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Re: A new practical problem with invariant sections?

On Tue, Feb 14, 2006 at 04:57:47PM +0100, Yorick Cool wrote:
> The "and what about this absurd license" argument crops up regurlarly
> to try to demonstrate that requirements having nothing to do with
> software freedom per se can impede it's freedom. The problem is that
> the particular "absurd license" argument fails miserably in that such
> licenses' absurd requirements would be unenforceable[1]. This statement
> does not resolve the "convenience" problem, because even if the
> "absurd license" argument is unvalid, one can still argue that inconvenient
> clauses are non-free (FWIW, I tend to believe the contrary regarding a
> certain number of specific "unconvenient" clauses). I believe that is far
> from being a nitpick, because the argument is thrown around quite
> often, and having to deal with it creates alot of unuseful noise which
> does not help resolve the specific question at hand either way. Hence why I
> pointed out the weakness of the argument.

The argument is "we wouldn't allow this restriction, so why should we allow
this other restriction that looks very similar?"  The question of whether
the "extreme" example is enforcable or not doesn't enter into it.  It's a
very useful approach to explaining an argument; it accentuates the variables,
and helps people find common points of reference.  When people agree with
the extreme case, and still disagree with the argument, they've established
outer boundaries to narrow in on where they believe the line lies, and why;
and it's a useful step in determining when that line is blurry (where "bright
line tests" don't exist).

(Unfortunately, some people miss that point, and merely respond with "that's

> Anyway, what do you think distracted most from the conversation, my
> initial remark, or your message and my reply?

My response started out with a reply to your claim, which I then deleted
to avoid the distraction.  Instead, I offered my interpretation of Anthony's
argument, which had multiple purposes: to summarize it in case it was missed;
and to give Anthony an opportunity to correct me, if my interpretation was
off.  I don't consider that a distraction at all.

Since you seem to insist (and we're already thoroughly distracted anyway),
I'll offer that, too.  Nonenforcable only means "free" if the author's wishes
are considered discardable if they don't have legal teeth.  "The author
wants to restrict you in a DFSG-unfree way, but we think you can get away
with it, so don't worry" is hardly something Debian should be saying.
Additionally, "enforcable" depends on jurisdiction; Debian doesn't have the
means to tell with any certainty that a clause is unenforcable in *all*
jurisdictions.  Even your post included an "in civil law" qualifier.  For
license evaluation purposes, we assume that every restriction is enforcable
(unless it's directly relevant, eg. severability).

[1] Examples are probably unnecessary, but for the hell of it,
http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel/2006/02/msg00285.html [grep for

Glenn Maynard

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