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Debian DPL Threatens to Leave SPI Over Sun Java 291

An anonymous reader writes "A three-week-long flame war in debian-devel over the new Java Distribution License has culminated in Anthony Towns, the newly elected Debian Project Lead, offering to separate Debian from its legal representative, SPI. This came as a response to SPI member John Goerzen's objections to the Debian project's interaction with Sun's legal team around the new JDL license without review from SPI's lawyers."
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Debian DPL Threatens to Leave SPI Over Sun Java

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @03:51AM (#15485638)
    That's why my wife left me!
  • A lot of nerve (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stymyx ( 862298 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @03:51AM (#15485641)
    If SPI is Debian's legal representative, it is perfectly reasonable for them to expect to be consulted about potentially problematic legal actions taken by Debian, let alone to simply be informed when such actions take place.

    SPI wasn't trying to take the place of Debian's "governing body", it was simply trying to act as their legal representative.

    • Re:A lot of nerve (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NormalVisual ( 565491 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @04:07AM (#15485683)
      That's what it looked like to me also. Towns is getting worked up about a perceived control issue from SPI, but if SPI is the one that is going have to foot the bill for defending Debian's actions, it's quite understandable for them to be concerned about the licensing issues brought about by including a package in a distribution.

      From the thread: "...if SPI are not willing to endorse the standard methods by which Debian operates -- having the archive administrators review licenses of new packages -- and the standard methods by which Debian reviews decisions -- public discussion with the original decision makers empowered to change their minds, and overview by the technical committee and the developers as a whole by general resolution, then we need to change Debian's relationship with SPI so that is not an issue."

      This sounds to me like a fairly dangerous way to operate, unless the archive admins or others in the chain are qualified attorneys, and if Debian is effectively committing SPI to questionable legal obligations without consulting with them first, then SPI would be fools for not trying to get a handle on that. Resolving things technically is one thing, but playing fast and loose with licensing is a good way to find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit. Towns is coming off looking like a petulant child, IMHO.
      • Re:A lot of nerve (Score:4, Informative)

        by KiloByte ( 825081 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @05:07AM (#15485805)
        Check out this post [debian.org]. If it doesn't deserve to be put in Wikipedia as an example in the "ad hominem [wikipedia.org]" article, I don't know what does.

        The whole flamewar is quite one-sided: there is only a few people who support Java in non-free, and the whole rest opposes them. Too bad, the proponents are the DPL and more than one FTPmaster.

        The current Java license is obviously unacceptable; the FAQ is ok. Too bad, the FAQ explicitely says that it doesn't bear any legal relevance, and, even worse, the license explicitely says that it can't be overridden by things like that FAQ. Thus, I'm afraid that Anthony Towns' argument that says "the FAQ makes the license fine" doesn't stand.

        Fortunately, it appears that, albeit slowly, Sun actually exhibits a sliver of good will [debian.org]. Let's hope they'll change the license soon.
        • Re:A lot of nerve (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Raphael ( 18701 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @05:27AM (#15485851) Homepage Journal
          The current Java license is obviously unacceptable;

          Is it? The main problem seems to be the indemnification clause. But Java is not the only package in the standard archive or in non-free that has such a clause. And it appears that nobody complained about these other packages.

          Here is a quote from another message [debian.org] from the Anthony Towns (DPL) in that thread:

          From the xorg-x11 copyright file:

          ] 11. Indemnity. Recipient shall be solely responsible for damages arising,
          ] directly or indirectly, out of its utilization of rights under this License.
          ] Recipient will defend, indemnify and hold harmless Silicon Graphics, Inc.
          ] from and against any loss, liability, damages, costs or expenses (including
          ] the payment of reasonable attorneys fees) arising out of Recipient's use,
          ] modification, reproduction and distribution of the Subject Software or out of
          ] any representation or warranty made by Recipient.

