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Re: whitakers-words_0.2020.10.27-1_multi.changes REJECTED

I messed up the Debian-legal address: resending.  Sorry!

On Thu, 2020-11-05 at 22:10 +0000, Joerg Jaspert wrote:
> Hi Maintainer,
> I'm sorry to, but I have to reject your package. It simply is non-free
> and as such can not go into Debians main archive.

I thought this might happen: the license is unconventional, and I wasn't
sure it would fly.  I cc'ed debian-legal in this response: I'm pretty sure
the license is DFSG-free, but IANAL, and they can confirm in a way I

> The reason is the license. As usual, people should NOT write their
> own. They are bound to fail.

To be fair, the software probably predates the GPL v1, and certainly the

(Debian legal: below is the full text of the license distributed with the

> -----------------
> License: words-license
>  This is a free program, which means it is proper to copy it and pass
>  it on to your friends. Consider it a developmental item for which
>  there is no charge. However, just for form, it is Copyrighted
>  (c). Permission is hereby freely given for any and all use of program
>  and data. You can sell it as your own, but at least tell me.
>  .
>  This version is distributed without obligation, but the developer
>  would appreciate comments and suggestions.
>  .
>  All parts of the WORDS system, source code and data files, are made
> freely
>  available to anyone who wishes to use them, for whatever purpose.
> -----------------
> This is not free. Going though it, it allows to copy/distribute stuff,
> then it allows any kind of usage and selling. And then the first
> mistake, it requires you to inform them. Thats repeated in a less
> strict statement. And then it tells again that its available to anyone
> to use it for whatever purpose.

I disagree.  It requires you to inform them, yes, but only if you "sell it
as your own".  AFAIK, that is equivalent to saying "Inform me if you
distribute this without crediting me".  That's a less strict version of
the acceptable "Keep this copyright notice", since as long as we keep it,
we don't need to inform anyone.

Further, the next sentence says that it is distributed "without
obligation": since you aren't obligated to do anything, it's explicitly in
the clear for the Dissident Test and the Desert Island Test.

> In all of that they miss something important - you are not allowed to
> modify.

I interpret the fact that it lets you use the source code for "whatever
purpose" to mean that you can modify, compile, and distribute it.  After
all, source code doesn't have much of a use on its own, and a modification
is a use.

Supporting this idea is the fact that the WTFPL is considered GPL
compatible by the FSF.  This is, in many ways, a more formal version of

Lastly, the "without obligation" would probably help: if it's distributed
without obligation, you're not obligated to distribute verbatim copies. In
fact, I would argue that the fact that it permits you to sell it as your
own (provided a condition is met) to actually indicate that modifications
are permitted: the source cites the author on every run, meaning any such
redistribution would need to modify source code.

> So two mistakes, must tell them and no right to modify -> non-free.
> Best would be if upstream changes to a well-known free license and
> adds a polite hint that feedback would be nice, but not required. Then
> it can go into main.

That's... difficult.  The original author has been dead for a decade, and
(AFAIK) the digital preservation efforts whose source I am using is not
explicitly authorized by their heir.  Upstream appears to be interpreting
the license to mean that modification is OK, since they have done quite a
bit of it: additionally, comments throughout the source code and original
website strongly indicate that the source was intended to be modified.

I hope this logic makes sense, and that it would hold up 'in court'.

Thanks for your time,
Calum M

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