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Re: Desert island test

On Thursday 28 February 2008 04:09:34 pm Francesco Poli wrote:
> On Thu, 28 Feb 2008 11:01:34 -0800 Sean Kellogg wrote:
> > On Thursday 28 February 2008 10:19:26 am Walter Landry wrote:
> [...]
> > >   http://people.debian.org/~bap/dfsg-faq.html
> >
> > Now this is a page I remember... it is indelibly rooted in my mind
> > because of this fun exchange:
> >
> > ------------------>8------------------
> > Q: I've flouted your advice and written a new license. I strongly believe
> > that it conforms to the DFSG and is a free software license. People on
> > debian-legal don't seem to agree though. They give explanations for their
> > decision which I find completely unconvincing. I keep trying to explain
> > the flaws in their reasoning to them, but to no avail. Is there any way
> > for me to compel Debian to accept that my license is free?
> > A: No.
> > ------------------8<------------------
> >
> > Nothing like being so sure of your own god-like status as to shutout
> > debate and deny the existence of a very clear method to compel Debian to
> > accept the license...  it's called a GR and has been used in just such a
> > situation (GDFL anyone?), much to the dismay of some -legal contributors.
> I have to disagree with you, here.
> A GR is *not* a method to compel Debian to do anything: it's a method
> for the Debian Project to decide what to do in a given situation.  But
> nobody external to the Project (that is to say, no non-DD) can *compel*
> Debian to do anything.  It's up to the Debian Project to decide what to
> do in a given situation.
> A non-DD (like me, for instance) may persuade some DD to propose a GR:
> *if* the GR is actually proposed, and *if* it is seconded, *then* it
> will get voted upon; but the outcome will not necessarily correspond to
> the initial hopes of the non-DD.  The non-DD does not even have vote
> right: hence he/she does not even have the opportunity to influence the
> outcome of the GR (other than by persuasion).
> Even a member of the Project (a DD) may propose a GR, but cannot compel
> other DDs to second it or to vote as he/she desires.
> So to conclude, I think it is actually true that there's no way for
> someone to *compel* Debian to accept a given license as "free".

The question being asked is "Is there any way for me to compel Debian to 
accept that my license is free?" and the answer is "convince a DD to propose 
a GR, get it seconded, and convince the sufficient number of DDs to support 
your proposal." I trust you will see how this is strikingly different 
from "no". The page makes it sound as if -legal is the final arbiter, which 
is simply untrue.

The fact that the questioner cannot vote (assuming they are not a DD, which is 
not implied by the question) does not deny the existence of an avenue to 
compel, it simply means it requires the assistance of others to do so, which 
is the case with pretty much every activity I engage in every moment of every 
day. I cannot compel my neighbor to stop throwing his trash into my yard, but 
if I go to a judge and get an order for a police officer to do something 
about it, I very much doubt my neighbor is going to quibble over who, 
exactly, is doing the "compelling."

On a related point, this sort of argumentation style that has us debating the 
meaning of "compel" is at the heart of the problems with the test. Folks seem 
to want to attach meaning to words that go well beyond a plain text 
reading--which is lovely and all--but isn't exactly fair to the others who 
don't agree with those definitional aspirations and really makes it 
challenging to objectively participate or evaluate previous arguments.


Sean Kellogg
e: skellogg@gmail.com

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