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Re: Bug#509287: Please give opinion about "Bug#509287: afio: license is non-free"

Koen Holtman <k.holtman@chello.nl> wrote:
> [...]  For Debian I hope that this note will help Debian close
> "Bug#509287: afio: license is non-free".  So I would like to invite
> debian-legal to read the note and discuss what it means for the afio
> package bug.

In general, I am unhappy with how the issues have been paraphrased
instead of quoted.  I am currently on a train, so cannot refer to
the original sources, but some of the issues are represented as
slightly different to how I understood them.  Why paraphrase?

> afio has one unique feature (fault tolerant compressed archives) that
> all of the above lack.

So, someone could explain how afio achieves this and someone else could
re-implement it in the other more-clearly-free tools.  If it is needed,
the feature will survive.  I didn't feel that anyone was arguing that
afio contained absolutely no features people wanted over the other
tools when they suggested that afio should be removed.

> Several FOSS backup packages support afio as an archive engine, and
> some were designed specifically around afio.

Wow.  Which ones?

> Several definitions of 'free' software include the requirement that
> any party should be able to re-distribute it.  For example.  Debian
> Free Software Guideline 1 (DFSG#1) states:

However, the DFSG are guidelines for deciding the freedom of software,
not a definition.  The hint is in the name.  If one starts trying to
use it as a definition, bad stuff happens, in my experience.

In general, I've no problem with the sale restriction because it's
trivially avoidable.

> Issue 3. License does not permit modification
> 1) Argument by the contents of the license notices

I don't buy this argument at all.  Anyone got any law to support it?
I'd be very surprised if you can extrapolate the "holes" in the
licence permissions like that.

> 2) Argument by implied licensing

This is far more persuasive to me and the references appear good.
Even better would be Mark participating in modding afio, but if it
doesn't exist, it doesn't exist.

> [...4. Relicensing...] Depending on the success in finding the
> contributers, this could (according an the estimate of the current
> maintainer) bring about 30-60% of the afio code base under a new
> license. However, but such an action would not satisfy those seeking
> legal clarity on the status of afio as a whole.

Should impossibility of "100% now" deter work on the rest?  If we
view each piece of unattributed code as a timebomb, it seems to make
sense to reduce their number if possible.

> Issue 6.  Several people working for/with FOSS related
> organizations have called afio not-free.

This is a non-issue, a consequence of the above other issues.
If the note deals with the points they raise, this is dealt
with already and it feels like a personal attack on those people.
If the note doesn't deal with their objections, then this feels
like a personal attack to try to distract people.

Either way, I don't think it should be included in a basic note.

> I believe that the people in the links above are all using the
> following rule when applying guidelines for freeness:
>  worst-case-rule: If the license text is ambiguous, in a way that would
>  leave enough room for a judge to disagree that the license meets our
>  written definition of 'free', then the license should be treated as
>  non-free.

I don't.  I believe people were answering on the basis of the licence
information given to them and what they found.  If the licensing
status is not clear, it needs further research, of the type included
in this note.  It wasn't obvious to many people why afio should get
that work, instead of all the other things which are calling for some
work.  Big credit to Koen for doing it.

However, inventing some sort of fantasy "these people hate
free software so want to use lawyer tools to kill it" rule and
attributing it to people who looked at afio's licensing is not
nice at all.

> I believe that the worst-case-rule should not be used by more general
> Linux distros, unless it is combined with a moderating principle.

I believe that the worst-case-rule isn't used by anyone much and
not the people in this case, so all reference to that should be
removed from the note.

Hope that helps,
My Opinion Only, see http://people.debian.org/~mjr/

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