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Re: DFSG-compatibility of X13-ARIMA-SEATS (U.S. federal govt. software)

Sébastien Villemot <sebastien@debian.org> writes:

> I would like to package X13-ARIMA-SEATS¹, which is software developed
> at the U.S. Department of Commerce. As such, it is not copyrighted in
> the U.S., and rights to use, redistribute and modify are explicitly
> granted outside the U.S.

Thank you for seeking to package and maintain this in Debian.

And thanks for posting the full text of the license under discussion.

> However, the last clause of the licence says that the “user agrees to
> make a good faith effort to use the Software in a way that does not
> cause damage, harm, or embarrassment to the United States/Commerce.”
> This may be seen as a restriction on use (and therefore contrary to
> DFSG§6)

The term “use” is too vague, IMO, for help in discussing whether some
action is restricted by copyright. You are right to point to DFSG§6,
which distinguishes restrictions on “field of endeavour”.

I think this case does in part depend on whether “[…] not cause damage,
harm, or embarrassment to the United States/Commerce” excludes some
field of endeavour. If it does, the restriction fails DFSG§6.

> though it is unclear to me whether this is a significant-enough
> restriction to make it non-free, and whether it is really enforceable.

It is prudent, IMO, to assume that no restriction is beyond being
enforced by those who wish to control how recipients use published
works. Certainly, restrictions we would have thought trivial in past
decades are now taken seriously by international copyright law.

So, even if we think the restriction may today not be enforced, the
standard should not be enforcibility but whether it conforms to DFSG.

> Do you think that this license is DFSG-compatible?

I'd like to see discussion of fields of endeavour for a work like this,
which may violate the restriction, and whether excluding those would
count as a restriction on freedom of endeavour.

 \            “[T]he great menace to progress is not ignorance but the |
  `\           illusion of knowledge.” —Daniel J. Boorstin, historian, |
_o__)                                                        1914–2004 |
Ben Finney

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