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Re: package changing their license to get into main (sandboxgamemaker)

On Wed, 3 Nov 2010 14:05:15 -0400 Scott Howard wrote:

> Hello,


> (please cc: me and upstream "Platinum Arts" <platinumarts@gmail.com>,
> as we are not on this list)


> I'm the maintainer of sandboxgamemaker, currently a contrib package
> because upstream's license is restrictive regarding content
> distribution.
> However, upstream has worked to make their license more permissive so
> that the package can be included in main.

The effort to make the license more permissive is really appreciated.
However, license proliferation is bad and should be avoided as much as
possible: hence, it is highly recommended that upstream chooses a well
known license for their work, rather than inventing their own special
purpose license.

> The new license is below

This new license looks really weird to me: it does not seem to be the
actual license for the work, but more some sort of "pointer-license"!
Indeed, this "pointer-license" states that the work is under the zlib
license, and then adds a few conditions and also some facts or rules
that have little to do with a copyright license...

Let's see the issues in detail.

> "You are free to use and redistribute Platinum Arts Sandbox Free 3D Game Maker
> (Sandbox) in binary and/or source code form if the following
> conditions are met:

As has already been noted by Charles Plessy, this clause lacks
permission to modify the work (Sandbox) and to redistribute modified
This does not seem to meet DFSG#3

On the other hand, if condition 2 licenses the source of the work
(Sandbox) under the terms of the zlib license, I actually *have*
permission to modify it and to redistribute modified versions!
But, if this is the case, why not just adopt the zlib license and
forget about this strange "pointer-license"?
I think that upstream should really consider dropping this
"pointer-license" and just release Sandbox under the zlib license.

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

This condition is superfluous, since it is already included in the zlib
license, which, according to condition 2, applies to Sandbox source...

> 2.  You must read and abide by the zlib/libpng licenses located in
> /src which pertains to the source code of Platinum Arts Sandbox Free
> 3D Game Maker, Moviecube and the Cube 2 source code which the project
> is based on. You can find the licenses in sandbox_src_license.txt,
> moviecube_license, and Cube_2_enginelicense.txt

This is the strange condition 2 that makes this license become a sort
of "pointer-license": if I understand correctly, it states that I must
read the zlib license and abide by it for the source of Sandbox,
Moviecube and Cube 2.

Requiring that I *read* the zlib license is weird and problematic: do I
have to read it again *each* time I use Sandbox?!?
What if I am already familiar with the zlib license and don't need to
re-read it in order to abide by it?!?

Requiring, *in the license for Sandbox*, that I abide by the zlib
license for the source of Sandbox seems to be weird, too: if Sandbox is
released under the zlib license, then the "pointer-license" should be
dropped entirely; if Sandbox is not released under the zlib license,
then condition 2 seems to be false...

I reiterate the recommendation to drop the entire "pointer-license", in
favor of simply releasing Sandbox under the terms of the zlib license.

> 3.  If you create a "Sandbox Project" for distribution in Platinum
> Arts Sandbox Free 3D Game Maker, you are encouraged to contact
> Platinum Arts LLC and provide information about the project.

This is just a suggestion, rather than a condition: it should be placed
in a README file or in a similar documentation file, not in a license.

> Also you
> MUST credit Platinum Arts Sandbox on your webpage, software and/or
> documentation, someplace where it makes it clear that Sandbox was the
> base for your project. Links to our webpage on your webpage are the
> most preferred.

This is a requirement, stronger than what is included in the zlib
I am not sure it meets the DFSG, but I would say it seems to be
at least GPL-incompatible, which is problematic anyway.

I would strongly recommend that this requirement be turned into a kind
request; however, some similar request is already included in the zlib
license, hence there's no need to repeat it here: I would therefore
recommend to drop it entirely.

> You are also encouraged keep your source open and
> available for inclusion in Platinum Arts Sandbox Free 3D Game Maker to
> help further the project.

This is another suggestion and does not really belong in a license:
again, I would move it into the documentation.

> 4.  When you submit content (e.g. packages, maps, models) for
> inclusion in Platinum Arts Sandbox Free 3D Game Maker you grant
> Platinum Arts LLC a Creative Commons 3.0 - BY SA license to copy,
> modify, and redistribute the submitted content unless another license
> is submitted with the content. Authors of the content will be credited
> and they retain the copyright of their work.

This is not really a condition for getting copyright-related
permissions over Sandbox, but, rather, a condition for seeing one's
content included in the official version of Sandbox!

If someone submits content to Platinum Arts for inclusion in the
official version of Sandbox, he/she agrees to be explicit about the
license or else to implicitly license under the terms of CC-by-sa-v3.0.

A little personal note about choosing CC-by-sa-v3.0 as the "default"
license for content submitted to Platinum Arts: Debian FTP Masters seem
to currently consider CC-by-v3.0 and CC-by-sa-v3.0 licenses as
acceptable for Debian (main), but when I asked them to explain the
rationale behind their conclusions, I got no answer at all, which is
really disappointing: http://bugs.debian.org/431794#16

All other Creative Commons licenses are considered non-free by the
Debian Project.
But I disagree with FTP Masters: I consider CC-by-v3.0 and
CC-by-sa-v3.0 to be non-free as well.

The current status is summarized here:
My analysis of CC-by-sa-v3.0 is here:

As a consequence, I would recommend to choose a better "default"
license for content submitted Platinum Arts: the zlib license is a
perfectly fine choice for content, as well as for executable code.
Moreover, condition 4 should not be included in a license, but rather
in the documentation, perhaps where it is explained that Platinum Arts
encourages people to submit content for inclusion in the official
version of Sandbox...

> 5.  Most content includes an individual readme with licensing
> information however if there is content you wish to use that is
> lacking a license please contact us for clarification.

This does not seem to be a condition: it looks like a fact, which
should be stated in the documentation, if at all.

> 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.

This is actually a disclaimer, not a condition.
And a nearly identical disclaimer is part of the complete zlib license:

Hence, no need to repeat it here: I recommend to just rely on the one
in the zlib license.

> 7. NOTE TO EDUCATORS - If you use this software in an educational
> setting, we request that you send us an e-mail and tell us where and
> how it is being used.  Additonally we'd appreciate feedback on student
> reaction and how things work out.  It would be much appreciated if you
> posted your experiences here:
> http://forum.sandboxgamemaker.com/viewforum.php?f=17";

This is not a condition: it's a kind request.
It should be placed in the documentation, rather than in the license.

> Thank you for your time in this review!

You're welcome: thanks to you for working with upstream to improve the
licensing status of this package!

> This won't actually take
> effect until the next release of their software, which will probably
> be after squeeze - but I'd like to get this worked out ahead of time.

As I said, I strongly recommend that upstream drop this
"pointer-license" and just release Sandbox under the zlib license.

I hope this can happen.

 Need some pdebuild hook scripts?
..................................................... Francesco Poli .
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