  If so, then is my example correct?

I am not sure what you mean by "promulgated" -- in the sense I usually
interpret it, that would mean that Debian would have to create the
license.  The mechanism by which Debian would promulgate or approve
such a license is also not clear; would it require a GR?

Not least because of Debian's legal identity as an unincorporated
association, I cannot imagine Debian writing a "General Debian Public
License" or anything meant to succeed the GPL.  I cannot imagine it
recognizing any non-FSF license as a successor to the GPL, although it
is (very remotely) conceivable to me that Debian might encourage use
of some future copyleft license _instead_ of the GPL.  If Debian sees
fatal flaws in GPLv3, I would expect Debian contributors would
recommend GPLv2-only licensing over of GPLv2+ or GPLv3.

More generally, it seems odd to shift the authority to write new
licenses that apply to your software from one group to another.  Why
not leave out "at your option" clauses, and ensure that anyone who
holds copyrights over the work authorizes you (or later maintainers)
to dual-license the work under other copyleft licenses?  That leaves
the discretion to select licenses up to the maintainer.

(As a side note, no M-F-T header was set on the copy I got via list.)

Michael Poole

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