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Re: GR proposal: GFDL with no Invariant Sections is free

On Wed, Feb 01, 2006 at 01:45:49PM +0100, Yorick Cool wrote:
> Without taking a stance on the GFDL issue, I agree with the fact that
> Debian should be cautious not to go to far in it's assessment of
> licenses. In my view, a license can be free and yet not ideal, the two
> are different. And I feel that Debian should focus on freeness,
> not perfection. To me, copylefted licenses are better than non
> copylefted ones because they do more to advance the cause of free
> software, but it would be ludicrous to consider non copylefted
> licenses as non-free. Olive has a good point.

Olive's argument seems to boil down to that, in order to avoid annoying
people, Debian should

 - allow consessions (new restrictions that do not benefit Free Software;
that is, a one-way exchange), if they appear "minor".  This is a chipping-
away at the standards of free software, allowing more and varied restrictions
to be placed on users.  The burden of proof needs to be placed squarely
on the people wanting to restrict us: explain to us why we should accept
the new limitation, and how it benefits Free Software.

(Copyright holders are a part of Free Software, too, and "for the protection
of the copyright holders" is a perfectly legitimate end--since that means
our protection, as developers, too.  But these things need to be analyzed
critically, to be sure that they really do what they purport to do, and
do so without unacceptable negative consequences.)

 - ignore the corner cases that license authors tend to neglect.  It annoys
people when we point out uncommon goals that a license accidentally prohibits;
"collateral damage".  An example is SMS messaging, which affects both "make
source available to users" clauses as well as "display this two-line
acknowledgement to users" for some overly-wide definitions of "users"[1].
Some people don't like dealing with cases they don't think they'll personally
need, and it's easy to say "I don't care about that" when you're not the one
affected. [2]

Free Software needs to maintain its standards, avoid both the slippery slopes
and the slow chipping, and prevent "collateral damage".  As far as I can tell,
Debian is one of the very few organizations making any effort at this; the
FSF, in my opinion, is doing very poorly at this.  It would be a grave blow
to Free Software if Debian was to give up.

[1] http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2003/03/msg00369.html

[2] There are some uses that Free Software acknowledges as being acceptable
collateral damage, but these are always ones which are inherently incompatible
with Free Software.  We allow restrictions that prevent use on proprietary,
closed systems where users aren't allowed to change anything, because those
systems are--by design--incompatible with Free Software, and the restrictions
preventing it benefit Free Software.  This is not the case with most other
"collateral damage", such as SMS, where there is no such underlying conflict
(though, of course, there is probably coincidental overlap between these two

Glenn Maynard

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