Re: discussion with the FSF: GPLv3, GFDL, Nexenta - Debian

This is a discussion on Re: discussion with the FSF: GPLv3, GFDL, Nexenta - Debian ; On Sun, Jun 03, 2007 at 11:14:16AM -0700, Don Armstrong wrote: > > But even so, when you say things like "I'm personally more concerned > > about licensing than the average developer" and "I [...] expect > > people ...

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Thread: Re: discussion with the FSF: GPLv3, GFDL, Nexenta

  1. Re: discussion with the FSF: GPLv3, GFDL, Nexenta

    On Sun, Jun 03, 2007 at 11:14:16AM -0700, Don Armstrong wrote:
    > > But even so, when you say things like "I'm personally more concerned
    > > about licensing than the average developer" and "I [...] expect
    > > people who disagree with my analysis to actually engage the analysis
    > > with counter arguments, come to a complete understanding of the
    > > problem, and then make a determination" you are saying your
    > > understanding is more important than other people's.

    >
    > No, I'm saying that people who disagree should engage my analysis
    > instead of remaining silent or discarding them with offhand comments.
    >
    > > Holding people who agree with you to that standard might be a way to
    > > start?

    > If I had time to do so, I'd consider it. Since I don't, I content
    > myself with trying to make sure my messages approach this standard,
    > setting an example instead.


    Well, when you hold people to different standards based on whether they
    agree with you or not, you can pretty safely expect that you'll end up
    with a pretty biassed group.

    > > In any event, the important thing (afaics) isn't to have a forum
    > > where regulars can post their understanding of issues, it's to help
    > > the people you're communicating with have a better appreciation for
    > > the complexities involved in their issue and how they might choose
    > > to approach them. That can mean pointing out possible drawbacks in
    > > existing licenses, explaining tradeoffs between licenses, or
    > > suggesting alternative ways of drafting licenses that avoid having
    > > to make some tradeoffs, but it doesn't mean making the tradeoffs for
    > > other people.

    > Almost all this happens on -legal, actually.


    That's not my experience. From what I've seen, -legal mostly consists of
    people who aren't particularly experienced in free software development or
    professionally trained in any sort of legal analysis making unconditional
    claims about whether particular clauses are good or bad (mostly the
    latter) and how they'll be enforced.

    Obviously (I hope), I don't consider you to be inexperienced in free
    software development, but just in this thread you've made a reasonable
    number of unconditional statements, including ones that're simply wrong.

    I hope you can see why that can be frustrating, and why it can be more
    annoying when it's done by people whose only "contribution" to free
    software seems to be participating on -legal.

    > I've personally been involved in trying to resolve the GFDL issue,
    > making sure that the GPLv3 is DFSG free, and have been working along
    > with Simon and a few others to try to fix the RFC issue. [In the case
    > of the CDDL, it's interesting to note that this very issue was
    > supposedly going to be fixed or at least looked at in an upcomming
    > revision of the CDDL.]


    Well, the GFDL issues have been "going to be fixed" for some years now
    too; which, afaics, means that leaving Debian's interests up to folks
    on -legal (including yourself in this case) isn't very effective. Maybe
    it's not possible to be more effective on this score -- I'm not involved
    enough to say -- but I do know -legal could be a lot more effective in
    other respect, if it wasn't so insular: ie, less unconditional about
    what's "free" and less likely to inflate things that are regarded in
    the rest of the free software community as a non-issue (or a feature!)
    into a disaster wrt DFSG-freeness.

    > > No, punting to a GR is not a good solution -- it's slow to come to a
    > > resolution, it annoys developers who have to inform themselves about
    > > something they'd rather not worry about, and it ends up with -legal
    > > folks complaining that the resolution doesn't make sense.

    > If it's the case that a signficant proportion of contributors to
    > -legal and Debian Developers feel that an improper decision has been
    > made, there's little else that can be done besides bringing it to a
    > GR.


    What contributors to -legal feel is irrelevant to the above -- things
    go to a GR if, and only if, Debian Developers care sufficiently about it.

