Re: What is "free software"?

From: Michael Alan Dorman <>
Date: 03 Jun 1997 19:51:37 -0400

"Eric S. Raymond" <> writes:
> I understand why you might feel that way. But I also see an inconsistency.
> If this is such a deal-breaker for Debian, then why do its guidelines say:
> > The Debian Free Software Guidelines
> >
> > 1. The software may be redistributed by anyone. The license may restrict
> > a source file from being distributed in modified form, as long as it
> > allows modified binary files, and files that are distributed along
> > with the source for the express purpose of modifying the source.
> It appears to me that this paragraph specifically *permits* licenses
> like that of ncurses. In fact I don't see how it could have been
> written with any other intention in mind.

Well, I've got to agree. I can only say I neither wrote nor sent the
document, so it isn't entirely reasonable to ask me to explain it.
When I've been speaking ex cathedra for Debian, it's been from what I
think is a fair familiarity with the "ground rules". The document
Bruce sent you is relatively new, and I've not had an opportunity to
find out where it might diverge from my perception of custom.

> The key thing that the Debian guidelines have shown me is a way to
> craft a license which both preserves the rights of authors to veto
> modified distributions, *and* which provides legal security to
> system integrators making local modifications. This is a win-win
> situation -- a licensing style that I would not merely tolerate for
> the sake of ending the crisis, but actually feel happy about
> afterwards.

I think this is probably reasonable, though I would of course ask you
to be liberal when laying out what you consider to be "local

Although it is not, and has not been, the case with ncurses, some
Debian packages do include significant modifications, for various
reasons---it might be an extensive patch that fixes a security hole
but hasn't been integrated upstream, or compatability hacks for a new
libc, or the integration of a feature from someone else that
hasn't---and possibly might never be---accepted by the upstream

*I*, not in any way speaking for Debian, would be reluctant to endorse
a license that didn't give integrators a lot of leeway to make these
decisions. Especially if your intent is to have this serve as a
comprehensive alternative to the GPL and/or LGPL.

Received on Tue Jun 03 1997 - 20:02:31 EDT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0 : Mon Dec 19 2011 - 06:24:16 EST