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Re: Moonlight Package Licensing

Quoting Jo Shields <directhex@apebox.org>:

Why am I only hearing about licensing concerns regarding a package I
maintain when reading about it on a personal attack website? I'd usually
think that a package's maintainer should be included in such
discussions, assuming you're interested in their input.

Please remember that debian-legal is an advice forum, and in no way has
a formal role regarding license compliance - that role belongs to

I was not aware that debian-legal was a personal attack website. :)

But seriously, I welcome your input and appreciate your response. You've addressed many of the concerns I raised and it would seem I had indeed garnered some misconceptions from the Debianwiki Project page. No animosity was intended in my pointing out inaccuracies on that page, nor did I consider them to be overly disconcerting. More than anything, the Project wiki was presented as the basis for my understanding of the codebase (but in time the page should be amended).

Regarding Cairo components and the Mozilla Public License:
The license has zero role in the package - but rules state that licenses
need to be disclosed in debian/copyright for ALL source in a given
source tarball, whether that code is used in final binary packages or
not. The embedded copies of cairo and pixman are NOT used in the binary
packages. Nor is any Ms-PL source.
Apparently I have been misinformed on the components constituting the Debian binary package and much of my concern over that misapprehended. If one may ask, why is there code in the source tarball that does not get included in the binary? Is their exclusion handled by configure switches? The Project wiki provided an admirable description of the role FFMPEG played in the package; perhaps a similar description could be provided for code licensed under the MPL, LGPLv2.1, and Ms-PL.

As a final comment, and one more hypothetical in nature, the Ms-PL
makes no distinction between derived and collective works and offers no
exemption for "mere aggregation" (as does the General Public License).
In lieu of such an exception, we are left with relying upon the
interpretation of the courts as to what constitutes a derived or
collected work of joint authorship under copyright law. Should a
Ms-PL-licensed package be included with a Debian distribution, it may
very well be argued that the entire distribution (a collective work)
must be offered under licensing which "complies with" the Ms-PL -- any
inclusion of code for which there is no patent grant could be construed
as infringement of the copyrights of Ms-PLed code's author.

How likely does that REALLY seem to you? codeplex.com contains a lot of
Ms-PL source, and a lot of other licenses (including some non-Free
licenses). How likely does it seem that a "mere aggregation" like a code
website is actually licensing everything under one of its constituent
licenses, by accident?

Let me clarify that when I stated my comment was "more hypothetical", it was precisely owing to the fact that the Moonlight packages are in a third-party repository and that "a code website" should probably not be considered under copyright law definitions as a ?joint work? ("... a work prepared by two or more authors with the intention that their contributions be merged into inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole" - USC Title 17 § 101). The argument that a Debian distribution might be a "joint work", however, is not quite so tenuous. Even though one can separate out *copies* of the individual components, the distro itself is an instance of a "unitary whole".

See also: Hanlon's Razor.

If by this you are suggesting that my concern is attributable to my considering the author of the Microsoft Public License to be "malicious", such is not the case. Whether a combination of code contributions under disparate licenses should be considered to result in a collective or derived work is not a matter to be decided by the license authors (unless there is language in the license explicitly addressing this), but by the holders of the code's copyrights (in that they may choose whether or not to pursue the matter) and, ultimately, by the courts.

The terms and conditions of the Ms-PL need to be examined for what they actually say; not what we want them to say, nor what we expect them to say. The lack of a "mere aggregation" exemption is, in my opinion, extremely problematic for Free Software providers -- imagine the ramifications to Linux-based distros if the GPL didn't provide such an exemption -- and the unorthodox requirement that one license "complies with" another places conditions on combining contributions far stricter than a requirement of "does not contradict" (as in the AFL 3.0). The intention of the license's author is of little significance once the license is written; what matters is how the courts will apply the code of law to the copyrights covered by the license.

Perhaps my interpretation on this is completely misguided, but that's why I posted on this discussion list. Hopefully, those more versed than myself will be able to point out where my reasoning may be flawed. If I am mistaken then it should be an easy matter to provide specifics beyond "look at all those people doing it, it must be OK".

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