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Re: Skype license

On Sun, Aug 12, 2007 at 10:53:42PM +0200, Øystein Gisnås wrote:
> I got a request from a Skype employee who was eager to distribute
> Skype with Debian. I replied that the current license probably is not
> compatible with DFSG

Are you joking?


    Is the source code for Skype available? Can I have a copy?

    No. Skype is proprietary and closed-source software.

Hell no, it's not compatible with the DFSG.

> and promised to ask debian-legal what has to be
> done with Skype's license to make it distributable.

> In it's current form, I don't think Skype is suitable even for
> non-free. So the primary question is "What has to change in Skype's
> license to make it distributable in non-free?", with the secondary
> question being the same for main.

Why is this second question even worth asking?

As for suitability for non-free:  I think it would be a net loss for us
to distribute this software at all, because by its nature VoIP benefits
strongly from network effects and Skype is not a model that's compatible
with the goals of software freedom, so making it more readily available to
Debian users works against having a usable open VoIP standard.  I don't
think we should lightly agree to serve as a distribution channel for
software that's so very bad for us.

But, if someone really insists on trying to include it in non-free, here are
the issues:

> 1.3 You will not distribute other products or services together with Skype
> Software, unless You are a publisher of computer magazines for end users
> and distribute the Skype Software with Your magazine(s) for free.

We distribute lots of things together in non-free.  This clause is broad
enough that it's not clear whether non-free fails it.

> 1.4 You will not distribute Skype Software through other media than CD-ROM
> or DVD, unless approved by Skype in an explicit written communication to
> You.

The *primary* means of distribution of non-free is via ftp/http, not via
CD-ROM or DVD; there is (or has been in the past) software in non-free whose
license prohibited inclusion on CDs.

> 1.5 You will acknowledge that the provisions of the Agreement must be
> agreed to by all end users who install the Skype Software that You
> distribute.

Onerous requirement that we somehow enforce Skype's EULA on their behalf.

> 1.6 You will not undertake, cause, permit or authorize the modification,
> creation of derivative works, translation, reverse engineering,
> decompiling, disassembling or hacking of the Skype Software or any part
> thereof. Further, You will not make any indications about Skype???s
> intellectual property rights illegible.

"Permit" again implies we're expected to enforce their license for them. 

Furthermore, reverse-engineering is a protected right in many jurisdictions.
Debian should not agree to such terms as a condition of distributing this
software, and we shouldn't leave our mirror sites in a situation where
they're implicitly agreeing to this either.

> 1.7 You will not harm, misuse or bring into disrepute Skype, the Skype
> Software and the services of Skype, on the contrary, You will maintain the
> value and reputation thereof to the best of Your abilities.

Reading this makes me want to post a manifesto on Skype so that Debian
*can't* distribute it under the terms of this license...

> 1.8 You will constantly monitor the Skype Website in order to ensure that
> You are distributing the latest stable version of the Skype Software as
> well as that You are aware of any changes in the applicable legal
> documents. In the event that You cannot agree on any changes in any
> applicable legal document You will immediate cease any and all
> distribution of the Skype Software and, where applicable, any and all use
> of the Skype Software.

Makes it unsuitable for inclusion in a stable release; otherwise nothing
that would prevent inclusion in non-free, annoying though it is.

Summary: we should spend our time encouraging VoIP solutions built around
open protocols and open standards, instead of engaging in legalistic wanking
for the privilege of distributing software prepared by our proprietary

Steve Langasek                   Give me a lever long enough and a Free OS
Debian Developer                   to set it on, and I can move the world.
vorlon@debian.org                                   http://www.debian.org/

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