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Re: Is forcing "upstream" distribution really OK for free software?

From: Martin Dickopp
Subject: Re: Is forcing "upstream" distribution really OK for free software?
Date: Thu, 08 Jul 2004 21:28:48 +0200
User-agent: Gnus/5.1006 (Gnus v5.10.6) Emacs/21.3 (gnu/linux)

MJ Ray <> writes:

> Martin Dickopp <> wrote:
>> If you're looking for the official position of the GNU project, this
>> newsgroup is probably not the best place to ask.  In my experience,
>> most regulars here are not GNU/FSF officials.
> I'm not. I'm trying to filter out my bad ideas before getting slapped
> by FSF again. I really don't understand where the error is in this
> situation and I'd like to figure that out before reporting a bug.

I see.  It's okay, then, if I continue to utter my opinion on the
matter, I guess. :)

>> statement "It is also acceptable for the license to require that, if
>> you have distributed a modified version and a previous developer asks
>> for a copy of it, you must send one."
> That's it. It seems to interfere with the right to adapt the program to
> your needs, if you are some association rather than an individual. Also
> if you have no way to send for free, it looks like an effective royalty
> payment on distribution.

While thinking about whether I consider the statement compatible with
Freedom 3, I noticed that the formulation of Freedom 3 should probably
be clarified.  First, a minor gripe: I would consider "modify" a better
word than "improve".  Certainly a license which disallows making a
program deliberately worse would be non-free [1]?

More importantly, I find the wording "release to the public" somewhat
ambiguous.  Does this mean that the freedom to distribute modifications
to selected parties only is not a required freedom?  I don't hope/think
that's the intention.

In conclusion, I don't see a self-contradiction, as a requirement to
distribute to a previous developer on request seems to be within the
scope of "release to the public" if taken literally.  However, I think
the FSF should think about whether the current formulation of Freedom 3
really reflects the intention.


[1] I'm not talking about attempts to deliberately damage the original
    author's reputation.  This is disallowed by laws other than copy-
    right anyway.

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