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Re: Questions about liblouis

On Tue, 26 Feb 2008 14:29:05 -0800 Eitan Isaacson wrote:

> Hi,
> I am trying to get liblouis[1] packaged and in a Debian repository.
> Liblouis comes with a few extra permissions and restrictions that I have
> been told don't jive with the Debian Social Contract.
> The language of the GPL amendments
> appears below, thanks.
> "In addition to the permissions and restrictions contained in the GNU
> General Public License (GPL), the copyright holders grant two explicit
> permissions and impose one explicit restriction. The permissions are:
> 1) Using, copying, merging, publishing, distributing, sublicensing,
> and/or selling copies of this software that are either compiled or
> loaded as part of and/or linked into other code is not bound by the
> GPL.
> 2) Modifying copies of this software as needed in order to facilitate
> compiling and/or linking with other code is not bound by the GPL.
> The restriction is:
> 3. The translation tables that are read at run-time are considered
> part of this code and are under the terms of the GPL. Any changes to
> these tables and any additional tables that are created for use by
> this code must be made publicly available."

I see at least two issues with this additional restriction.

First of all, it's a restriction added to the GNU GPL v2.
This creates a self-contradicting license grant.
The reasons why it generates a self-contradiction are explained in the
following thread:
See especially RMS's reply:
and my own analysis of the contradiction:

Something very similar happens whenever a restriction is added to the

The second issue is the restriction itself, which looks like a non-free
The restriction forces anyone who makes changes to the translation
tables or creates additional tables to make his/her changes/additions
*publicly available*.  This seems to be forced distribution: it forbids
private distribution or even private use of modified/additional
tables.  This is utterly non-free, IMHO.

Hence, I suggest trying to persuade upstream to drop such an additional
restriction, thus leaving the code licensed under the GNU GPL v2
(possibly with additional permissions, but no additional restrictions).

Please note that (as long as those translation tables are actually
copyrighted), upstream may well license them under the terms of the GNU
GPL v2 (they must anyway be licensed in a DFSG-free manner in order to
enter Debian), but that would *not* mean that any
modifications/additions must be made *publicly available*.  It just
means that any tables based on the GPLed tables have to be distributed
under the terms of the GNU GPL v2 (with source) or else not distributed
at all.  And nothing would be imposed on newly created tables, as long
as they are *not* based on the GPLed ones.

My usual disclaimers: IANAL, TINLA, IANADD, TINASOTODP.

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..................................................... Francesco Poli .
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