          From the openoffice.org copyright file:

          ] Therefore, if
          ] a Contributor includes the Program in a commercial product offering, such
          ] Contributor ("Commercial Contributor") hereby agrees to defend and indemnify
          ] every other Contributor ("Indemnified Contributor") against any losses, damages
          ] and costs (collectively "Losses") arising from claims, lawsuits and other legal
          ] actions brought by a third party against the Indemnified Contributor to the
          ] extent caused by the acts or omissions of such Commercial Contributor in
          ] connection with its distribution of the Program in a commercial product
          ] offering.
        • Re:A lot of nerve (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dnoyeb ( 547705 )
          Funny. I had this same argument over the eclipse license. The license makes things unclear. Which normally is not unacceptable for a legal document. Yet compared with the GPL and LGPL that make things clear, it then makes the EPL clear that things omitted are NOT included.

          The argument against mine was that the FAQ clarified this, which I found laughable. Seems like Sun is not the only one trying to pull this stunt.

          My main problem is that a vague license means the entity with the best lawyers has a huge
    • Re:A lot of nerve (Score:5, Informative)

      by joostje ( 126457 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @04:30AM (#15485719)
      I guess I'm not a target user of their system since I just want Java to work on my system without being strip searched and violated.
      The discussion here is about including non-free software in the non-free archive. This is done on a regular basis by the Debian ftp-masters team, and each time they themselves read the lisence, judge it, and decide whether it can be allowed into the non-free archive.

      So the adding of the java packages to non-free looked just like a routine job, that ftp-masters handed the way they do with all non-free software. This time they even took more precausions, and asked the sun team if inclusion in the debian non-free archive was OK. And it seems that that is when the discussions on debian-flamware started.

      • Re:A lot of nerve (Score:5, Informative)

        by Jussi K. Kojootti ( 646145 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @05:49AM (#15485902)
        ftp-masters handed the way they do with all non-free software.
        Excuse me? I'm not Debian expert but as far as I know the normal process for new packages is to issue an ITP (intent-to-package) stating among other things the license of the package and send a copy to debian-devel -- this is all documented in the developers-reference. New licenses are typically sent to debian-legal for review.

        None of that happened this time. There may be good reasons for that, but stating that this case was handed just like any other sounds like a lie to me... but, like I said I'm not an expert, please enlighten me.

        • Re:A lot of nerve (Score:5, Interesting)

          by joostje ( 126457 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @08:17AM (#15486309)
          Excuse me? I'm not Debian expert but as far as I know the normal process for new packages is to issue an ITP (intent-to-package) stating among other things the license of the package and send a copy to debian-devel -- this is all documented in the developers-reference. New licenses are typically sent to debian-legal for review.
          You are absolutely right, for packages in main. I'm not sure about packages outside main (those in non-free). However, as you notice, none of the above includes asking SPI for permission, so even if licenses of non-free packages need to be sent to debian-legal etc, that still wouldn't have been a need to consult SPI.

          It may well be that errors have been made, I just don't see how SPI can be so offended about being sidelined, when there wasn't a need to consult SPI anyway.

      • by muellerr1 ( 868578 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @08:22AM (#15486323) Homepage
        And it seems that that is when the discussions on debian-flamware started
        flamware (flâm'wâr) adj. 1. Copyrighted software that is available free of charge with the condition that users harshly criticize each other and their respective mothers.
    • Re:A lot of nerve (Score:2, Insightful)

      by metacosm ( 45796 )
      As a "legal representative" -- you serve your client. While SPI may have preferred to be in the loop sooner, they can't "expect" or "demand" it. They are supposed to assist Debian. If Debian (as a body) chooses not to seek assistance / advice -- so be it!

      The intelligence of the decision made by the Project Lead (Anthony Towns) is debatable. His control should not be -- and I think the primary point of his response was to clear up any "confusion" about SPI's power/control. When you are forced to have co
      • yur a retard (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Error27 ( 100234 ) <error27@NOsPAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @05:08AM (#15485808) Homepage Journal
        You have to make nice to anyone doing you a favor for free, that includes lawyers.

      • Re:A lot of nerve (Score:4, Interesting)

        by NMerriam ( 15122 ) <NMerriam@artboy.org> on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @05:37AM (#15485870) Homepage
        As a "legal representative" -- you serve your client. While SPI may have preferred to be in the loop sooner, they can't "expect" or "demand" it. They are supposed to assist Debian. If Debian (as a body) chooses not to seek assistance / advice -- so be it!