    And I mean, I know what a GR is for, why are you telling me? It's still
    not a *good solution* for deciding these things; it's a last resort,
    and the only other options we currently have a "ftpmaster decides" and
    "it's obvious to pretty much everybody".

    > > > What would make it more welcoming? A large part of the problem is
    > > > the need to continuously point out counter arguments, [...]

    > > What makes it unwelcoming is the appearance of a consensus that
    > > doesn't brook argument, even when that consensus differs
    > > significantly from that of other sections of the free software (or
    > > open source) community.

    > The problem is that it's very difficult to know if the consensus
    > differens from the "silent majority" because the "silent majority" is
    > nearly silent.


    When you're saying a license from the Free Software Foundation is
    non-free, it's *very easy* to tell you're going against another section
    of the free software community. We've done that with the Affero General
    Public License, the GNU Free Documentation License, and there's been
    the occassional attempt to do it with the GPLv2 even.

    Likewise when you're declaring an approach at free licensing from a
    major community isn't good enough -- whether that be the good ol' MPL,
    OpenSolaris's CDDL, or the Plan9 license.

    > All of these, save the latter are subject to being overruled by GR;
    > they are not necessarily the official position of Debian, but general
    > consensus, or the consensus of ftpmaster.


    The official position of Debian is what we allow in main. Thinking of
    it in any other way is counterproductive. There might be times when
    our official position is contradictory or inconsistent or incoherent,
    and we should work to fix that, certainly.

    > Even though ftpmaster is
    > likely in a priveledged position if they are currently delegated by
    > the DPL to make such determinations, they still should be careful in
    > advocating their opinion as the official position of Debian.


    And, of course, we are. I wish I could say the same about posters on
    debian-legal.

    > > Debian does accept the CDDL as a free license (at least when the
    > > choice of venue is Berlin).

    > Indeed; I wasn't aware of the CDDL ever being accepted in main; had I
    > paid more attention to it, I would have brought this issue up sooner.


    Had you paid more attention to it you might have been qualified to
    comment on it in the authoritative tone you used anyway.

    > > If you want to be trusted to make similar rulings on behalf of the
    > > people who intentionally made the decision you're calling
    > > "incorrect", then no, it's not possible.

    > Why not?


    I really don't know how I can possibly explain this to you. It seems
    pretty basic to me.

    If you don't believe there's a rational and consistent basis for coming
    up with the original decision, then any decisions you come up with will
    be, according to your own statements, either counter to the rationale
    for that decision, or irrational.

    > It's not like I'm personally campaigning for the ability to make these
    > decisions myself, [...]


    No, what you're doing is pretending you're already in a position to be
    authoritative about those decisions when you're not. Which is actively
    misleading.

    > When -legal (or I, for that matter) say that something is
    > DFSG Free, it tends to be non-controversially so.


    That's mostly because -legal won't even say that the GPLv2 is DFSG-free,
    except in so far as it's explicitly listed as being DFSG-free.

    > It's interesting that you see this message this way; to me it seems
    > that he's getting at precisely what you appear to want. -legal in
    > general felt that GFDL had serious issues, and under no circumstances
    > could it be acceptable for main.


    "-legal in general", was, however, wrong on that score.

    Unfortunately, since "-legal in general" becomes an amorphous set of
    individuals who reserve the right to hold whatever opinions they like
    whenever questioned, there's little hope of -legal ever learning from
    its mistakes.

    Cheers,
    aj


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  2. Re: discussion with the FSF: GPLv3, GFDL, Nexenta

    On Mon, Jun 04, 2007 at 07:30:36PM +1000, Anthony Towns wrote:
    > Obviously (I hope), I don't consider you to be inexperienced in free
    > software development, [...]


    To expand on that a bit more: IMHO, Debian is fundamentally about what its
    contributors want -- we're focussed on doing right by our users and the
    free software community, but ultimately, as far as Debian's concerned,
    the first and foremost representatives of both those groups are the
    users and free software community members who actually make Debian work.

