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Re: May I publish a Windows Installer for GNU Emacs?

From: Stephen J. Turnbull
Subject: Re: May I publish a Windows Installer for GNU Emacs?
Date: Wed, 17 Sep 2003 21:01:11 +0900
User-agent: Gnus/5.1001 (Gnus v5.10.1) XEmacs/21.4 (Portable Code, linux)

>>>>> "David" == David Kastrup <address@hidden> writes:

    David> "Stephen J. Turnbull" <address@hidden> writes:

    >> conditions.  But a license _is_ required,

    David> Not really.  It's just that without a licence, the
    David> usefulness of the software would be less.

The context clearly implies "required _to copy and distribute_".

    >>                         Summary
    >> Under copyright law, you are free to run this copy of GNU
    >> Emacs.  The following General Public License states and
    >> protects additional rights that you possess.  You need not
    >> accept or decline the License; you simply exercise those
    >> rights, as defined in the License, at your option.

    David> This is incorrect.  It sounds like you can cherrypick.  But
    David> you either have to accept the license as a whole, or
    David> decline it.

Substitute "You need not accept or decline the License at this time.
At your option, at any time you may simply exercise those additional
rights, which implies acceptance."

Of course cherrypicking is OK.  You may choose to exercise any, all,
or none of the options the GPL offers.  They don't constrain each
other as far as I can tell.

    >> In case of modification, we add more complex restrictions to
    >> ensure that all users can exercise these rights.  According to
    >> law, if you redistribute copies of the software, verbatim or
    >> modified, you must follow the terms of the License.

    David> That is wrong.  You need to follow the terms of a licence
    David> only if you have agreed to a licence (that's why there is
    David> such a joke like click-through licences).

Read Clause 5, please: distribution constitutes acceptance.  If this
needs to be spelled out precisely, then most of Clause 5 would have to
be reiterated, making the value of a summary questionable.  (It's
already too bulky.)  Just reduce the whole summary to:


Under copyright law, you are free to run this copy of GNU Emacs.  The
following General Public License states and protects additional
restricted rights to copy, modify, and distribute GNU Emacs that you
possess.  Please read the License to learn what they are.

That's pretty good, but I think that the opportunity to put a more
descriptive summary in front of the reader shouldn't be wasted.
Remember, we're talking about a population of users which is much less
likely to be interested in those rights than we are, but we'd still
like to educate them.  They already know very well how to click on
"Accept" without reading; let's not tickle that reflex.

BTW, if click-through is a joke, I hate to think what you'd call the
GPL.  It doesn't even offer you a chance to click.

    David> Copyright law defaults to allowing you to pass on or sale
    David> your own acquired copy of an acquired piece of copyrighted
    David> material.

In English in this context "redistribute copies of" will normally be
taken as equivalent to "copy and redistribute" (the unambiguous but
rather awkward phrase used by the GPL).  I could change it to that,
but I really don't think it's necessary.

    David> And so on.  It's a nice idea to write some brief
    David> explanation to a legal document, but if one does, it takes
    David> quite a lot of checking to make sure one does not tell
    David> people something wrong.

AFAICT I wrote nothing that is factually incorrect (there are a few
typos and grammar errors), when interpreted idiomatically in English.
I was careful (twice, in fact) to refer to the License as the
definition of those rights, and to tell the reader to read it.  If
that's not good enough, then nothing can be.  (That's not rhetoric; I
was fully aware when I wrote the post that anything less than the
exact text of the GPL might be considered unacceptable by the lawyers.)

Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences     http://turnbull.sk.tsukuba.ac.jp
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
               Ask not how you can "do" free software business;
              ask what your business can "do for" free software.

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