Wednesday, 23 June 2004
There seems to have been a falling-out between the contributors to debian-legal and the rest of the project recently. Why? It's a common opinion that Debian people are, by definition, not normal; Bruce Perens complained that trying to lead Debian was like herding cats. We have a large concentration of intelligent, opinionated people in the project, so it's quite amazing at times that we don't have more disagreements. Having developers maintain their own packages without so much discussion most of the time must help here...
So, why the spat? Debian-legal has attracted a hard core of posters who have worked hard in researching and critiquing a huge variety of different software licenses, ascertaining their merits and (mainly, most importantly) whether or not they can be classified as free under the terms of the DFSG. Unfortunately, the group has become more and more hostile to outsiders (including other developers) trying to join in the discussions. Things have now deteriorated to the point where other developers just don't get involved any more.
The latest discussion about the MPL is a prime example of this. The latest opinion seems to be that the MPL is now non-free, despite it clearly being treated as a Free license in the past. Nothing has changed in the MPL or the DFSG in the intervening period, but suddenly it's now non-free. Some of the points raised against it seem entirely arbitrary (choice of legal venue, patent license limits) and don't seem to be justified by the rules of the DFSG. That's my opinion, anyway. But I've got better things to do than get dragged into a flame war on debian-legal over a license. People have tried to honestly discuss license issues recently and have been flamed by supercilious, holier-than-thou "armchair lawyers" on a regular basis.
That's why people are giving up on debian-legal...