        That's somewhat akin to saying that just because an accountant works for you, he should support your embezzlement. On the contrary, an accountant has legal responsibilities that go beyond doing whatever you say, and so does legal counsel. An attorney who didn't advise their client not to take legal advice from the opposing party would be not just a bad lawyer, but possibly personally liable, and could potentially lose their license to practice law.

        As you say, if Debian chooses not to be represented by the SPI, that's their choice, but until SPI is told, they have responsibilities.
        • Now I've just read a little of TFA, but my first impression is to agree with the GP. Lawyers are a bit different than accountants. Lawyers only have a responsibility to inform people of a clients wrong-doing if they know of it before hand. This situtation seems a bit more like this (I know all analogies such but bear with me):

          Say you kill someone, but you want to plead not guilty but tell your lawyer all what happended. Then your lawyer goes on Larry King and tells the world that he thinks what you did
          • Re:A lot of nerve (Score:3, Interesting)

            Its fairly common for lawyers -- even ones getting paid -- to split with clients because their clients persist in not taking the lawyers' advice and doing things they were advised not to.

            This isn't about reporting criminal wrongdoing at all, so that's not an issue. Its about whether a particular client and their legal representative can effectively work together, and, if the client is doing deals consulting the other sides lawyers and not their own, and can't be convinced that's not the right way to do busi
      • by hummassa ( 157160 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @05:50AM (#15485904) Homepage Journal
        SPI is Debian, not the "legal representative". Debian, as a legal entity, Does Not Exist. When aj and the ftpmasters initiated distribution of the JDK, SPI was being contracted to the indemnification clause. If there is something to indemnify, SPI will have to shell out the dollars -- or sell out Debian's server farms, domain names and other assets, including copyrights and trademarks: all assets are SPI's, not Debian's.
        That's the beauty of aj's bluff: hell yeah, Debian can detach itself from SPI (after some constitution change) but, oh, it cannot be called Debian anymore (the trademark belongs to SPI), nor use the twirl mark (ah-ha), huh, and it cannot use SPI's servers and other equipment either. This would amount to the separatist cabal being exiled from Debian, really.
    • Control Freak (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @04:43AM (#15485751)
      Towns is turning this into a control issue when the Goerzen is just saying "Hey, it's not that tough to just run it buy our lawyers. Forewarned is forearmed."

      I was part of a project that ended up blowing up. I was in SPI's position, just trying to keep everyone on the same page and help the person in control acheive goals. The person in control turned it into a control issue. It never was and I made every effort to make that clear. There was never any history to even suggest control issues. Finally, after much abuse, I left and so did several other people important to the project who knew what was going on. It turned out there were ideological problems, with the controller essentially wanting things one way while telling people things were to be another way in order to keep those people around.

      Towns reminds me of the control freak of our own project. That was how it began - an irrational unwillingness to even hear what was being said and attributing everything as an attempt to control the project. Towns needs to step back and take a break. He needs some perspective. If there is anything he's not telling folks, he needs to come out with it. Because until that happens, anything he does is probably going to be to the detriment of Debian.

      • by alienmole ( 15522 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @12:13PM (#15487958)
        Regardless of whether he's right, Goerzen made it a control issue when he wrote:
        > I am becoming increasingly concerned at the unilateral method in which
        > you and/or the archive maintainers have taken this decision.
        > The ability to enter into a legal contract to indemnify a third party
        > should be, and arguably IS, reserved solely for the SPI Board of
        > Directors.
        It seems that part of the problem, at least, is that Towns may not fully understand the nature of the Debian/SPI relationship. Goerzen could have been much more diplomatic about it, but the way he put it, he highlights the control issue in an extreme way, i.e. essentially saying "you have no authority to do what you're doing". Regardless of whether that's true, Goerzen could be more diplomatic about it. In fact, he has an obligation to be more diplomatic about it, as President and Chairman of SPI, in the interests of serving the organizations which SPI exists to serve.
    • Not nerve, naivite (Score:5, Informative)

      by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @07:06AM (#15486099) Homepage Journal
      I think the other point of view is that Debian isn't a legal entity, it's just a bunch of cooperating people, and SPI exists to handle some formalities like owning servers and whatnot.

