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Re: Mathworks-hosted GPL'd software

From: Jaroslav Hajek
Subject: Re: Mathworks-hosted GPL'd software
Date: Tue, 16 Feb 2010 07:32:23 +0100

On Mon, Feb 15, 2010 at 11:01 PM, Richard Stallman <address@hidden> wrote:
> I like your plan, but there are a few points in the message that are
> vital to change.
>     The BSD license allows adding such restrictions, so we are
>    effectively unable to use your code in Octave when downloaded from the
>    MathWorks service.
> We must not say that.  We don't know for certain that their
> restriction is legally effective.

OK. I tried to clarify that this is just our viewpoint below. Maybe it
would suffice to say it in advance?

> As a general principle, NEVER publicly grant validity to controversial
> adverse legal claims.  By such an act you can lose the right to
> contest them later!

See above.

> Thus, we should not say anything about the legal situation -- about
> whether MathWorks' attempt is legally valid.  There is no need to
> speculate about that.

Right, probably not, but there should be some reasoning why we are
doing this, and I think it should be explained that we are doing this
because we believe that the MathWorks' limitation may be effective. I
don't want to raise an impression that we are simply trying to annoy
MathWorks, not even that we think MathWorks is evil or whatever. I
suppose a lot of users will be surprised about the restriction, and
some of them will probably answer to us that the restriction is void
and hence we should just download the software from MathWorks. I just
want to deal with that possibility in advance.

> Instead we should talk about the plain facts:
> what Mathworks is TRYING to do.

Technically, I think what MathWorks is TRYING to do is the most
speculative part of this all, because I don't really know and I doubt
anyone here does, we can only guess. It's only certain what they're
telling us about their intentions, and what conditions they really

> That is what these contributors will
> be angry at, and there is no doubt about those facts.

I don't really intend to make anyone angry, I hope they will become
only reasonably concerned. And I certainly don't want to collect
software by upsetting people.

> Once we avoid commenting on the real legal situation, we have no need
> to say anything like this either:
>    The above represents our best understanding of the legal situation
>    regarding the File Exchange service.  If you believe our understanding
>    is inaccurate or have any further doubts regarding the service, we
>    encourage you to contact MathWorks as the author asking for
>    clarification and provide us with any useful information you may
>    collect to help us clarify the issue.

OK, if you can rephrase the above, I suppose it needs not to be there.
By this paragraph I was also intending to hint users that they should
try to ask MathWorks about the situation and possibly express their
discomfort (if they are discomforted). It is even possible that
MathWorks will revise their decision.

> In addition to this,
>    We therefore kindly ask you as the author of the code to provide us
>    with a copy of the software that is free from this restriction, under
>    the BSD license or any free software license of your choice. We intend
>    to make your software part of the OctaveForge project so that it can
>    be used freely with GNU Octave or for other purposes.
> we should make a suggestion to the author: if he did not intend this
> sort of restriction to be placed on the use of his code, he should
> rebuke Mathworks and say he does not want his code distributed there.

Yes, that's what I've been trying to suggest by the paragraph above.
Do you want to reformulate the text (after all unlike you I have no
experience with campaigns like this) or shall I give it another try?

best regards

RNDr. Jaroslav Hajek, PhD
computing expert & GNU Octave developer
Aeronautical Research and Test Institute (VZLU)
Prague, Czech Republic

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