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

On Mon, 2007-04-23 at 12:37 +1000, Ben Finney wrote:
> License texts *are* distributed by Debian, now, under terms that are
> non-free. This behaviour doesn't match the Social Contract.

Is there any package in Debian which includes a license that is not
being distributed as the terms of use and distribution of some
particular piece of software also distributed by Debian? I think not --
each license text distributed by Debian is the collection of terms under
which a particular piece of software is distributed. They are included
only because copyright exists. If copyright would cease to exist, there
would be no reason to continue the inclusion of these license texts in
Debian. They could be removed from (or altered in) Debian without any
implications. That cannot be said of the actual software components in

The language of the Social Contract and DFSG make a clear separation
between a "component" of the Debian System and a "license". Neither
implies that the license is a component of the Debian System. Instead,
they use the conventional and usual definition of a license: an
extension and use of copyright law to regulate the use, distribution,
modification, etc. of a work. Inclusion of the license text in a file
along with the files that comprise the Debian System only happens to be
the only way to convey these terms to the user. If we would distribute
Debian on physical media only, then we could deliver the license texts
printed on paper, and the distinction would be more obvious.

Also, consider DFSG §10:
        The "GPL", "BSD", and "Artistic" licenses are examples of
        licenses that we consider "free".

Then recall that the meta-license of the GPL permits no modification
(relaxed by FSF policy to be permitted when the preamble is removed and
the license is renamed and all references to its original name are
removed [0]). Why would the DFSG need an "exception" or "clarification"
when it already says that such a license is ok?

[0] http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#ModifyGPL

> I don't see how that's at all true. Contrariwise, I would hope you
> agree that a document that says "we will always do this, and never do
> that", but which is routinely violated in practice, is one that
> readers will not take seriously.

No violation has been shown to exist. A concern has been raised, but it
is the result of a misunderstanding and/or misinterpretation of the
Social Contract and DFSG. It is not the same as an actual violation.

Thus, there's no need to change the documents in question.

Fabian Fagerholm <fabbe@paniq.net>

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