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Re: Hacking License


Il 13/12/18 00:29, Giacomo Tesio ha scritto:
> There are several reasons why I'm "trying to go it alone".
> Some have been outlined in the response to Simon McVittie.
> At the end of the day, being alone has several big advantages:
> - I'm free
> - I've nothing to loose
> - I cannot do much harm if I fail
> - I can do a lot of good if I succeed
> But on the specific matter of the Hacking License, I obviously welcome
> help and suggestions.

There is a sentence that common Internet wisdom considers an "African

  "If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together".

 [1] Which is, of course, ridiculous: even if it is true, and it might
very well be, this attribution cannot hide its western-centrism, in
assuming that Africa is a single and culturally homogeneous place.

I personally believe this can explain the kind of resistance you are
finding on this matter from Debian people: I am not sure that it would
be true to say that Debian people like to go together, but in a sense we
need to do so, because there is no other way to manage a gigantic thing
like Debian, even less so when you have (as we have) to keep contact
with the wider free software/open source ecosystem. There are many
different people, with different opinions and motivations, so compromise
is something that you have to accept.

While I would say that most people in Debian are there because of some
"idealistic" reason, practicality matters, and it matters a lot. I doubt
many people in Debian enjoy dealing with licenses and legal affairs, but
there is no way around: if you want to build a free software
distribution in the world we currently are in, legal stuff matters, and
as in any other field some kind of compromise is required there too.
Debian Developers know far too well the kind of problems that you have
to take into account when dealing with obscure licenses: most of them
like to spend their time on making things work, not making lawyers
happy, but as I said above legal stuff is something that you have to
take into account when building a distribution, because you want to be
sure that users (and developers) are protected and you want to know that
what you are building reflects your values of contributing something
that is free for everybody.

Software distributed under well known licenses is fantastic from this
point of view: you already know what that means, you already know that
you are protected, you already know how you can combine things (or can
find out easily). Having to evaluate a custom license quite an important
discouraging factor when packaging some software. I believe that others
share this view. That is why we insist so much on this point with you.

Then, if you want to go alone and driven by idealistic views alone, you
are of course free to. But keep in mind that this will make it more
difficult for you to interact with communities that value (or try, or
need to value) team playing and have to deal with practical concerns,
like legal stuff and not having an infinite amount of human resources to
spend on each single problem.

> I suppose that lack of further objections about the Debian
> compatibility of the Hacking License doesn't mean that I convinced
> most of debian-legal contributors, but that on the contrary they agree
> with you and that no software under the Hacking License should go in
> Debian, whatever is actually written in the license itself.

Not exactly. I'd say that most of debian-legal contributors (me
included) think that it is not clear if software under the Hacking
License can go in Debian: license assessment is often not a clear-cut
binary process, compromises can happen (and have happened in the past),
grey areas often remain. At some point someone has to take a decision,
and that decision depends also on criteria others than the license (it
is much easier to compromise for a software like Firefox, that most
recognize as very useful, then for a random library for interacting with
applications written for an operating system nobody uses).

Now, the point is if you want to ease this process or not. If you don't,
which is absolutely ok for everybody, then it will remain hard.
Certainly not impossible, since, as I said, there are many intervening

> That's why I asked "If the problem is not in the text of the license,
> how can I fix it?" because, at times, some exchanges seem
> (legitimate!) political opinions about the opportunity of a license
> instead of problems with this specific license.
> That's why I supposed that we lack a forth test that could clearly
> exclude the Hacking License.
> Some how, I think this unstated insight of Debian Developers should be
> verbalized.

There is an easy way to fix your license, and we have been suggesting it
all along:

  $ cp /usr/share/common-licenses/GPL-3 HACK.txt

Or, in other words, the test is "Is this license a new one, written by
one random guy without legal counsel and without any community
consensus?". And it is written in the FAQs you linked, question number 5.

It does not clearly exclude the Hacking license, since the Hacking
license is probably not far from being an acceptable license (I
personally think the different treatment for "organizations" makes it
non free, and there are some points that might contradict the law, thus
possibly making it invalid; but this is just my opinion, and it is
pretty irrelevant since it is not me the one who will have to judge).
However it gives you a criterion for understanding why most DDs will shy
away from software distributed under it.

All the best, Giovanni.
Giovanni Mascellani <g.mascellani@gmail.com>
Postdoc researcher - Université Libre de Bruxelles

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