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Re: FSDG issues of SCUMMVM-based games

From: Maxime Devos
Subject: Re: FSDG issues of SCUMMVM-based games
Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2022 23:31:12 +0200
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On 24-08-2022 22:24, Vagrant Cascadian wrote:
Is it Functional Data:

   "For example, some game engines released under the GNU GPL have
   accompanying game information—a fictional world map, game graphics,
   and so on—released under such a verbatim-distribution license. This
   kind of data can be part of a free system distribution, even though
   its license does not qualify as free, because it is non-functional."

SCUMMVM, among other things, interprets the bytecode of the games (see: VM).

A long time ago, I looked at the Debian package of one of the games, and there appeared to be only a single 'game' file IIRC, presumably this includes the bytecode.

Bytecode is code and hence functional, if 'functional' is interpreted in the narrow sense of 'it does a practical job'.

As such, I do not think this falls under 'non-functional data'


That paragraph also appears inconsistent to me. The world map, game graphics, sounds ... are one of the most important components of the game. If someone wants to modify the game, I consider it more likely they have to modify the world map and maybe add some graphics and sounds than that they have to change the engine. Seems pretty 'functional' to me. It also does a practical job: entertaining the user.

As such, it appears to me that if the ‘meh, it's non-functional data’ is non-free, then the game is effectively non-free ---- software does not just consist of code, the non-code parts are sometimes as important as the code or more important -- they belong together, as a whole.

Myself, being able to code but not good at art, I would rather have a non-free game engine with free non-functional data than the free game engine with non-free non-functional data that the FSDG refers to, at least I would with a sufficient amount of work (*) be able to replace the non-free engine, but don't ask me to replace the artwork ...

(*) and some assistance, depending on the size and complexity.


Another thing I would like to note is that, even if it were non-functional data, according to (guix)Software Freedom everything in Guix is free software:

The GNU operating system has been developed so that users can have
freedom in their computing.  GNU is “free software”, meaning that users
have the four essential freedoms
( to run the program, to
study and change the program in source code form, to redistribute exact
copies, and to distribute modified versions.  Packages found in the GNU
distribution provide only software that conveys these four freedoms.
(I'm interpreting 'GNU operating system' and 'GNU distribition' as 'Guix' here.)

That paragraph, and the web page referred to there does not make an exception for non-functional data -- if it's software, the 4 freedoms should apply, this is usually code but the freedoms and the reasons for them apply to software in general, not for code in specific.

To me, it appears that the SCUMMVM games cannot be in Guix, because of that rule.

It is, however, contradicted by the following paragraph, which is also a bit misleading:

   In addition, the GNU distribution follow the free software
distribution guidelines
Among other things, these guidelines reject non-free firmware,
recommendations of non-free software, and discuss ways to deal with
trademarks and patents.
I consider it contradictory in the sense that it adds exceptions to the 'software must be free' claimed by the the previous paragraph, without being explicit that there are exceptions (see: non-functional data). I consider it misleading in the sense that the phrasing implies it just adds a bit of rules (on top of the 4 freedoms thing) and advise on potential legal problems, even though it also carves out a few exceptions (see: non-functional data).

You cannot sell the game itself, but you can charge "a reasonable
copying fee" and distribute it commercially... while slightly confusing
and seemingly contradictory at a passing glance, those two clauses alone
do not appear to violate any of the four freedoms to me:
While initially I thought of it as 'a no-selling clause -> non-commercial only -> non-free', after your explanation I agree -- it does not appear to have the potential problems referred to in 'Free software can be commercial' and there is no explicit 'The freedom to sell software.'.

I'm not really sure you have the right to "sell" most software in GNU
Guix, but you're free to distribute it and even charge for the
distribution of it, and use it in products that you sell to customers.

Most licenses do not give you ownership of the software; they roughly
give you permission to use, study, modify, and share it under the terms
of that license. If you do not own it, I am not sure you can sell it...
Agreed, though myself I am considering this from another perspective -- everything in Guix is gratis ('free' in the commerce sense), usually it appears that upstream _wants_ it to be available at zero-cost though maybe I'm projecting here, so to me attempts to sell the software would appear to be a scam to me, with some exceptions (*).

Some scams being illegal, maybe this one would be too, and hence no right to 'sell' the software ...

(*) E.g., sometimes you can 'buy' a license to the software but what it really means is that you are paying the developers to keep working on that software -- in case of tome4, it's even explicitly named a donation instead of buying. I do not recall an example where it was phrased as buying though ...


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