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Re: Consensus about the Academic Free License ("AFL") v3.0

On Thu, 11 Jun 2015 08:41:07 +0900 Charles Plessy wrote:

> Le Wed, Jun 10, 2015 at 11:48:19PM +0200, Francesco Poli a écrit :
> > Hello debian-legal regulars,
> > I would need to ask your consensus opinion on the non-freeness of the
> > Academic Free License ("AFL") v3.0.
> Hi Francesco,
> I think that there is a broad consensus to accept the AFL as Free license,
> in Debian, the OSI, Fedora, the FSF, etc.

I don't see evidence of this broad consensus on debian-legal, where my
own analysis went uncontested on September 2012, as I said.

As far as the FSF is concerned (but please bear in mind that here we
are discussing what the Debian Project, not the FSF, should do!), I see
that they claim [1] the AFL v3.0 is a Free License, but they strongly
recommend to avoid it for practical reasons (due to section 9).

[1] https://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.en.html#AcademicFreeLicense

>  - point 3) is poorly worded, but assuming it is well-intented, it is Free.

Section 3 is really unclear, to say the least.
I don't think it will be interpreted as we would like it to be.

I agree with Walter Landry that requiring "all available documentation"
is a big step. I think it's non-free.

>  - regarding points 5) and 9), the FSF notes that the AFL has clause similar to one of
>    the Open Software License that "requires distributors to try to obtain explicit
>    assent to the license" (<http://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.en.html#OSLRant>).
>    This is easy to infringe, but this is not forbidden by the DFSG (which is why
>    we tolerate advertisement clauses, which are also easy to infringe).

Section 9 (especially when combined with section 5) is at least a
practical problem with mirrors and with many other commonly used
mechanisms for software distribution (as noted by the FSF, as well).
I am convinced that it is a restriction imposed on re-distributors
(thus failing DFSG#1).

>  - The "Attribution Notice" sounds a bit like an invariant section, but it is also
>    very similar to the NOTICE file from the Apache License, which is Free.

As also noted by Walter Landry, there's a crucial difference w.r.t.
Apache v2: the latter license requires to preserve attribution notices
within "NOTICE" files; the AFL v3.0 requires instead to preserve *any*
descriptive text identified as an "Attribution Notice" (even when this
text includes something other than attribution notices!).

I think this is non-free, unless all descriptive texts identified as
"Attribution Notices" only contain attribution notices.

> Altogether, I think that #689919 should stay closed, although it would be great
> of course if the Subversion authors would manage to elimiate this license from
> their sources, because this license is not a good example to follow.

Sigh! This won't happen, if the Debian Project (and other authoritative
parties in the Free Software community) go on saying that the license
is OK anyway...

Moreover, please note that, if I understand correctly [2], the files
under consideration are no longer included in the upstream Subversion
source archive: they are added to the debian/ directory by the
maintainer of the subversion Debian package.

[2] https://bugs.debian.org/689919#25

> Have a nice day,

The same to you.

 There's not a second to spare! To the laboratory!
..................................................... Francesco Poli .
 GnuPG key fpr == CA01 1147 9CD2 EFDF FB82  3925 3E1C 27E1 1F69 BFFE

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