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Re: License question for new package

Scott Howard <showard314@gmail.com> writes:

> Hello - I'm packaging something new that has a custom license, and I'd
> an official opinion as to which repo it can go it:

Thank you for your attention to this topic, and for quoting the license
text here for inspection.

Overall, the language is poor for a description of terms and conditions,
with many conditions phrased in passive voice (“foo will be
frobnicated”) instead of making the subject explicit (“you must
frobnicate foo”). This makes it difficult to know who is to be
responsible for doing what.

Nothing in the text you've shown here *grants* any permissions; it is
essentially a big list of “this must be done” and “that must not be
done”. Without explicit grant of license to copy, modify, redistribute,
etc., the default restrictions of copyright still apply and the work
remains trivially non-free.

> 1. This notice may not be removed or altered from any distribution.

No problems, requirement to preserve license terms is not a non-free

> 2. The Cube 2 license located in /src must be read and abided by as
> well. The Cube 2 license only pertains to the original Cube 2 source
> and not to any Platinum Arts LLC additions/modifications.

This appears to make the license terms a union between this document and
some other document. Unfortunately, those terms are given at a URL:

> The cube2 license they refer to is:
> Moviecube is a Machinima tool based on the Sauerbraten game engine,
> both of which are covered under the ZLIB license. You may use the
> source code so long as you obey this license, for further information
> see:
> 	http://www.opensource.org/licenses/zlib-license.php

The terms should be part of the work so they can be inspected at any
time in the future regardless of access to that URL or whether its
contents remain the same.

> 3. If you use Platinum Arts Sandbox to make a project please be sure
> to contact Platinum Arts LLC and provide information about the
> project. Also be sure to clearly credit Platinum Arts Sandbox on your
> webpage, software and documentation.

Lawyerbomb: Dangerously vague “use” term; if they mean copy, modify,
redistribute, etc. this doesn't make it clear.

Obnoxious advertising requirement: IMO this restriction makes the work
non-free for the same reasons the similar requirement in the original
BSD license makes a work non-free.

> Your code must remain open to Platinum Arts LLC and available for use
> in Platinum Arts Sandbox to help further the project.

Again, what “use” means here is not defined. Lawyerbomb.

> 4. With the exception of content with an individual readme file, any
> content submitted for inclusion in Platinum Arts Sandbox becomes
> property of Platinum Arts LLC. Authors of the content will be credited
> and they can use their work in other projects.

This seems to be an attempt to circumvent the copyright on derived
works. I have no idea what jurisdictions would even recognise this grab;
regardless, to the extent it's effective, it makes the work non-free to
require surrendering copyright in one's own work.

> 5. With the exception of content with an individual readme file, all
> content is copyright Platinum Arts LLC and permission is required for
> distribution. In other words if you want to use Platinum Arts Sandbox
> maps or other content in another software projects, please ask first.

Lawyerbomb: What does “all content” mean here? Is it intended to cover
derived works? A similar attempt at copyright circumvention with the
same problems as above.

> 6. This software is provided 'as-is', without any express or implied
> warranty. In no event will the authors be held liable for any damages
> or any other problems arising from the use of this software.

No problems; a custom disclaimer of warranty, which doesn't put any
non-free restrictions on the recipient.

> 7. NOTE TO EDUCATORS - If you use this software in an educational
> setting please send us an e-mail

Appears to be a request, so doesn't appear to affect recipient's freedom
in the work. Doesn't belong in a license text, and should be moved

> 8.  Any questions or concerns about this license should be directed to
> PlatinumArts@gmail.com

Also doesn't really belong as a numbered item in a license text.

> I have written permission to package this for Debian and all Debian
> derivatives.

Thank you for seeking that, but it's unfortunately not enough. DFSG §8
requires the license to not be specific to the work remaining part of a
Debian system. All recipients of Debian must be free to exercise the
full license in the work regardless of whether the work remains part of

> Is this a non-free program or could it fit into main?

In summary: this isn't even a license, it's a set of restrictions. It
grants no permissions to copy, modify, redistribute, etc., so the work
remains non-free (per default copyright restrictions).

Even if those permissions were granted, the restrictions are poorly
phrased with several lawyerbombs (ambiguous phrases that a hostile
lawyer could easily use to show a non-free restriction on the recipient
of the work) and outright non-free restrictions.

Based on what appear to be upstream's intentions in this text I can't
see how their intent would be consistent with free software. In the
event they do want their work to be free software, they would be well
advised to avoid custom non-licenses like this and apply the terms of a
mature, widely-understood free software license like the GPL or Expat

 \            “Choose mnemonic identifiers. If you can't remember what |
  `\                mnemonic means, you've got a problem.” —Larry Wall |
_o__)                                                                  |
Ben Finney

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