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Re: the presence of GNU FDL-licensed works in sarge

On Mon, Nov 03, 2003 at 02:14:52AM +1100, Martin Michlmayr - Debian Project Leader wrote:
> * Branden Robinson <branden@debian.org> [2003-10-21 15:00]:
> > In sum, I think the two-year gestation process on debian-legal was
> > necessary to give this joint committee of Debian and the FSF a
> > tractable task to deal with.
> Yes, I fully agree with this, and appreciate the hard work -legal has
> done to clearly identify the problems.  My original mail tried to
> answer your question about the "presence of GNU FDL-licensed works in
> sarge" and not give a historical rundown.

Well, it doesn't take a historical rundown to keep from saying "I'm very
delighted to finally see a productive discussion on this topic [now that
it's being handled by a committee, and not the debian-legal list]".

Nevertheless, thanks for the clarification.  There are people who feel
that all of the discussions on -legal are a big waste of time (we should
all "get back to hacking", presumably), and it's good to know you don't
share that opinion.

(After all, some developers prefer to spend some of their time playing
Tetrinet instead of hacking, and *they* don't come under censure by
their peers, as far as I've seen.)

> > > either.  I'd just like to remind you that we had a fair number of
> > > GPLed packages linked against SSL and we even released with those
> > > packages.
> > 
> > I'm afraid I don't see the relevance of this line of argument; I
> > know of no one who has advocated retroactively changing
> > already-released versions of Debian to come into conformance with
> My point was that we knew about the SSL linking problem before the
> release.

The SSL linking problem isn't a DFSG-freeness issue; it's a license
compatibility issue.  Firstly, I was unaware that we knowingly and
deliberately shipped packages (in woody, you're saying?) such that we
likely contravened the GNU GPL.  Are you sure we hadn't collected even
informal grants of permission from the upstream copyright holders in
those cases?

Secondly, the Social Contract binds us to producing a distribution of
100% Free software.  Last I checked, the OpenSSL library is DFSG-free,
and the GNU GPL as generally applied is a DFSG-free license.  We cannot
violate clause 1 of the Social Contract by shipping such things in a
release.  Linking GPLed apps with the OpenSSL library, if done
deliberately, may be tortious and stupid, but it's not a violation of
our explicit founding principles.

We could change that, of course, by amending the Social Contract to
state that we shall scrupulously adhere to the vagaries of copyright law
in every political jurisdiction to which we distribute software, and
that we shall abide by every copyright holder's interpretation of
copyright law and the language of a license, no matter how absurd.

Or maybe we shouldn't.  To do what I just described would, I think,
place to much power in the hands of third parties, and rob Debian of
much control over its own destiny.  How many of us want to promote the
language of the U.S.'s Digital Millenium Copyright Act as an ideal
co-equal with the other goals of our Social Contract?

In practice we already hew pretty close to both of those (respecting
countries' laws without question, and accepting copyright holder's
license interpretations without question), as a review of the traffic on
debian-legal will reveal, but I think those are pragmatic concerns.
The reason is simple: we don't want our developers or our users exposed
to criminal or civil liability if we can help it.

So, if what you claim is true, are you saying that you feel that the
fact that we exposed ourselves to legal risk by knowingly violating the
GPL with our last release means we shouldn't sweat the language of the
Social Contract today?

I'm not so sure, myself; I think we should be trying *harder* to hold to
our principles, not look back on our past errors and throw in the towel
like defeated perfectionists.

G. Branden Robinson                |      The greatest productive force is
Debian GNU/Linux                   |      human selfishness.
branden@debian.org                 |      -- Robert Heinlein
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |

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