    The opinions that matters are the ones belonging to people who're actually
    building Debian; and ultimately legal expertise is kind-of irrelevant
    to that. Microsoft might have some of the world's best experts on
    understanding IP law and the effects of the GPL, but as far as Debian's
    concerned, the newest of new-maintainers and the least contributors
    to Debian should have infinitely more say in what's sufficiently free
    for Debian.

    The point where legal expertise comes in is in understanding the
    consequences of legal texts -- this clause will prevent development in
    such-n-such a circumstance, or that clause will prevent distribution
    under some other conditions; not in deciding whether those circumstances
    or conditions are enough of a concern to actually make something non-free.

    Confident statements from non-developers on what is and isn't free enough
    isn't incredibly good at the best of times, and is actively harmful when
    it's got a history of not matching the way Debian actually works. And
    when analysis of licenses tends to amount to not much more than "we've
    discussed this issue already, it's not free" there's not much point to
    the debate at all, afaics.

    But if no one on -legal sees what I'm trying to get at by now, I guess
    there's not much point to this debate either.

    Cheers,
    aj


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  3. Re: discussion with the FSF: GPLv3, GFDL, Nexenta

    On Mon, 4 Jun 2007 19:30:36 +1000 Anthony Towns wrote:

    [...]
    > And I mean, I know what a GR is for, why are you telling me? It's
    > still not a *good solution* for deciding these things; it's a last
    > resort, and the only other options we currently have a "ftpmaster
    > decides" and "it's obvious to pretty much everybody".


    I'm rather surprised to hear you saying that, since you seem to have
    been the proposer of GR-2006-001...

    [...]
    > The official position of Debian is what we allow in main.


    That is to say? Bugs never happen?!? Nothing can possibly enter main
    by mistake or overlook?!?

    [...]
    > Unfortunately, since "-legal in general" becomes an amorphous set of
    > individuals who reserve the right to hold whatever opinions they like
    > whenever questioned, there's little hope of -legal ever learning from
    > its mistakes.


    Are you going to call the orwellian thought police, since I hold my
    *own* opinions?!?


    --
    http://frx.netsons.org/doc/nanodocs/...n_install.html
    Need to read a Debian testing installation walk-through?
    .................................................. .... Francesco Poli .
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  4. Re: discussion with the FSF: GPLv3, GFDL, Nexenta

    On Mon, 4 Jun 2007 20:53:11 +1000 Anthony Towns wrote:

    [...]
    > To expand on that a bit more: IMHO, Debian is fundamentally about what
    > its contributors want -- we're focussed on doing right by our users
    > and the free software community, but ultimately, as far as Debian's
    > concerned, the first and foremost representatives of both those groups
    > are the users and free software community members who actually make
    > Debian work.


    It seems you are implying that analyzing licenses and spending time to
    reply to questions sent to debian-legal is *not* a contribution to the
    Debian Project.

    If you really think that participating to debian-legal is not a
    contribution to the Debian Project, then please have a GR to abolish
    this list, so that I can stop wasting my time in dissecting issues and
    providing analyses that will get ignored by decision-makers.
    I used to be happy with the Debian Project having a transparent and open
    license analysis process, but it seems that this is just hypocrisy: the
    real decisions about which packages are acceptable for main are taken by
    a few people who seem to deliberately ignore any advice from
    debian-legal.
    Just like the FSF and OSI, who accept or reject licenses behind closed
    doors, without any real public explanation of the rationale...

    Your attitude towards debian-legal participants and towards non-DDs is
    rather insulting and does not encourage me to consider the idea of
    applying for the NM process.

    [...]
    > And when analysis of licenses tends to amount to not
    > much more than "we've discussed this issue already, it's not free"
    > there's not much point to the debate at all, afaics.


    On the contrary, you could read the archived discussions and explain why
    you think the arguments made are invalid.
    I think there's not much point in repeating arguments that have already
    been made in the past (and are publicly archived for future reference),
    unless new data or counter-arguments are provided.

    >
    > But if no one on -legal sees what I'm trying to get at by now, I guess
    > there's not much point to this debate either.


