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Re: handling Mozilla with kid gloves [was: GUADEC report]

On Wed, Jul 14, 2004 at 10:19:33PM +0200, Martin Michlmayr - Debian Project Leader wrote:
> * Branden Robinson <branden@debian.org> [2004-07-12 02:46]:
> > IMO it would have helped if a Debian license arbitration body had been
> > formally delegated by the DPL, but as we all know, that didn't happen.

> It's interesting that you say that, Mr Robinson.  Last time I
> suggested that -legal should engage in more active arbitration with
> upstream (for which I'd happily have a delegate)

Where precisely did you make this suggestion?  Here's what I can find:

On 24 January, Daniel Quinlan proposed to -legal a protocol for a formal
license review process, of which the salient points were 1) a submission
queue [not debian-legal itself] for all license review requests; 2)
forwarding of requests to -legal for discussion; 3) an official entity
[delegate(s)?] which drafts a response reflecting the consensus of the
list; 4) final response to be sent with in 30 days of submission to the

You replied a couple of weeks later[2], asserting that his suggestion "[had]
merit", but "[had] to be done in a way which is compatible with how -legal
works." You exhorted debian-legal to prepare summaries (which we have), and
"explicitly talk to people creating licenses to make sure they get it right",
we which we either haven't had a chance to do[3], or have already done[4].

You did not use the words "delegate" or "official", nor anything synonymous
as far as I can tell, in your reply to Mr. Quinlan.  Instead, at the end of
the message, you emphasized that you would not be taking immediate action:

  I'd like to hear what other people from -legal think.  I'm certainly
  not going to appoint anyone without the consent of -legal since this
  is just not the way it can work.  But perhaps we can find a solution

> you told me that this is not the task of -legal.

I did?  Where did I do that?  Not only did I not reply to your messages to
debian-legal in that thread[5], I didn't post to the thread at all.  (It
seemed to be doing just fine without me.)  In fact, as far as I can
determine, if you and I have communicated on this subject, we haven't done
it on the debian-legal mailing list[6].  Of the nine messages you've sent
me privately this year, none of have been on this subject.

So that you'll surmise less and understand more about what I think, here's
my opinion: debian-legal is a discussion list, and that's what it does
best.  It discusses.  I think that, as DPL, you'd be best advised to draw
any delegates on licensing issues from the pool of respected participants
on the debian-legal list; they are more likely to be informed, be
interested, and have the respect of their peers.

Furthermore, back in 2001, I called for such a body in my platform for
Debian Project Leader[7].  I said:

  Just as Debian has a Technical Committee, I'd like to see a body of
  legally-minded people formed who are prepared to give this[sic] issues
  the kind of scrutiny they deserve.  As with the Technical Committee, of
  course, their decisions could be overridden by a General Resolution of
  the developers.  The point is to get a formal structure in place for
  handing issues like this that don't require General Resolutions in and of
  themselves.  GR's are a very weighty process, and where decisions of this
  nature can be made, it is good to have a mechanism for making them.

At the time, though, I did not anticipate needing to use such a body much for
resolving questions of license interpretation -- I thought the body would
be needed more for interpreting the Constitution, thinking through
amendments to our GR process carefully, and so forth.  The past three years
have changed my estimation of the relative significance of licensing issues
to the Project as a whole.

> Also, I encouraged summarizing and documenting the findings of -legal
> about licenses

Yes, you did, and the list has done so[A][B][C][D][E]; we take a much more
structured approach now.  Credit where credit is due: Daniel Quinlan
proposed this process; Matthew Palmer, Henning Makholm, Anthony DeRobertis,
MJ Ray, Don Armstrong, Nathanael Nerode, Simon Law, Joe Moore, Giacomo A.
Catenazzi, Mahesh T. Pai, Jeremy Hankins, and you participated in the

> and agreed that we can appoint a delegate if that's useful and once it's
> clear who would be a good candidate for that.

