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Re: Why is firebird in Debian?

On Saturday 21 July 2007 07:30:32 am Mike Bird wrote:
> On Saturday 21 July 2007 02:35, Anthony Towns wrote:
> > On Fri, Jul 20, 2007 at 10:19:03PM -0700, Mike Bird wrote:
> > > It appears that You are distributing firebird2-common in violation
> > > of IPL section 3.6, and therefore in violation of copyright law in
> > > many jurisdictions.
> >
> > Okay, so the extent of your complaint is that you don't think there's
> > sufficient notice of how to get the source; and that you're not a user
> > of a version of firebird2 let alone a version of it for which the source
> > actually isn't trivially available, nor a contributor to it upstream,
> > which are the only two cases for which you'd have any basis to actually
> > complain?
> No, I'm saying that it appears that Debian is in violation of copyright
> law in many jurisdictions.  I note that you have not denied the fact.
> There may or may not be other violations.  It suffices for this argument
> that Debian is in apparent violation of copyright law in many
> jurisdictions.

I think Mr. Towns point is that 100% compliance for the sake of 100% 
compliance is both a fools errand and a waste of time.  The law, as much as I 
wish it were otherwise, is not a binary code and there is lots of grey.  For 
example, this email--the very fact that I am disagreeing with you--could lead 
to any number of possible lawsuits ranging from defamation to intentional 
infliction of emotional distress.  The only way to ensure 100% compliance is 
to simply sit on my hands and wait to die.

Once we accept that we can't be perfect, the next step ought to be, how do we 
become the best we can?  I don't think imagining copyright ghosts is an 
effective way of achieving those goals (this is my principle objection to 
things like the "deserted island" test.  The project is better served by 
focusing on concrete and realistic problems that can be solved by mere humans 
trying to do their best to distribute software.

So, maybe this is a violation, maybe it's not.  The only individual(s) who 
have standing to even initiate such a proceeding are the copyright holders...  
who I predict would contact Debian first before initiating litigation.  And I 
would also predict that a resolution would be achevied that works best for 
everyone.  Until then, I think Mr. Towns point is spot on.

Which is why I droped my complaint about Firefox TM from several months ago.  
I still think Debian isn't in complaince, but unless the Mozilla folks have a 
problem, it's just not an issue worth fighting over.

> > If so, great, whatever, but I'm not going to spend my time seeing how
> > many ways you can come up with to be daft about legal issues. If you
> > want to contribute to Debian, find something *productive* to do about
> > analysing licenses, rather than trying to find ways to define everything
> > you don't like as non-free or illegal.
> I note that you characterize notice of apparent violation of copyright
> law in many jurisdictions as "being daft about legal issues".  You will
> no doubt appreciate how such an attitude on the part of a leading DD
> tends to undermine the foundations of the GPL.  

This seems silly.  Stating "I think we are in compliance" doesn't translate 
into "I don't think complying is worth doing and thus invalidates the GPL et 

> I note that you characterize trying to bring Debian into compliance with the 
> law as being unproductive.  

Mr. Towns may not be saying that...  but I am.  I say that sitting around 
thinking of all the billions of ways that Debian could possibly be breaking 
the law in any of the thousands of jurisdictions on the globe is a waste of 
time and energy.  Issues ought to be addressed as they arise, not because 
someone is bored and looking to pick a fight.

> Are we to assume that meek acceptance of your misinterpretations of licenses 
> would be considered "productive"? 

How you chose to spend your time is really up to you, I suppose.  The problem 
with d-l is how much time it consumes to respond to every crazy 
counter-factual that is dreamed up.  That's what's counter-productive.

Sean Kellogg
e: skellogg@gmail.com
w: http://blog.probonogeek.org/

So, let go
 ...Jump in
  ...Oh well, what you waiting for?
   ...it's all right
    ...'Cause there's beauty in the breakdown

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