[linux-elitists] RPM non free?

Karsten M. Self kmself@ix.netcom.com
Tue Apr 6 22:49:29 PDT 2004

on Tue, Apr 06, 2004 at 11:16:03PM +0100, Adam Sampson (azz@us-lot.org) wrote:
> Greg KH <greg@kroah.com> writes:
> > Anyway, I don't see how the license for elfutils is "non-free" by any
> > means.  Do you care to explain why you think it is not so?
> The OSL requires you to get click-wrap acceptance of the license from
> anyone you distribute the software to. It makes automated mirroring of
> OSL-licensed software impossible, destroying an important bit of free
> software distribution infrastructure.
> (If I recall correctly, the Debian project had a different reason for
> considering it non-free, but that's my major complaint with it.)

I'm coming to be ever more strongly at odds with Larry Rosen over the
value of explicit contract in free software licensing.  Not only is it
not necessary, but I'm feeling it's outright harmful.

Larry will be speaking at SVLUG tomorrow, and while I can't make it,
grilling him on the issues raised by the OSL and RPM licensing,
particularly in light of the three tests below, would be strongly
welcomed by me.

There's a FAQ on the Debian Free Software Guidelines, which IMO would
*greatly* benefit the OSI to look at.


Specifically, the Debian legal team applies three tests to help inform
judgement on a license:

  - The Desert Islan test

  - The Dissident test

  - The Tentacles of Evil test.

These are hypothetical, but useful situations in which a license might
be evaluated.  In full:

    1.  The Desert Island test.

    Imagine a castaway on a desert island with a solar-powered computer.
    This would make it impossible to fulfil any requirement to make
    changes "publicly available" or to send patches to some particular
    place. This holds even if such requirements are only "upon request",
    as the castaway might be able to receive messages but be unable to
    send them. To be free, software must be modifiable by this
    unfortunate castaway, who must also be able to legally share
    modifications with friends on the island.

    2. The Dissident test.

    Consider a dissident in a totalitarian state who wishes to share a
    modified bit of software with fellow dissidents, but does not wish
    to reveal the identity of the modifier, or directly reveal the
    modifications themselves, or even possession of the program, to the
    government. Any requirement for sending source modifications to
    anyone other than the recipient of the modified binary---in fact any
    forced distribution at all, beyond giving source to those who
    receive a copy of the binary---would put the dissident in danger.
    For Debian to consider software free it must not require any such
    "excess" distribution.

    3. The Tentacles of Evil test.

    Imagine that the author is hired by a large evil corporation and,
    now in their thrall, attempts to do the worst to the users of the
    program: to make their lives miserable, to make them stop using the
    program, to expose them to legal liability, to make the program
    non-free, to discover their secrets, etc. The same can happen to a
    corporation bought out by a larger corporation bent on destroying
    free software in order to maintain its monopoly and extend its evil
    empire. The license cannot allow even the author to take away the
    required freedoms! 

While I haven't followed the discussions on debian-legal, seems that
there are problems with at least the first two of these.


Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
   The Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act:
     Feinstein's answer to Enron envy.
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