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Uncertainty in Categorising Licences

The first thing I’d like to note is that it is not entirely agreed upon which licences are free/open-source and which are not.

The original Artistic Licence (authored by Larry Wall for dual-licensing perl) is:

(Who are you going to believe?)

The Artistic Licence was later clarified into the Clarified Artistic Licence which incorporated the minimum changes to make it “free” and GPL-compatible, and now has a new and improved version - Artistic 2.0, which is considered free and GPL-compatible by everybody, and is generally preferable for newer projects.

Moreover, the Apache 2.0 Licence was specifically phrased to be GPL-compatible, and is considered GPL compatible by the Apache Software Foundation, but the FSF concluded that, while it was a free-software licence, it was not compatible with the GPLv2 (although it is with the GPLv3 that was published afterwards). Their legal teams still disagree on that matter.

The Creative Commons Attribution (CC-by) and Attribution-ShareAlike Licences (CC-by-sa) are considered free (but not GPL-compatible) by the FSF (see their licences page), while the Debian legal team concluded that they were not free up to version 3.0, which was. [DFSG-for-non-software]

Another curious licence is the Affero GPL - - which aims to close the “Application Service Provider Loophole”. What it means is that if I install an AGPLed program on a public web-server and modify it then I must make my modifications public. However, the Free Software Definition , says that one must have “The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to his needs.”. As a result, I personally don’t consider the AGPL as free (because I may wish to run it on my publicly accessible web-server and modify it), but the FSF thinks otherwise. We have enough problems with the suitability of the GPL for embedded systems, that we don’t need to kill the prospering web-apps market too.



[DFSG-for-non-software] I should note that I have issues with the entire Debian policy of including only free-as-in-speech material in their distribution, regardless of its type. I don’t feel that non-software-content (e.g: documents in human languages, graphics, audio, video, animations, non-code binary data, etc.) should be treated by the same rules as software, and even Richard Stallman said that computer games are morally allowed to have non-free graphics, sound, and plots as long as their engines are free.

So Debian are trying to be holier than the pope here and try to coerce everybody into abiding by irrational rules.

But this is beside the point of whether they are free or not.