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FSDG-compatibility of APSL-2.0

From: Philip McGrath
Subject: FSDG-compatibility of APSL-2.0
Date: Thu, 16 Jun 2022 02:21:30 -0400
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:91.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/91.9.1

Hi Guix,

Is the Apple Public Source License 2.0 (APSL-2.0 [1]) a free license according to Guix's standards?

In <>, I sent a patch adding a package under this license, and Maxime Devos pointed out this choice-of-forum provision, which I agree is quite one-sided:

> 13.6 Dispute Resolution. Any litigation or other dispute resolution
> between You and Apple relating to this License shall take place in the
> Northern District of California, and You and Apple hereby consent to
> the personal jurisdiction of, and venue in, the state and federal
> courts within that District with respect to this License. The
> application of the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the
> International Sale of Goods is expressly excluded.

We thought this list was a better place for any discussion of Guix's policy that needs to happen.

As I understand it, Guix's current policy is the Free System Distribution Guidelines published at [2], which links to [3] for its definition of "free license". That definition says (at [4]), "It is acceptable for a free license to specify which jurisdiction's law applies, or where litigation must be done, or both."

The revision notes [5] say that paragraph was added in version 1.129, from 2012, but that "this was always our policy".

The FSF has issued an opinion [6] that APSL-2.0 is a free software license: they say that "Apple's lawyers worked with the FSF to produce a license that would qualify" (after problems with earlier versions of the license).

Is this satisfactory for Guix? Or does Guix want to forbid such choice-of-forum provisions? In the latter case `apsl2`, and maybe other definitions, presumable would need to be removed from `(guix licenses)`.

My personal view:

I wouldn't recommend using this license: indeed, even Apple seems to have moved away from it for newer projects (often to Apache-2.0). If established guidelines *hadn't* allowed this kind of one-sided choice-of-forum provision, I wouldn't have found it particularly surprising. I think there are important community governance questions around how questions like this ought to be answered (basically, I agree with [7]).

Still, I'm in favor of the status quo. I think fragmentation over license policies has a significant cost for the community, and this does not seem to be sufficiently problematic to be worth a schism.

I'm not a lawyer, so take this paragraph lease seriously, but I also think the concrete impact is less than it might first seem. We accept choice-of-forum provisions like the one in MPL-2.0 ("Any litigation relating to this License may be brought only in the courts of a jurisdiction where the defendant maintains its principal place of business and such litigation shall be governed by laws of that jurisdiction, without reference to its conflict-of-law provisions.") [8] which would require you to sue Apple in California. We also accept licenses like the GPL that don't have any choice-of-forum provisions: the law of "personal jurisdiction" and venue is complex, but I would not be shocked if Apple could sue you in California in this case. My impression is that it would be very difficult to require something like a "freedom not to litigate in California" (especially so for all possible values of "California") without rejecting many currently-accepted licenses.



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