Subject: Re: GPL v3
From: Rick Moen <>
Date: Thu, 26 Jan 2006 11:06:22 -0800

Quoting John Cowan (

> In fact I didn't say that.  I just don't believe that the Tentacles of
> Evil test is a direct consequence of the guidelines, but rather an extra
> additional requirement for Debian-free-ness.

..._if that_.  I caution against hasty assumptions of authority.

I checked Debian's General Resolutions (GRs), rulings of the technical
committee, actions of the Debian Project Leader (DPL), the Debian
Constitution, and, really, all other specific things that can be
reasonably claimed to "speak for Debian", seeking to find what authority
exists for several much-cited Web pages & postings on the subject, e.g.,
  DFSG and Software License FAQ (Draft)
  Authors:  Barak A. Pearlmutter with help from Joe Moore, Mark Rafn, 
  Thomas Bushnell BSG, Richard Braakman, Henning Makholm, Anthony Towns, 
  Jeremy Hankins, Florian Weimer, Thomas Hood, James Devenish, Glenn Maynard.

(Note that Anthony Towns is a current member of the Technical Committee, 
current member of the FTP Master triumvirate, a current member of the Bug
Tracking System group, and a past Release Manager.)
  debian-legal Summary of Creative Commons 2.0 Licenses
  Author: Evan Prodromou
  Debian-legal summary of the OSL v2.0
  From: Jeremy Hankins
  License of Open Solaris CDDL
  From: MJ Ray

My comment on the CDDL "analysis":

  The "patents" comments are tautologically true -- but would be so
  _regardless_ of licence. That is, _any_ codebase adversely encumbered
  by patents is non-free/proprietary, irrespective of what licence
  provisions would otherwise apply. 

  That other bit about fixed attributions making a work non-free/proprietary 
  is one reason why, although I'm a long-time subscriber to debian-legal, 
  I only rarely read it, in order to safeguard my blood pressure: Author 
  attributions may not be stripped in derivative works by _default action 
  of copyright law_, so it is utter lunacy to assert, as poster Garrett 
  and numerous others do, that clauses to that same effect make the work 
  non-free through it "failing the Chinese Dissident Test". 

  That is a perfect example of the aforementioned problem of certain
  posters being context-challenged and ignorant of the law. 

Anyhow, the referenced Web pages and posts have no authority per se.
Some, such as the "DFSG and Software License FAQ" profess to somehow
embody the "consensus" of the public mailing list, debian-legal, which
itself has no particular authority per se.  In one place, could be the
Developer Reference, Debian developers are advised to _consult_
debian-legal on any significant concerns.  They are nowhere told they
must abide by anything they hear there -- let alone how to determine
which such advice to heed.  

In fact, pragmatically, DFSG-ness is determined by each individual
Debian developer as to their respective packages, and those on which
they do non-maintainer updates (NMUs).  They could in theory be
overruled by the ftp master site maintainers, a GR, or maybe the DPL or
delegates thereof -- but in practice this doesn't happen.