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Re: Request for GR: clarifying the license text licensing / freeness issue

MJ Ray wrote:
>There may be a few licences that are buggy about this and to which we
>want to grant a limited-time exception, but that is not unusual.  Use
>a GR for only that, not a permanent foundation document edit.

>> Care to craft another solution? [...]

>No, I've no interest
You just did craft another solution.  Thanks.

Alternate suggested GR text:
The Debian Project notes that many license texts are copyrighted works, licensed 
only under meta-licenses which prohibit the creation of derivative license texts.

We consider this to be undesirable.  License texts are functional works; reusing 
legal text from an earlier license makes a new license much easier to read and 
interpret, while brand new legal text is likely to have unexpected results.  
This is true even of preambles, which can have an effect on the interpretation of
the license.  We encourage all authors of license texts to allow the creation of 
derivative license texts.

Currently several very important licenses for free software are licensed under 
such restrictive meta-licenses.  These include the LaTeX Project Public License
and the GNU GPL version 2.  In addition, most license texts have no explicit
meta-licenses, which makes their legal situation unclear; the worst case 
interpretation is that they have a restrictive meta-license.

We have promised that Debian will remain 100% free.  License texts which are 
under restrictive meta-licenses are not 100% free.  While we could ship them 
alongside Debian rather than in Debian, we do in fact ship them in Debian as a 
matter of convenience.

We wish to clearly inform our users of this temporary exception to the promise 
in our Social Contract.  We will do our best to resolve this issue.  Until this
problem no longer applies to major licenses, license texts applying to works in
Debian may be present in Debian even if they are not DFSG-free.  We believe that
this is the best choice to serve our users and the free software community.
End alternate suggested GR

Frankly I'd be happy with any honest solution.  Currently the promise made in the 
Social Contract is very stark, very bold, and also untrue.  The DFSG are very 
stark and bold about this as well.  Lots of "must", "never" and "100%", which 
simply isn't what's going on.

If the promise were, say, "Debian will remain 99 44/100% free", I wouldn't worry
about this stuff!

Here's a much more radical proposal, which I don't really support, but would
still prefer over the present and ongoing situation.

Radical proposed GR:
Amend the Social Contract as follows:
(1) Replace "Debian will remain 100% free" with "We will strive to make Debian 100% free"
(2) Replace "We promise that the Debian system and all its components will be 
free according to these guidelines." with "We promise to do our best to make the 
Debian system and all its components free according to these guidelines, without 
crippling the system."
(3) Replace "We will never make the system require the use of a non-free 
component." with "We will try to avoid making the system require the use of a 
non-free component, without crippling the system."
(4) Replace 'We have created "contrib" and "non-free" areas in our archive for 
these works.', the following: "The most vital of these works are included in 
Debian, but we strive to replace all of them with free works.  For the remaining 
works, we have created "contrib" and "non-free" areas in our archive.'

Nathanael Nerode  <neroden@fastmail.fm>

"It's just a goddamned piece of paper."
-- President Bush, referring to the US Constitution

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