    Frankly speaking, it seems to me that you are trying to persuade
    debian-legal regulars to act as "yes men" who blindly follow what the
    majority of the "open source" community does.
    Hence, it seems you're trying to make debian-legal become pointless and
    useless.


    --
    http://frx.netsons.org/doc/nanodocs/...n_install.html
    Need to read a Debian testing installation walk-through?
    .................................................. .... Francesco Poli .
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  5. Re: discussion with the FSF: GPLv3, GFDL, Nexenta

    Anthony Towns wrote: [...]
    > That's mostly because -legal won't even say that the GPLv2 is DFSG-free,
    > except in so far as it's explicitly listed as being DFSG-free.


    Got a reference for that?

    GPLv2 is a very frequently-suggested DFSG-free licences, has been the
    subject of repeated analysis, http://lists.debian.org/search.html
    is in the FAQ, http://people.debian.org/~bap/dfsg-faq
    the web page http://www.uk.debian.org/legal/licenses/
    and probably other places.

    I don't think it's particularly interesting that periodically posters pop
    up on debian-legal thinking they've spotted a new flaw in GPLv2. I expect
    that licensing@fsf gets a number of those too - debian's difference is its
    openness. I think almost all of them end up agreeing once it's explained
    clearly.

    Hope that explains,
    --
    MJR/slef
    My Opinion Only: see http://people.debian.org/~mjr/
    Please follow http://www.uk.debian.org/MailingLists/#codeofconduct


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  6. Re: discussion with the FSF: GPLv3, GFDL, Nexenta

    On Mon, Jun 04, 2007 at 07:55:18PM +0200, Francesco Poli wrote:
    > On Mon, 4 Jun 2007 19:30:36 +1000 Anthony Towns wrote:
    > > And I mean, I know what a GR is for, why are you telling me? It's
    > > still not a *good solution* for deciding these things; it's a last
    > > resort, and the only other options we currently have a "ftpmaster
    > > decides" and "it's obvious to pretty much everybody".

    > I'm rather surprised to hear you saying that, since you seem to have
    > been the proposer of GR-2006-001...


    Sometimes you have to choose the best of a lot of bad options. When that
    happens, it's often good to spend some time trying to get better options
    for the future.

    > [...]
    > > The official position of Debian is what we allow in main.

    > That is to say? Bugs never happen?!? Nothing can possibly enter main
    > by mistake or overlook?!?


    Of course it can -- official positions can be wrong, can be made by
    mistake or without due care, and can be changed.

    > [...]
    > > Unfortunately, since "-legal in general" becomes an amorphous set of
    > > individuals who reserve the right to hold whatever opinions they like
    > > whenever questioned, there's little hope of -legal ever learning from
    > > its mistakes.

    > Are you going to call the orwellian thought police, since I hold my
    > *own* opinions?!?


    You don't need to call the thought police, you only have to think of
    them and they'll know to come!

    Cheers,
    aj


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  7. Re: discussion with the FSF: GPLv3, GFDL, Nexenta

    On Wed, 6 Jun 2007 00:55:43 +1000 Anthony Towns wrote:

    > On Mon, Jun 04, 2007 at 07:55:18PM +0200, Francesco Poli wrote:
    > > On Mon, 4 Jun 2007 19:30:36 +1000 Anthony Towns wrote:
    > > > And I mean, I know what a GR is for, why are you telling me? It's
    > > > still not a *good solution* for deciding these things; it's a last
    > > > resort, and the only other options we currently have a "ftpmaster
    > > > decides" and "it's obvious to pretty much everybody".

    > > I'm rather surprised to hear you saying that, since you seem to have
    > > been the proposer of GR-2006-001...

    >
    > Sometimes you have to choose the best of a lot of bad options. When
    > that happens, it's often good to spend some time trying to get better
    > options for the future.


    Could you please elaborate?
    I'm not sure I understand correctly: are you saying that you are unhappy
    with how GR-2006-001 worked out and that you are looking for better
    strategies for similar situations?

    --
    http://frx.netsons.org/doc/nanodocs/...n_install.html
    Need to read a Debian testing installation walk-through?
    .................................................. .... Francesco Poli .
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