      There seems to be an assumption that being amorphous, legally speaking, is some kind of shield. It's not. It's an invitation to drop the shit-bomb and cover everybody in sight. The way this works is that when the legal successors to Sun in owneship of Java (see below) have a legal hissy fit, their lawyers sue everybody in sight. The the judge dismisses the suits against every tom dick and harry and makes them go after the legal entity, unless somebody has made a very bad mistake. That's why corporations exist. They're the equivalent of legal fortesses for the individuals in an enterprise.

      What should happen then is if SPI wins, great, if it loses, the individuals can continue on under a new corporation because of the open source licenses. The problem is that this is very close to legal chicanery. You're not supposed to protect yourself with legal fictions. Thus for the protection to work, people have to cooperate -- which sometimes means not doing what they want right away. If they don't then they expose everybody directly involved with the project, and everybody transitively involved for good measure. That's what lawyers do when they're looking to make money for their clients: they throw shit on everything and see what is allowed to stick. Even if it doesn't stick, it's an unpleasant experience.

      Success in any enterprise depends on predicting the future, which is a dicey proposition at best. The main reason you need to consult lawyers is to avoid what other people's lawyers will do to you if your prediction turns out false.

      In this case, take Sun. They are not doing so well as a business for the last several years. They're losing money. Let's hope they'll turn it around. But one thing that happens if this keeps going is that the stockholders decide they'd better cash out; the large stockholders can't do this because they own too much. So they start looking at selling the whole company, or liquidating its assets to turn them into cash. Java is currently the property of Sun. Next year it could be the legal property of another company, and one thing that company buys is the right to sue over uses of that property.

      Now imagine a company that has a lot of cash that would have a strategic interest in gaining a hold over Java licensees. It's not hard. Imagine what they could do with their power to sue licensees and copyright infringers, not just for the immediate cash value but for the strategic value. Are they going to be reaonable and just go after the ftp maintainers?

      I've been through this kind of thing before. Without consulting me, my business associate, who had a majority interest, entered into a casual legal relationship with an outside party. The arrangment seems reasonable and we're all reasonable likable folks. Then the outside party got into some trouble of his own not related to us at all. Suddenly he becomes less reasonable and likable. Next thing his lawyers were suing everybody in sight. We are getting hit with lawsuits from people we have no relationship with, who are really going after him, but since their lawyer's already working on the case the marginal cost of a second third and fourth lawsuit is nil. At that point I was very glad to have a corporation between me and them to take the liability.
    • Re:A lot of nerve (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bob9113 ( 14996 )
      If SPI is Debian's legal representative, it is perfectly reasonable for them to expect to be consulted about potentially problematic legal actions taken by Debian, let alone to simply be informed when such actions take place.

      SPI wasn't trying to take the place of Debian's "governing body", it was simply trying to act as their legal representative.

      I concur - and I think the right thing to do now is to relax. Take a step back and take a deep breath. Then ask, "Does the SPI help Debian? Is SPI benefitted by it
  • by joostje ( 126457 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @03:52AM (#15485642)
    The java packages are (if at all) only included in non-free, and that isn't part of the official debian. So yes, it may be a big fight, AFAIK the cause of the fight (the java packages in non-free) is only about an extra service Debian provides to it's users, not about debian itself.
    • Non-free is not supported by Debian, but it is distributed anyway.

      The "fight" is about licensing issues caused by Debian distributing java, as
      discussed [debian.org] in the thread, as a follow-up to the comment linked by Slashdot.
    • Yes, you are right on target, but it is more than that. I see it is a fight against "evil Sun binaries". Not to troll or blame either side, I can say I understand them both, It is very clearly to see that Debian-legal has big no-no opinion to bind Debian, even remotely or vague, with Sun legal webs. Good or bad, it is hard to say, but those people just hate Sun - maybe it is justified, maybe not, I don't know. I don't use Java very much and I won't be sad it to go. BUT lot of enterprise devs/admins are woul
  • Debian DPL (Score:4, Funny)

    by Nighttime ( 231023 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @03:54AM (#15485645) Homepage Journal
    So that would be the Debian Debian Project Leader?

