my nose is incompatible with my face, I think I’ll cut it off.

It is incredible how so few people can get so many things wrong in so few emails, especially when there are actually people saying the right thing right there in the thread.

(for those whose instinctive response is ‘well duh, it is debian-legal’, I unsubscribed… jeez, most of a decade ago now, and may have forgotten how maddening it is. Apologies for restating the obvious.)

[Ed.: link fixed. No blogging before 9am for me anymore.]

15 thoughts on “my nose is incompatible with my face, I think I’ll cut it off.”

  1. Um, perhaps this is blindingly obvious for anybody who’s spent the last year immersed in the US legal system, but for a simpleton like me it isn’t. I think I know who is probably right in that email exchange but I’m far from sure and if it turns out I’m wrong I wouldn’t be surprised.

  2. And I wouldn’t know who was right if I wandered into a discussion about perl best practices today either. Which is why I don’t do that. Not to get all snotty, but I was taught when I was very young that if I didn’t know what I was talking about, I should at best shut up, and at worst, I should say ‘I think’, or ‘it appears to me’, or ‘I’m not sure about this but…’ The extreme confidence with which people in that thread say things which are spectacularly wrong is pretty impressive.

  3. The extreme confidence with which people in that thread say things which are spectacularly wrong is pretty impressive.

    Um, you don’t hang out on the internet a lot, do you? ^_^

    The only worrying thing is of course if people who know not the first thing get to actually decide (not an impossibility when it comes to Debian of course). But as long as people are just wasting their time arguing, they’re no different than people arguing sports pick in a bar or something – and they may even learn something, bit by bit.

  4. So, Luis, what’s your take?
    I’m not a lawyer, I have no intentions of becoming one, and even if I did, my context is pretty different than yours (country, for starters).

    That means, I’m only capable of following very simple “if-then” thought patterns in these legal matters. I can form an opinion, just like jane, but I’d like to know the opinon of [someone more expert than me].

    My “if-then” tells me to side with RMS (license is contradictory *and* deceptive), but I’m probably wrong… Please, clarify this matter – I hope that you working for RedHat will not be an obstacle.

  5. It’d be nice if we had actual lawyers on debian-legal to debate these things, but we don’t. So we make due with what we can. For most real issues, we do get proper legal counsel, so -legal tends to be irrelevant in the scheme of things anyway.

  6. To be fair to the Debian guys, that second exception isn’t worded terribly well – it’s kinda saying “As a special exception, any distribution [and then you must do some stuff]”.

    If it had said “As a special exception, if you want to [do this distribution act the GPL controls], then you are allowed so long as you [allow people to replace the font or whatever]”, I think people would have understood it better.

    It’s one thing to say people shouldn’t have a hard opinion without legal training, but that’s not a luxury everyone has, and Debian is a volunteer project. Individuals and businesses who want to redistribute free software face this problem very often. For people with legal training, it’s a necessity, for everyone else it’s pretty much a luxury.

  7. Alex Hudson:

    Huh? If some non-lawyers have to decide on legal matters, it suddenly means they’re entitled to present opinion and conjecture as hard fact?

  8. I’m not surprised that the Liberation license statement is causing confusion. How in the world did this license get past Red Hat’s legal department?

    1. Exception 2(b) is apparently not an exception at all, but a restriction.

    2. In this sentence from 2(b): “any distribution of the object code of the Software in a physical product must provide you the right to access and modify the source code,” who is “you”? Is it the licensee (“Client”)? That doesn’t make sense. It seems to mean the recipient of the distribution

    3. Is a CD or DVD a physical product? If so, how can I “reinstall that modified version of the Software” on a CD? If not, why not? (What is the definition of “physical product?”)

    4. Section 2 appears to contain yet another further restriction (“exception”) to the GPL. This is despite the fact that section 1 claims that I may use the software under the GPL “with the following exceptions” 1(a) and 1(b).

    5. Sections 3, 4, and 5 are redundant with the GPL itself.

  9. bl: within the context of debian-legal, it would be pretty redundant to have to prefix everything with “My non-legally-trained opinion on this matter is that..”. The people on the list who are legally trained (and there are some) are the ones who usually mark their opinions.

    Matt: It’s not a restriction. It could only be a restriction if you had to abide by it while also distributing under the GPL; but you can ignore it – therefore no matter what it says, it’s not a restriction. It would have been nice if they’d made that clear like the previous exception, though. You can compare it to similar exceptions in the LGPL imho I think.

    I think it could have been worded in a much clearer way. Exception a. is much better written than b.

  10. Now you know what it’s like watching programmers argue about interface design.

  11. I dropped from debian-legal a while back as well… the open bar mailing list is actually fairly high quality but much lower traffic relatively (quality does not equal quantity)

  12. So, Luis, what’s your take?

    In a nutshell: it isn’t elegant, and it definitely could be clearer, but the only meaningful discussion d-l should be having is about the DFSG-freeness of the tivoization-like clause. The rest should be handled by people saying ‘this sure is inelegant, but I guess it works’ and moving on instead of arguing over it, because they can’t change it and it isn’t bad enough to matter logically or legally. (FSF could complain about calling it GPL, given that there is a restriction in there, but that is FSF’s problem, not d-l’s.)

    I should probably clarify, by the way, that most of my irritation is not at anything particularly legal, or at non-lawyers playing at being lawyers- it doesn’t take rocket science to figure this particular stuff out. It mostly just takes using common sense and reading comprehension skills, but even those seemed lacking in the thread, and that irritated me.

  13. Thanks for the clarification… Unfortunately, it seems I’m deadlocked: I found your reply almost as confusing as the thread. I’m specially confused now about this:
    (FSF could complain about calling it GPL, given that there is a restriction in there, but that is FSF’s problem, not d-l’s.)
    So, your take is that it is a new license “GPL+restriction”, and as it is a derivative (and dare I say, very likely unauthorized) work of a FSF’s copyrighted work (the GPL licence) (or perhaps it is a trademark problem?), then the FSF might complain (about whom, RedHat?), but Debian should not care? Even if when they distribute the font, they’ll be also distributing the “unauthorized” text of the new licence? [I realize this argument was not given on the thread, I’m just trying to understand your explanation…]


    P.S: Out of curiosity, do you speak/write/read spanish?

  14. I was trying to be brief (it was late) so I wasn’t clear, sorry. The FSF has a policy on derivative licenses: see their FAQ. I suppose d-l could have complained about that, but it seems mainly FSF’s role, not d-l’s. (If we had been intentionally deceptive, that might have been d-l’s role as well, but we weren’t.)

    Hablo un pocitico; mi papa nacio en Cuba, pero yo nacio en Miami y no practico mucho.

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