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Re: data and software licence incompatabilities?

On Mon, 2 Sep 2013 20:13:30 -0700 Steve Langasek wrote:

> Dear Listmasters,
> Francesco Poli has been a longtime subscriber to the debian-legal mailing
> list.  He has quite extensive knowledge about licensing, and is often the
> first person to answer inquiries about new licenses sent to the list.
> However, he also consistently, repeatedly uses the list to tell people about
> his personal positions on licenses where these disagree with the position
> taken on behalf of the project by the Debian ftp team.  He has done this for
> years, and for years people (including myself) have been asking him to stop.

What you are asking me seems to boil down to being a mere spokesperson
for the Debian ftp masters.

You seem to say that, when someone asks, for the n-th time, about the
status of a given license with respect to the DFSG, I should repeat,
for the n-th time, what the ftp masters (seem to) think about it, but
I am not allowed to repeat my own personal opinion, if it is dissenting.

Please note that I have often done both these things: describing the
decision (apparently) taken by the ftp masters, and adding my own
personal opinion as a side-note, if I disagree with the decision.
When doing so, I think I make it reasonably clear which is the ftp
masters' decision and which is my own personal opinion.

Please also note that, in order to avoid repeating long and detailed
analyses, I usually just link to past messages.

I am not interested in acting as an opinion-less spokesperson.
I think that participating in debian-legal is useful, as long as people
are allowed to express their own opinions.
Otherwise, the list should be renamed "debian-ftpmasters-spokespeople".

> Francesco Poli is not a Debian Developer.

Is this relevant?
Would I be allowed to express my own opinions, if I were a DD?
Why? Why not?

> His refusal to stop using
> debian-legal as a soapbox for telling everyone who asks a question about
> licenses about how he thinks the ftpmasters are wrong is an abuse of this
> list which makes the list significantly less useful for its *intended*
> purpose of examining new licenses, promulgating license information to new
> packagers and upstreams, and discussing questions of the overall legality of
> software in Debian.

I think that noting the disagreement about a decision taken by the ftp
masters is within the intended purpose of this list, as you describe it.
It's part of promulgating license information: if a license is
accepted by ftp masters, but controversial or non-acceptable in the
opinion of someone who has (quoting your own words) "quite extensive
knowledge about licensing", then saying the former, while hiding the
latter, looks like providing less complete information about that

Please also note that the intended purpose of this list, as you
describe it, is your own interpretation of the topic of debian-legal.
As I have already said, the official description of this list is less
precise: https://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/

> By making his disagreement with the ftpmasters the
> subject of any thread in which the pertinent licenses are discussed, he sows
> confusion about the status of these licenses,

I think that confusion should not arise, since I explicitly mark my own
personal opinion as such.

> whose status in Debian is
> otherwise not at all ambiguous.

As Charles Plessy has already pointed out, for some of the licenses we
are talking about (such as the Creative Commons ones), the status in
Debian is not as clear as you describe it:

> Since Francesco has made it clear that he has no intention to stop his
> abusive use of debian-legal (see below) or even recognize why his behavior
> is problematic, I am asking the listmasters to ban him from this mailing
> list.
> Francesco, if you want to get Debian to *change its position* on licenses
> where you think an error has been made, please start a discussion in an
> appropriate forum such as debian-project and Cc: the ftp team.

I cannot understand why debian-project should be seen as a more
appropriate forum than debian-legal, when it comes to discussing
acceptability of licenses with respect to the DFSG.
Its official description seems to be sufficiently general:
but then, the description of debian-legal is rather general too...

As to contacting the ftp masters, I *did* try to do so for the CC
licenses: http://bugs.debian.org/431794#16
Unfortunately, the result was a deafening silence.
For the AfferoGPL, the ftp masters explained the rationale behind their
decision: http://bugs.debian.org/495721#17
but did not reply to any doubts or counter-arguments:

> debian-legal
> is not and never has been the place to get changes made to the policy for
> the ftp archive, and your continued use of the list for espousing your
> *personal opinion* on questions that have been settled *for years* from the
> project's perspective is actively harmful and must stop.

I have seen debian-legal described as a sort of "advisory board"
for the Project: license analyses are conducted publicly on this list
and the ftp masters (who are the actual decision makers) may base their
decisions on the discussions held here.
I think that people who take part in an advisory board are supposed to
express their personal opinions.

I hope this clarifies my intentions.
I have never meant to be harmful: I have volunteered a significant part
of my time in analyzing licenses and in answering questions on this
list in the hope to contribute to the Debian Project.

 New GnuPG key, see the transition document!
..................................................... Francesco Poli .
 GnuPG key fpr == CA01 1147 9CD2 EFDF FB82  3925 3E1C 27E1 1F69 BFFE

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