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Re: Hacking License



On Sat, 1 Dec 2018 04:28:58 +0100 Giacomo Tesio wrote:

> Hi, I'm going to distribute a C library I wrote from scratch and with
> no dependencies (except for some POSIX system calls) under a new
> strong copyleft, the Hacking License.

Hello,
thanks for writing a new library and for willing to distribute it
as free software.

As far as the licensing choice is concerned, please try hard and avoid
writing your own custom license.
A newly written license, especially a strong copyleft one, adds to the
already rampant license proliferation craziness (which is bad in
itself) and is incompatible with many other licenses (thus causing more
headaches to everyone in the community).

Please do really consider adopting the GNU GPL v2, if you want a strong
copyleft license.

> AFAIK, it conforms to the DFGL and pass the three corner-case tests,
> but I'd like to know your legal opinions and criticisms, as I'm going
> to package such library for Debian too.

I don't think that software released under the "Hacking License"
complies with the Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG).

What follows is a list of comments and thoughts about the license text.
I am a bit in a rush, hence I may have missed some issues.
This is not a thorough analysis (and I am not a lawyer, I do not speak
on behalf of the Debian Project, I am just a Debian external
contributor).
 

[...]
> Hacking License
> ===============
[...]
>
> 1. Definitions
> --------------
[...]

Some definitions are really awkward and counter-intuitive.
They may have unintended consequences on the rest of the license...

[...]
> 2. Grants
> ---------
> 
> Permission is hereby granted to any User of the Hack to study, copy,
> use, wrap, modify and/or distribute the Hack, and to distribute any
> Derived Work under this License but with a different name and logo.

The requirement to change the name is permitted by DFSG#4, but is
discouraged.
The requirement to change logo is not as clearly permitted.

> 
> Furthermore, if the Hack is a Derived Work, the Hackers grant to the
> copyright holders of the Inspiring Hack all rights, title and interests
> in any copyright the Hackers have in the Hack.

This seems to effectively transfer the rights in the Derived Work to
the copyright holders of the original work ("Inspiring Hack"),
As a consequence, the copyright holders of the original work get many
more rights on the Derived Work than anyone else.

I don't think this clause complies with the DFSG.
I would say it fails DFSG#3, since I cannot distribute a derived work
to the author of the original work under the same terms as the license
of the original work, since I am forced to grant more rights.

[...]
> 3. Conditions
> -------------
> 
> The grants provided by this License are subject to the following conditions:
[...]
> 2. The source of the Hack shall be made available with the Hack and/or
>    by other reasonable means to every User, according to this License
>    and without additional constraints or requirements, such as further
>    agreements, any royalty or other fee.

This seems to allow binary package distributions (as done by the Debian
mirror network) just because of the "or by other reasonable means"
phrase. I hope it can be considered enough, but I am not sure it would
hold water in a court of law...

[...]
> 4. The tools, dependencies and know-how required to perform any of the
>    activities permitted by this License shall be made available to the
>    User with the source of the Hack (except for those tools and
>    dependencies that are already available to every User either free of
>    charge or in off-the-shelf distributions of the Runtime) and without
>    additional constraints or requirements, such as further agreements, any
>    royalty or other fee.

This seems to be troublesome, although well-meaning.
If for instance the work is written in the Ruby programming language,
the clause could be interpreted as requiring to make a full programming
course about the Ruby language available.

[...]
> 6. No patent infringement litigation claim (excluding counterclaims and
>    cross-claims) alleging that all or part of the Hack directly or
>    indirectly infringes a patent shall be initialized by the User.

This is controversial and has been discussed several times on
debian-legal, with different opinions expressed by many people.
It _may_ comply with the DFSG, but I am not sure.

> 7. The User has never violated any of the previous conditions.
[...]

This lacks a forgiving provision.

I mean: it seems that a User who has done wrong once, can never be
forgiven and will never again be granted any rights by this license
(maybe even for *any* work under the Hacking License, not only for the
work the violation was about...).
I don't think this is fair.




-- 
 http://www.inventati.org/frx/
 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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