    This post brought to you by the Department of Redundancy Department.
  • Politics (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ClamIAm ( 926466 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @03:55AM (#15485649)

    Hmm ok I'm kind of surprised that the anti-Debian folks haven't jumped on this already. So....anyway, I guess that I'll inject my opinion anyway

    Personally, I'm really glad we do have Debian. They don't shy away from politics, and I think that's a good thing. Why? Well, the Free Software/Open Source ideals are inherently political things. To shut up and just allow stuff to happen is almost completely opposite to the movements themselves.

    Sure, you can claim that discussions like this hamper development. Maybe they do (although I doubt it). You can claim Debian is behind the times compared to Ubuntu or Gentoo or even Slackware depending on what you value. But these things do need to be discussed.

    It might seem like a cop-out, but the following quote really stands out in my mind: "Geeks like to think that they can ignore politics; you can leave politics alone, but politics won't leave you alone.". RMS said that. I think it sums up the situation rather well.

    • not really (Score:3, Interesting)

      >Why? Well, the Free Software/Open Source ideals are inherently political things.

      Nothing about using linux or writing OSS, requires me to jump on your political bandwagon.

      I'm sure that open source is an ideal to you, but to most people it is not. It is software, and it is a business model to me and many others. It isn't inherently political to use it, and it's annoying when people try to drag the rest of us into their political battles.

      Personally, as much as I use and love some open source software, I th
      • Re:not really (Score:2, Insightful)

        by halfcuban ( 972832 )

        I'm sure that open source is an ideal to you, but to most people it is not. It is software, and it is a business model to me and many others. It isn't inherently political to use it, and it's annoying when people try to drag the rest of us into their political battles.

        No one's dragging you into anything. I'm tired of everytime someone states their support for the ideals of OSS and the general concept of copyleft, DRM-less, etc etc styled licensing, that everyone starts getting their panties in a bunch tha

      • Re:not really (Score:4, Insightful)

        by bfree ( 113420 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @10:40AM (#15487143)

        You espouse the political ideals as your own yet claim that your should not be dragged in to them. The very idea that a programmer could choose to distribute Free Software is in political danger (dmca/eucd, idea patents) and non-free software is being threatened at a political level (government purchasing rules primarily). If you

        think it is a good thing that developers have the freedom to release their software under whatever licensing they want
        then you should consider how your vote might change the future of these "business models".

        In most areas of politics there are no Free Software implications. In fact never forget that things like the Debian Free Software Guidelines make absolutely explicit that the community can never try to cut out any group of people, even terrorists. Free Software is free for all whatever your political ideals, but do not think that this means Free Software is not political, it just limits it's politics to a few key areas which are required for it's continued existence.

    • Re:Politics (Score:2, Interesting)

      by SqyD ( 256970 )
      "you can leave politics alone, but politics won't leave you alone." ...sounds a lot like Ralph Nader two US presedential elections ago:
      "If you're not turned on by politics, politics will turn on you..."
  • by cranesan ( 526741 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @03:59AM (#15485662)
    One the one hand, SPI works for Debian. So they should go along with whatever Debian says. On the other hand, how can Debian expect SPI to do its job right if they are not included in legal discussions. Both sides have merit. Wow, and I haven't even read the article yet!
    • by zsau ( 266209 )
      Whereas I have, and from what I understand ... Debian doesn't *exist*, so Software in the Public Interest doesn't work for Debian; to the extent that Debian can get sued, it's SPI that gets sued. (Of course, it could be the individual debian developers that get sued in a certain circumstance.) Anyway, Goerzen is concerned that Debian developers have put SPI into a legally vulnerable position, and is objecting to the fact that SPI was never even consulted.

      OTOH, as far as Debian and the SPI are concerned, th
    • One the one hand, SPI works for Debian. So they should go along with whatever Debian says.

      When you hire legal council, do you expect it to go along with everything you say? I sure hope not. Their whole point is to tell you when you're full of crap. If an attorney just agrees with you and then watches you get into just as much trouble as you would have on your own, well, what's the point in that?
  • So basically... (Score:2, Informative)

    ... the new debian project leader acepts a legal arangement with Sun, without running it by their legal consultants. And when their legal consultants complain that they would like to have been consulted. The new Debian project leader says something like if you don't like it, you an pack up your sh*t and leave.

