[linux-elitists] RMS is at it again

Heather star@starshine.org
Fri Dec 1 15:11:41 PST 2000

> > Even with that absurdity, they don't need to ship the whole GPL in
> > every pack.  They can just use the paragraph that says "This is under
> > the GPL (version bla etc). You should have a copy in (whatever
> > directory debian likes to keep it in, at the time the package ships).
> > You can get always request a complete copy from (FSF address)"
> Possibly, though I think the argument has to be structured more tightly.
> And reference to the FSF probably won't fly, Debian will have to point
> to a copy of the GPL they maintain themselves for download.  

Read again - I suggest that they point to a debian-maintained copy AND 
refer to the FSF.  One further assumes that the reference to the copy
held at the FSF shouldn't be necessary if you *have* the local copy (as 
you should) ... but you could refer to both and compare them.
> Restructured slightly from the GPL's format for clarity, lettered
> subsections added:
>     1. You may copy and distribute verbatim copies of the Program's
>     source code as you receive it, in any medium, provided that you
>       (a). conspicuously and appropriately publish on each copy an
> 	appropriate copyright notice and disclaimer of warranty;
>       (b). keep intact all the notices that refer to this License and to
> 	the absence of any warranty;

Right.  The above would be such a Notice.   I guess it needs the disclaimance
of warrantee added tho.

>       (c). and give any other recipients of the Program a copy of this
>         License along with the Program.
> The _ issue is (c).

right, the present layout assumes that having Base is giving you a copy of 
said License.
> If (c) means that every GPL'd package needs to be accompanied by a copy
> of the full GPL, and that 80% of all packages are GPLd (this is low,
> IIRC), then, for my system, with 19K per copy, we've got:
>   1027 packages * 80% * 19K = 15610 KB = 15 MB 
> of additional storage and file transfer.  Not tremendous, but
> substantial over a dialup.  For the full Debian system, assuming 4k
> packages the value is on the order of 60.8 MB.

It's yucky but at least it will still tend to fit on things.  hmmm

>> The real problem with RMS' philosophy is that he claims a fairly noble ideal
>> (which he also seems to deeply believe in) but, he has chosen a means to 
>> implement it which depends on lawyers and restricting rights.  Restriction of
>> rights as a means to a goal of increased rights.... I dunno 'bout *you* but
>> I see a bug in this design.
> I respect it.  It's a compromise of some reduced individual rights for
> an increase in societal rights.   GPL is a *very* cool hat trick.

Elegant coding within tight design constraints is one idea of a good time for
many people I know...

And you'll notice I still live in the country that has these design bugs
built in...

But I'd be rather unlike myself not to speak my mind about it. 

> Much significant software is controlled directly by FSF and the GNU
> project; I can pretty much guarantee that alternative licensing won't be
> available.

That's why I said it would be a nightmare on the order of the original BSD
split from SysV ...

Hmm, I can probably look up how long it took for them to finish recoding 
everything.  Anyways, hopefully, the debian-legal types will come up with
something that works.
> The issue isn't one of finding an appropriate license, it's accommodating
> the requirements of the GNU GPL.

Or discovering that too deep a hole is being dug regarding it 8(
> > Anyways the Debian gang are among the FSF's boosters for the most part, so 
> > what I really wonder, is who told off RMS such that he decided to have a 
> > public tantrum.  
> My observation is that RMS tends to walk a rather straight line.
> There's a potential GPL issue.  He's addressing it.

My observation is that he goes off like this on issues, after discovering 
them in heated conversation with others.

Debian's been using GPL and all for basically the whole time, and had their
packaging system in place (slowly changing) for a while, but he has only
decided to raise this point now.

Either he didn't notice until now, or FSF chose to "be lenient" until only 
some recent dust has been kicked up.   The phrasing of "watchdog" is pretty
apropos, he will not let go until it's settled.
Which has its good and bad points.

> Looking to alternatives, one might be to work out a way that:
>   1. Doesn't put the overhead of transferring and storing copies of the
>      GPL on people who are receiving programs through the Debian
>      packaging system -- e.g.:  they've already got the license as part
>      of the base system.  GPL *is a fundamental part* of Debian.
>   2. Does transfer a copy, or indicate that the user must download an
>      additional file, for those who are downloading debs independently.
> The question IMO is whether or not "a work" is defined as:
>   1. Debian as a whole.  In which case, we're compliant.
>   2. An individual archive file.  In which case, we're not, and the
>      solution is to add a copy of the L/GPL explicitly to each .deb
>      governed by the L/GPL.
>   3. A set of files, not necessarily integrally combined.  In which
>      case, a social and procedural, but not technical, fix is possible.
>      In the event of automated downloads, the tools will ensure that
>      individuals have a copy of the L/GPL.  In the event of manual
>      downloads, the recipient is directed to download a copy of the the
>      L/GPL, but the Debian project can't be held accountable for this
>      noncompliance.
I can hope for 3, because then my suggestion of a clear (but short) notice
and a dependency on a package GPL-version-2 or GPL-version-2plus, etc.
would be fine.  And easy to do in the small scale, though a pain to do to
every package til the pot's right...
> The problem isn't Debian CDs and live-system updates, it's individual
> .deb distributions.  Agreement on that?
I suppose this is why I am being most snippy about it - I'm directly in the
affected group.
> IANAL, this is not legal advice.

As a curiosity: Anyone have a database somewhere of apps by license?

* Heather * And it should be the law: If you use the word `paradigm' without 
            knowing what the dictionary says it means, you go to jail.  No 
            exceptions.  -- David Jones

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