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Re: Java3D license incompatible with DFSG?

On Sun, Sep 16, 2012 at 05:56:18PM -0700, Ken Arromdee wrote:
> On Sat, 15 Sep 2012, Steve Langasek wrote:
> >>* You acknowledge that this software is not designed, licensed or
> >>* intended for use in the design, construction, operation or
> >>* maintenance of any nuclear facility.
> >This is a standard "No warranty" clause wrt nuclear facilities in the US.
> >It is not a restriction placed on the use of the software in nuclear
> >facilities by the copyright holder, it is a CYA statement that the software
> >has not been approved *by the government regulatory agencies* for use in
> >nuclear facilities in the US.

> Stuff like this has puzzled me.  I would think that "in order to use this
> software, you must do something which would have the effect of
> disadvantaging yourself in a lawsuit" wouldn't be considered free.  A
> statement "you must acknowledge X" means that any user who wants to claim
> not-X in court is forced to drop that claim in order to use the software.

Well first, there are clauses allowed as DFSG-compliant that have much more
of a "disadvantaging" effect in the event of a lawsuit.  Far more users are
likely to be affected by a choice of venue clause than a clause limiting the
author's liability if you try to use the software in a nuclear plant.  Even
a vanilla "no warranty" clause has much more effect.

Second, there is absolutely nothing in the DFSG that would require authors
expose themselves to lawsuits of any kind.  The objections to the use of
choice of venue clauses (which ultimately have found their way into main
despite these objections) centered around the impact such a clause has on
the *copyright holder's* ability to sue the *licensees* en masse, not on the
ability of the licensee to sue the copyright holder.  Taking away your right
to sue the copyright holder *entirely* for anything related to the software,
as a condition of the license grant, would still allow you to exercise the
rights that the DFSG is concerned with (use, modification, and
distribution).  In this specific case, you're suggesting that we should for
some reason care that a user can't make a counterfactual claim in court that
this software has been licensed by the DOE for use in nuclear facilities. 
That's so far removed from the goals of the DFSG that it's not even funny. 
The reward for releasing software freely to the world should not be exposure
to frivolous lawsuits from users.

> If this is a statement that the software hasn't been approved, shouldn't it
> say "you acknowledge that we *claim* X" (thus not depriving the user of the
> opportunity to challenge X in court), and not "you acknowledge X"?

No, because the intent of the clause is to save the copyright holder from
being sued by $random_idiot.  Notwithstanding the extreme improbability that
$random_idiot in this case is a real person rather than a hypothetical
construction, that's not at all contrary to the principles of free software.

GPL3, for instance, includes two distinct restrictions on the recipient's
right to sue: Disclaimer of Warranty + Limitation of Liability (sections
15-17), and prohibition of patent claims (section 10).  Perhaps you believe
that these clauses make the GPL non-free as well; but Debian, and the Free
Software community generally, does not.

Steve Langasek                   Give me a lever long enough and a Free OS
Debian Developer                   to set it on, and I can move the world.
Ubuntu Developer                                    http://www.debian.org/
slangasek@ubuntu.com                                     vorlon@debian.org

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