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Re: Distributability of Ruby's PDF::Writer

On Fri, 30 Nov 2007 11:57:21 -0600 Gunnar Wolf wrote:

> Hi, debian-legal


> I'm basically done packaging the Ruby PDF::Writer [1] (as
> libpdf-writer-ruby; ITP #442087). While the module itself is under an
> MIT license, it includes quite a bit of different licenses in its
> material. Please refer to the debian/copyright file of my
> work-in-progress packaging [2].
> Summarizing it:
> - Main package: MIT

Sort of.
Seems OK to me.

> - ImageSize: Ruby's licensing (GPLv2+Ruby License)

Dual licensed under GPL and other license.

As an aside, I note that your debian/copyright states:

| This workand only this or other named worksmay be treated as under the
| Ruby licensing scheme (GPL 2 or later, Ruby's licence) as well as the
| overall PDF::Writer licence.

However ruby package's debian/copyright states:

| Ruby is copyrighted free software by Yukihiro Matsumoto
| <matz@netlab.co.jp>. You can redistribute it and/or modify it under
| either the terms of the GPL (see COPYING file), or the conditions
| below

Hence, I am a little confused: is it

  * GPL v2 or later or Ruby custom license


  * GPL any version or Ruby custom license

Which one of the two possibilities? 

> - Some demo programs creating Quick Reference cards: Content and
>   output under CC Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike

| === Ruby Quick Reference Sheets
| PDF::Writer has demo programs that will create Quick Reference cards
| for Ruby. The content and output of these programs is copyright
| 20032005 Ryan Davis and is licensed under the Creative Commons
| Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike[http://creativecommons.org/licen
| ses/by-nc-sa/2.0/] licence.

Wait: the content and output of these programs is here licensed
under the terms of CC-by-nc-sa-v2.0 (which is utterly non-free).  What
does this mean?  Does "the content" mean the programs themselves?  Or
something else (in that case, where is the permission to distribute the
demo programs?)?

> - Some images used for other demo programs: CC Attribution ShareAlike

| These immages are
| released under the Creative Commons
| Attributions
| ShareAlike[http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/] licence.

CC-by-sa-v2.0 fails to meet the DFSG.  See
for the details.
You could exploit clause 4b (see
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode) by modifying
the images and distribute them (as Derivative Works) under the terms of

But my opinion is that CC-by-sa-v3.0 also fails to meet the DFSG.

On the other hand, other people (including the FTP masters) seem to
disagree with me and think that CC-by-sa-v3.0 meets the DFSG...  :-(

> - Adobe PostScript AFM Files: may be used, copied, and distributed for
>   any purpose and without charge, with or without modification,
>   provided that all copyright notices are retained; that the AFM files
>   are not distributed without this file; that all modifications to
>   this file or any of the AFM files are prominently noted in the
>   modified file(s); and that this paragraph is not modified 

This license grant is indeed unclear and ambiguous.
What does "without charge" mean?
Is it something like "you have permission to use, copy, and distribute
but not to charge your recipients"?
Or is it "you have permission to use, copy, and distribute and you do
not have to pay us for this permission"?
My (non English native speaker) reading fails to reach a conclusion:
I am *not* sure that one of the two interpretations can be considered
as obviously impossible.

> So, I see two basic issues:
> 1- The demo programs which are under NonCommercial. The only way out,
>    I think, is to repackage .orig.tar.gz removing such material - And,
>    of course, requesting upstream to split the actual code from the
>    demo files. And wish for the best.

If you purge those demo programs, the issue is of course solved.

Another possible strategy is asking their copyright holder(s) to
relicense them in a DFSG-manner (recommended licenses are: an MIT
license, like the one adopted for PDF::Writer, or the GPLv2).

> 2- This is the main reason I contact -legal: The short license
>    regarding the Adobe PostScript AFM files does mention 'for any
>    purpose and without charge'. How would you interpret this? Charging
>    for media including this file would be illegal? Repackaging the AFM
>    files by themselves and charging for them would be illegal? Could
>    this be included in main, or is it a candidate for non-free?

As I said above, the AFM licensing seems unclear to me.
A clarification (or relicensing) should be sought from Adobe Systems.

I noticed another issue:

| === bluesmoke.jpg
| The logo image for PDF::Writer, bluesmoke.jpg, is modified from a
| picture taken by Matthew "TheSaint"
| Bowden[mailto:matthewbowden@gmail.com] and is available on the
| stock.xchng(R) at <http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=view&id=275430>.
| Many thanks to Matthew for the use of this image.

What's the license for this image?

Moreover, the Adobe Patent licensing seems scary to me.
It looks like PDF::Writer can be distributed, thanks to the Adobe
Patent royalty-free licenses.
But any modified version that does not comply with PDF specifications
seems to become undistributable (wherever U.S. patents are held valid).

Now the question is: how does this interact with the DFSG-freeness
status of PDF::Writer?
Can a work be DFSG-free if some possible modified versions of it are
illegal to distribute?
Maybe it's what happens to many DFSG-free works (which can be modified
in such a way to produce e.g. a copyright infringement or to break other
Any opinions on this?

Anyway, another question is: *when* will those absurd patent laws be

> Thank you for any insight.

You're welcome.

BTW, I think I found some typos in your debian/copyright:

 Need to read a Debian testing installation walk-through?
..................................................... Francesco Poli .
 GnuPG key fpr == C979 F34B 27CE 5CD8 DC12  31B5 78F4 279B DD6D FCF4

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