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

On Tue, 2007-04-24 at 08:28 +1000, Ben Finney wrote:
> Because the meta-license of the GPL is *not* free, as you pointed
> out. The licenses are free, because they grant the right freedoms for
> a work when applied to that work. The license texts are not free,
> because they do not have those same freedoms.

The meta-license of the GPL is part of the text of the GPL. The DFSG
doesn't say: only part of the GPL is considered "free". It says that the
GPL, as a whole, including the meta-license, is considered "free". If it
had been desirable to exclude its meta-license, that would have been
made explicit when referring to the GPL.

The only sensible conclusion of this is that the Social Contract and
DFSG do not require meta-licenses to fulfil the same requirements as
those required for software licenses. (Careful reading will reveal that
they consider licenses to be a different class of entity than software,
as I wrote in my previous post.)

The requested GR proposed to say something along these lines. However,
it already follows from the current wording, and the request includes
language that is prone to error, more misunderstanding and would
possibly weaken or blur the requirements for software freedom in Debian.
In addition, it includes (both the original text and its subsequent
variants) additional statements that have dubious intent.

In another part of this thread, you said:

        Only by reading a thread like this, or some other discussion
        which has no obvious connection from the Social Contract, can
        newcomers learn this exception under which we act.

You just have to acknowledge and accept that these texts do not exist in
a vacuum. Their interpretation requires a lot of knowledge, and this
knowledge exists in various places, including this mailing list. While I
don't agree that there is any "exception" here, it's true that a
newcomer will probably not grasp all the finer details of these
documents after the first read. But that's not a requirement, either. We
implicitly expect people to detect our GRs and automatically become
aware of changes to the foundation documents. Something similar goes for
the laws in most countries: pleading ignorance doesn't exempt you from
obeying them. The exception here is that there is no sanction prescribed
nor can there ever be one; we can continue to explain and discuss the
interpretation, and fortunately, we have a list archive to refer to. But
don't make the mistake of thinking that you can make natural language
unambiguous for everyone.

As far as the GR request goes, I think it has been shown quite strongly
that it is not needed. The rest of the discussion I consider part of the
community tradition, the purpose of which is to gain further insight
into the documents in question.

Fabian Fagerholm <fabbe@paniq.net>

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