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Re: Desert island test

On Friday 29 February 2008 01:45:59 pm Steve Langasek wrote:
> On Fri, Feb 29, 2008 at 12:09:33PM -0800, Sean Kellogg wrote:
> > The provision that I must post changes does not restrict ones ability to
> > sell or give away the software, it simply imposes a constraint. This
> > constraint is in no way different than the constrain imposed by the GPL
> > that source code must accompany the binary. Allow me to propose my own
> > convenient test, which I refer to as the "Bloody Murderer Test":
> What are the definitions you're using here to distinguish between a
> "restriction" and a "constraint"?
> I'm inclined to regard the GPL's requirement for source redistribution as a
> restriction, as well.  Qualitatively, the only line I can draw between the
> GPL requirement, and other requirements that are considered non-free (all
> the way down the spectrum), is that the GPL's requirement is a minimal,
> necessary evil for encouraging the growth of Free Software.
> Well, that and the fact that the GPL is explicitly named "free" in the
> DFSG. I don't think we should start claiming that the GPL is non-free, but
> unfortunately I don't see much of a bright line separating the GPL from
> licenses with further restrictions.  Yet historically, folks in Debian were
> agreed that the GPL was a free license, and postcardware licenses were not.

I don't wish to claim the GPL is non-free at all... my objective is to show 
the tests are, at best, problematic.

> > While walking down the street, you are accosted by a a deranged lunatic
> > hell-bent on the destruction of the Free Software Foundation with
> > particular emphasis on undermining the GPL. He tells you that if you
> > distribute any code licensed under the GPL with the corresponding source
> > code, he will hunt you down and kill you in cold blood.
> >
> > If we follow the logic of the Desert Island test (or the even more fun
> > Dissident test), we plainly see that the GPL fails the Bloody Murderer
> > Test. Or, we can say, the license isn't what is dictating the
> > distributability (probably not an actual word...), but rather, it is the
> > individuals situation that is doing the dictating. I, for one, don't
> > believe debian should be in the business of ensuring every license covers
> > every possible scenario a debian user might possibly, some day, find
> > themselves in.
> The dissident and desert island tests are proxies for real circumstances
> that affect millions or billions of people in the world.  Those of us who
> work on Debian (predominantly affluent and living in North America, Europe,
> or the Pacific Rim) may all have wireless antennas in our skulls, but
> high-speed Internet access is far from ubiquitous.  There are plenty of
> parts of Africa and Asia where LANs are possible, but Internet access is
> non-existent.  Requirements to host changes on a public webserver, or to
> send them to a central location, are insurmountable obstacles in these
> circumstances; people should not have to choose between license compliance
> and being able to modify the code in Debian for their needs as a
> consequence of where they were born.
> Anyway, applying the same reasoning as was used in the Dissident test, the
> GPL still passes the Bloody Murderer test because the GPL doesn't require
> that you disclose to Brett Glass^W^W the lunatic that you're distributing
> code under that license.  I don't think Debian is responsible for making
> sure that a license permits the user to exercise his rights in the face of
> insane local "authorities"; but I do think we're responsible for ensuring
> that licenses we bless as "free" aren't discriminatory based on geography,
> income, status of diplomatic relations with the United States, etc.

I 100% agree with these sentiments and I believe they are worthy aspirations. 
I'm just not convinced it is embedded into the DSFG. It reminds me of folks 
who wanted to revise the GPL to forbid military usage which then lead to 
others claiming the GPL as it was could be read to forbid military usage. Or 
the whole bit with draft GPLv3 trying to stop the spread of DRM. It's all 
worthy, but I'm not convinced the FOSS movement is tied to those aspirations 
and I'm especially not convinced that the DFSG compels them.


Sean Kellogg
e: skellogg@gmail.com

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