I'm sorry, but I don't think that's a plausible interpreation of the
record.  In none of your messages did you state or imply an intention to
delegate anyone to any task.

Quoting your messages to debian-legal:
  * Matthew Palmer <mpalmer@debian.org> [2004-02-12 09:17]:
  > Hands up anyone who wants to take on the job of official d-legal
  > summariser.  I can think of a few people who *could* take the job,
  > unfortunately, those qualified also tend to be those most qualified in
  > other areas.
  > I certainly *don't* think it should be a committee summary; we've
  > already got one discussion group (d-legal), no need to add a second
  > one.

  Oh, absolutely.  Also, I don't think we need one official summarizer.
  Really, anyone can volunteer to summarize a particular discussion,
  post a summary to -legal to get the "ok" and then send it on.  We
  don't necessarily need one specific person to do that - what we need
  are volunteers willing to do it.[8]

  * Henning Makholm <henning@makholm.net> [2004-02-12 00:01]:
  > > Of course, perhaps the best thing for -legal to do is have people
  > > self-nominate themselves to this position, and then have a small
  > > vote.
  > Hmm.. do we really need to have a single person charged with writing
  > all of the summaries?

  No, I think we just need vounteers who step in in a particular discussion
  and volunteer to summarize it.

  > If there are just 4-5 regulars who feel like me, the chances of someone
  > volunteering for any given request would be much better than the
  > chances of a Single Official Summarizer not being buried under

  Yes, which is also why I'm relucant to appoint one delegate for this
  right now.  It would be good if a group of people would do it and after a
  few months we see automatically who the people are who are doing it

  * Simon Law <sfllaw@debian.org> [2004-02-11 18:01]:
  >       I'm willing to take on a position to summarize our discussions,
  > and present them to upstream.  I think I can do this diplomatically,
  > and I have some experience with this.  (I was responsible for ironing
  > out


In summary, I did not offer you any encouragement to move slowly with
delegations, and you didn't appear to need any.

It has now been "a few months" since your messages of February.  I think
both Simon Law and Jeremy Hankins have acquitted themselves well as license
summarizers.  If I were the DPL, I'd be asking them if they'd be interested
in continuing their work as official delegates -- assuming that the
practice of summarizing licenses has helped more than it has hurt, which
may not be the case given the ferocity of recent flamage against everyone
on the debian-legal list collectively[11].

[1] Message-ID: <E1AkTHa-0005wX-00@proton.pathname.com>
[2] Message-ID: <20040211211406.GA2747@deprecation.cyrius.com>
[3] I can't think of a case since January where someone came along saying,
    "Hi, I'm writing a new license, can you guys help me out with this?"
[4] We have had cases where an upstream license innovation was corrected to
    be unambiguously DFSG-free with our assistance.  A recent example (i.e,
    this month) is Best Practical LLC's license on RequestTracker 3.
[5] Message-id: <E1AkTHa-0005wX-00@proton.pathname.com>
    Message-ID: <20040211211406.GA2747@deprecation.cyrius.com>
[6] Method: have a folder containing all messages sent to debian-legal to
    date.  Use Mutt to search the folder with the following expressions:
    "~f Branden ~b Michlmayr" and "~f Michlmayr ~b Branden".
[7] http://people.debian.org/~branden/dpl/campaign/2001/platform.txt
[8] Message-ID: <20040217153805.GA1541@deprecation.cyrius.com>
[9] Message-ID: <20040217154023.GC1541@deprecation.cyrius.com>
[10] Message-ID: <20040217153821.GB1541@deprecation.cyrius.com>
[11] http://blog.bofh.it/id_42

[A] http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2004/02/msg00229.html
[B] http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2004/02/msg00270.html
[C] http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2004/03/msg00226.html
[D] http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2004/05/msg00118.html
[E] http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2004/06/msg00514.html

G. Branden Robinson                |    It's extremely difficult to govern
Debian GNU/Linux                   |    when you control all three branches
branden@debian.org                 |    of government.
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |    -- John Feehery

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