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Lawyer's evaluation

From: Richard Stallman
Subject: Lawyer's evaluation
Date: Thu, 18 Sep 2003 18:44:58 -0400

I asked our lawyer to evaluate a recent version of the proposal.

Date: Thu, 18 Sep 2003 09:34:26 -0400
To: address@hidden
Subject: Re: Emacs installer question to user
In-Reply-To: Richard Stallman's message of Wed, 17 Sep 2003 14:03:35 -0400
From: Eben Moglen <address@hidden>
X-Spam-Status: No, hits=-2.0 required=5.0
X-Spam-Checker-Version: SpamAssassin 2.55 (

In legal terms I think the suggestion is valid, and introduces no
problems.  In practical terms I like what he is saying, not in all
details, and believe he's on the right track.  A statement that "Emacs
is free software," and a button to get more information on free
software seems possible to me.


On Wednesday, 17 September 2003, Richard Stallman wrote:

  In legal terms, do you see anything wrong with this suggestion?
  (You can comment in other terms too, but it's the legal opinion
  that I particularly want.)
  To: address@hidden
  Cc: address@hidden
  Subject: Re: May I publish a Windows Installer for GNU Emacs?
  Organization: The XEmacs Project
  From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <address@hidden>
  Date: Tue, 16 Sep 2003 15:54:36 +0900
  In-Reply-To: <address@hidden> (Richard Stallman's
   message of "Mon, 15 Sep 2003 19:07:30 -0400")
  Sender: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <address@hidden>
  X-Spam-Status: No, hits=-1.5 required=5.0
  X-Spam-Checker-Version: SpamAssassin 2.55 (
  >>>>> "rms" == Richard Stallman <address@hidden> writes:
      rms> A message in that tone is not a constructive contribution to
      rms> deciding what we should do.
  OK, here's a contructive version.
  Paraphrase: Make sure that the dialog itself makes clear that use of
  Emacs is entirely free under copyright law.  While to those in the
  know, "Thanks!" and "I knew that!" are cute, the GNU GPL _is_ a legal
  document.  Its purpose is likely to be quite unclear to the
  uninitiated.  Those labels will occasionally be taken as a bad, if
  well-intended, joke of uncertain meaning.
  OTOH, I agree with the observation that users expect a EULA, and this
  is an opportunity to put something useful in front of them.
  Note that the GPL *is* a license, although not an "agreement".
  Without it, the user may not make copies, which we consider a natural
  part of ordinary usage.  Granted, most people will just burn a CD
  containing the whole distribution, and thus trivially satisfy the
  conditions.  But a license _is_ required, and there are some natural
  ways to go wrong (for example, just copying the installed Emacs tree,
  omitting the source distribution), so any humor may be a little risky,
  legally speaking.
  I suspect a terse statement of the four freedoms would fit and be
  appropriate here.  Further, I would suggest that the GPL be presented
  (1) as the legal statement of the FSF's responsibilities to the user
  (NO WARRANTY etc), so please read that part, and (2) an invitation to
  participate in improvement of the software.
  With (2) in mind, you might consider substituting "How can I help?" or
  "I'd like to know more!" for "I knew that!", and that button's action
  would be to display some appropriate text.  Probably the whole GNU
  Manifesto is too "heavy," but excerpts including the parts about "what
  we need", plus text specifically explaining how important "ordinary
  user" contributions such as bug reports and participation in c.emacs
  and gnu.emacs.* are, might actually be quite frequently read.
  Something like:
                    Thank you for choosing GNU Emacs.
  Please read the "GNU General Public License" displayed below.
  [[[[[[[[[[[[ scrollable text box containing preface and GPL ]]]]]]]]]]]]
  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.  Please read it to learn precisely what they are.
    One of those rights is make additional copies of GNU Emacs for your
  own use.  Another is to copy and redistribute it to your neighbors, as
  long as you give them a copy of everything, just as you got it.  More,
  you may add features, fix defects, or use parts of GNU Emacs for your
  own purposes, and make and distribute copies of such derived software.
    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.  Please read the License, so you may
  freely share GNU Emacs with your neighbors according to its terms.
    This license is extended from the Free Software Foundation, and any
  authors of modifications, to you.  Since all are free to modify and
  redistribute this software, no one can accept liability for any
  defects or problems that may arise in your use of GNU Emacs.  This is
  explained in the NO WARRANTY section of the License.
                    GNU GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE
                       Version 2, June 1991
  [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[ end scrollable text box ]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]
  GNU Emacs includes many contributions from both dedicated developers
  and "just plain users".  If you will use GNU Emacs and share verbatim
  copies with your neighbors, join us by clicking "Thank you all!" and
  starting to use GNU Emacs.  If you would like to know how to contribute
  more concretely, or how to use parts of GNU Emacs for your own
  purposes, click "Tell me more."
  ["Thank you all!"]  ["That's great!  Tell me more, without legalese."]
  Yeah, I know, all that's in the Preamble of the GPL.  But it would
  require really fine print---bad associations, there---to get all those
  statements into the first screen if we just dive into the GPL.  And
  I'm sorry, I couldn't see a good way to get "free software" in there;
  it really requires the supporting context that the Preamble gives.
  Hopefully a well-designed screen can attract them to read the Preamble
  (and the rest of the GPL).
  The "without legalese" phrase is a little risky; people might
  substitute clicking that button for reading the GPL.  However, this
  could be considered a reasonable tradeoff to get many people to read
  anything at all.  And sections of the GPL itself, plus pointers back
  to the full document, would be natural to include anyway.
  I considered that the GPL itself could be invoked by a button, but I
  think it's most likely to be read if the title is visible along with
  the summary.
  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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