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Re: DFSG as Licence?

On Fri,  7 Jul 2006 13:36:40 +0200 Michelle Konzack wrote:

> I was thinking to use the term:
> Licence: This software is under any Licence which complay
>          with the Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG).
> What do you think about it?

There are some major problems with such a "mutant" license.

First of all, and most importantly, who is going to decide whether a
particular license complies with the DFSG?
For the purpose of inclusion of a work into Debian, this task is
accomplished by the packager, possibly with the help of debian-legal as
an advisory group, and ultimately by the ftp-masters (whose decisions
could be overruled by the Debian Project as a whole via GR)[1].

[1] anyone more knowledgeable than me about Debian Constitution and
Debian Policy is encouraged to correct me, if I'm wrong... 

But who is going to decide whether a particular license complies with
DFSG for the purpose of complying with your "mutant" license?
What if I do something with your work and you sue me for copyright
I claim that I was doing something allowed by license XYZ which I think
"complies with the DFSG".  You claim that license XYZ "does not comply
with the DFSG".  A court has to decide who is right and who is wrong,
but no court is used to determine whether a license "complies with the

Second, it's not very clear what "complying with the DFSG" means for a
*license*.  The DFSG are guidelines to determine if a *work* is or isn't
Free Software (according to Debian standards).  The license plays an
important role in making a work Free, but it's not the only thing to be
taken into account (availability of source code, actively enforced
patents, and other details are to be considered too).

Third, your "mutant" license is a contorted way to more or less
effectively release a work under in a all-permissive manner.  Let's see
why: the DFSG never pose upper limits to granted permissions, they only
pose lower limits.  Hence a license permissive enough "complies with the
DFSG" for sure.  I, as a licensee, would obviously choose the most
permissive license I can, among a set of proposed ones.
I could for example choose the Expat license[2] (or even some more
permissive one): it definitely "complies with the DFSG" (I think there
are no reasonable doubts about it).
See?  At the end of the day, the result of your "mutant" license is
basically the same as having released the work under the Expat

[2] http://www.jclark.com/xml/copying.txt

So, to summarize, I recommend you against adopting your proposed
"mutant" license.  I suggest you instead release your works in a clearly
DFSG-free manner by adopting a suitable license.  If you want to be
(almost) all-permissive, a good choice is the Expat license: it's
simple, short, and compatible with everything else.


But it is also tradition that times *must* and always
do change, my friend.   -- from _Coming to America_
..................................................... Francesco Poli .
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