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Re: GPLv3 source code with license check for some build configuration, DFSG ok?

On jeudi 15 février 2018 01:59:35 GMT Ben Finney wrote:
> This seems to be a good use of the ‘debian-legal’ discussion forum.

Fair enough, removing -mentors then. Please CC me on reply as I'm not 
subscribed to -legal.

> Can you reply to this thread – note the Cc to ‘debian-legal’, please
> subscribe there to follow if you like – with a copy of the exact text
> granting license (“you may such-and-such under conditions so-and-so”).

Let's restate the facts for the -legal crowd.

I'm packaging ultracopier which is under GPLv3 license. The source 
code supports several build configuration, one of them being the ultimate 
build. The ultimate build comes with a license check which terminates the 
software if no key is input (ie. one hits the cancel button). For that reason, 
I'm not building that configuration so that the binary program that is being 
built is free from any usage restriction. There is no mention of any 
restriction in the COPYING, README.sources or README file, even for the 
ultimate edition.

The questions I was asking in the original thread on -mentors are:

- Is a non-ultimate build DFSG ok?
- Does the ultimate build respect the GPLv3?

I'm leaning towards yes (because no usage restriction, source available, GPLv3 
which allow redistribution with or without modification) and no due to this 
stanza in GPLv3:

"You may not impose any further restrictions on the exercise of the
rights granted or affirmed under this License.  For example, you may
not impose a license fee, royalty, or other charge for exercise of
rights granted under this License, and you may not initiate litigation
(including a cross-claim or counterclaim in a lawsuit) alleging that
any patent claim is infringed by making, using, selling, offering for
sale, or importing the Program or any portion of it."

> More questions follow.
> Thomas Preud'homme <thomas.preudhomme@celest.fr> writes:
> > ultracopier's source code has a license check when built in ultimate
> > mode. However the source code is readily available, licensed under
> > GPLv3 and I plan to ship a non ultimate build into Debian. Is that ok
> > according to DFSG and thus ok to distribute in Debian?
> You'll need to explain more of what “ultimate mode” means.
> Especially we need to know what change in program behaviour would be had
> by some recipient choosing to disable that check and redistribute it to
> others.

Feature wise, the ultimate edition seems to only differ in the license check, 
message with the version being embedded the word "ultimate" and the absence of 
the following text in the UI: "Buy the Ultimate version to fund development". 
The ultimate build seems to be limited to Mac OS and Windows only, ie it does 
not build on Linux but that's only because of a macro check. It could 
trivially be disabled.

> > I would say yes because the build Debian would distribute wouldn't be
> > restricted in use and its source code would be readily available and
> > free to be modified.
> Note that the freedoms of the DFSG must be available to every Debian
> recipient, whether direct or indirect. If not, the work is not DFSG-free.

Absolutely and I never mentionned anything Debian specific. The code is 
readily available from the upstream website and I just choose to build one 
specific configuration of that software, just like we do for all software with 
configure options.

> > I'm less sure about the ultimate edition (note that this would not
> > affect Debian). GPLv3 says:
> > 
> > "You may not impose any further restrictions on the exercise of the […]
> That is a significant concern, yes.

Only for an ultimate build, right? Ie. a non ultimate build does not have any 
restriction in its usage and respect the requirement of the source code for it 
being available.

> If the recipient can simply ignore the additional restriction, and there
> is no effective change to the program behaviour, then that is not really
> an effective restriction and we may as well just patch out the non-free
> check.

Given the differences mentionned above, I prefer to just use a non ultimate 
build. The only difference except version number in some help string is to 
encourage users to contribute to its development by telling them to buy the 
ultimate edition. They are free not to do it so I think that respects the 

> If the recipient cannot simply ignore the additional restriction, then
> to some extent the restriction makes the work non-free. Some other
> resolution would be needed; plausibly, this would exclude the work from
> Debian.

As explained, I do not intent to build the ultimate edition so there would not 
be any usage restriction.

> When you can describe more we can judge the conditions better.

Hope I've clarified enough. Thanks for your feedback.

Best regards,


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