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

Hi MJ, 

I want to respond to a few points you raise below.  I am not responding to 
all of the points you raise because I'd be in danger of just 
paraphrasing my own long note again if I did.   I'd rather see other 
people responding with fresh insights and opinions.

On Tue, 24 Feb 2009, MJ Ray wrote:

> 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?

If I had quoted the sources extensively, the note would have been even
longer.  There is a LOT of material at:


Even more material has appeared in comment tracks of blogs that linked to
the blog at http://spot.livejournal.com/303000.html .  Simply quoting it
all would not have been possible.

I can imagine that there would be a discrepancy between how the issues are
presented in the note, and what your own recollection is of the issues.  
This would be true especially if your recollection is primary based on
reading debian-legal.  For example, on debian-legal the contributers have
generally found that issue #2 is not really that important, while on
bugzilla.redhat several contributers have labeled this issue as the major
showstopper.  For each issue I tried to find and paraphrase the most
pessimistic view of the impact of the issue.

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

I do not have a complete list, but some searching gets me:

tresor (*)
mondorescue (*)

those labeled with (*) use afio as the only possible selection for the 
archive engine as far as I can see.  I know that tob is also built mostly 
around afio because the author once told me..

> > 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.

The text in issue 6 is not meant as a personal attack on these people, I
am sorry if you read it that way.

I felt I had to mention in the note that several well-known license
experts have gone on record on afio being non-free.  If I had not
mentioned this, I could be accused of hiding the existence of informed
opinions from Fedora and FSF experts that disagree with my own opinions.

> If the note doesn't deal with their objections, then this feels
> like a personal attack to try to distract people.

Well the response to issue #6 _does_ try to deal with their objections.

> > 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.  

It took me a while to conclude that it is really the worst-case-rule that
is the deciding factor here for these people.  But that is my conclusion.

> 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.

Yikes!  Well I am very sorry that you read such a not-nice line of
reasoning into my note -- it was definately not my intention to imply 
that these people hate free sofware!

I have a lot of respect for the Fedora and FSF people.  They are working
to promote a type of 'free' that leads them down a path where I personally
do not want to follow.  It is a path that I cannot follow in maintaining
afio even if I wanted to.  But I do respect what they are doing.

Speaking as the afio maintainer, every bug report is welcome, including
bug reports about the license.  The Fedora community spent significant
effort auditing the afio license, finding problems with it, documenting
these problems in an open way, and doing research to see if they could
improve the copyright situation.  This is a good thing.  The note on the
afio license that I wrote basically builds on their work.  However, if I
have understood their reasoning right, the note builds on their work only
in the sense that it maps paths that they in turn do not want to follow.



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