    SPI is right to be pissed. They're Debians legal representation, and if some guy makes a stupid decission, without consulting them, it'll look baad for THEM (and not Debian). The legal implications of

    • Re:So basically... (Score:5, Informative)

      by joostje ( 126457 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @04:42AM (#15485747)
      the new debian project leader acepts a legal arangement with Sun
      From my reading of the thread, the project leader accepted a legal argument from sun, when sun confirmed it's OK to distribute java. The project leader (or ftp-masters) then went on to add java to the non-free archive, without consulting SPI. This is BTW the same as ftp-masters does with other non-free packages (they themselves deside whether to include them in non-free or not). Usually debian doesn't really care very mutch what goes into non-free, as that isn't an official part of debian anyway.
  • by zaguar ( 881743 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @04:05AM (#15485676)
    Anthony Towns, the newly elected Debian Project Lead, offering to separate Debian from its legal representative, SPI.

    Bet they're regretting not running stable on Andy Towns now.

  • java (Score:2, Funny)

    by wjsroot ( 732775 )
    Some people will do anything for a good cup of coffee.
  • A bit confused (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Umbral Blot ( 737704 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @04:08AM (#15485684) Homepage
    Let me get this straight, the programmers behind Debian are threatening to give their legal team the boot? So it could be good, because sometimes lawyers suck, or it could be bad, because it implies Debian is about to make a huge legal mistake. Does anyone have a link to what the actual dispute is about, because the summary is lacking in details? (although it does have more than its fair share of alphabet soup: DPL, SPI, JDL)
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @04:30AM (#15485717)
      These are the problems:
      http://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/bugreport.cgi?bug=3 70245 [debian.org]

      The US places export restrictions on certain types of software (mostly encryption related stuff), which Sun has reflected in it's license. Since Debian can't/won't control which country has access to US-based mirrors then that means that they can't fuffill the obligation to screen out illegal downloads from certain countries and such. According to this license the work around Debian has used in the past is to have non-US for exported restricted software. Which is basicly you can only have the software on non-US based mirrors.

      Debian has gotten rid of non-US for Sarge due to the relaxation of export controls by the U.S. government. But it would still violate Sun's licensing.

      http://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/bugreport.cgi?bug=3 70295 [debian.org]

      This is Sun's obnoxiousness showing with this one:
      """ (c) you do not combine, configure or distribute the Software to
              run in conjunction with any additional software that implements
              the same or similar functionality or APIs as the Software;"""

      The bug author mentions the Java version of Python, but basicly it would make things like a distro shipping GCJ and Sun's java would be a licensing violation.

      Obviously (in My eyes) Sun chooses this for two reasons:
      A. To keep it's java runtime pure and functional. Avoids bug-inducing conflicts.
      B. Help kill off Free software java implimentation.

      http://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/bugreport.cgi?bug=3 70296 [debian.org]

      In Sun's License states that you can't modify any sort of copyright notices and whatnot. But by splitting the package up like Debian does they can't avoid modifying this stuff. Thusly Debian is violating Sun's distribution license.

      Debian can ship non-free stuff in non-free obviously according to their bylaws.. but Debian doesn't have the authority to break OTHER people's licenses.

      Sun says that this is OK and it's legal mumbo jumbo they can ignore. Debian's lawyer are basicly saying we can't violate Sun's licenses... ESPECIALLY without a discussion and you should pull the package from non-free until Sun fixes it's licensing so that Debian can use it legally.

      This has happenned before with other software. Sun's license is shit and should be avoided by any sort of sane Linux distribution.
  • I've been following this thread on the list, and Towns' comment can only be taken as a threat if your adrenalin is pumping and your argument mode is set to Religion.
  • by john_sd1 ( 980442 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @04:51AM (#15485768)
    Great to see that the Debian developers start to break free from the strangulation of debian-legal and their overly religious OSS zealotry. It is usually debian-legal who pretends to act "in the name of the user" whereas the opposite is true and explains in large parts the success of Ubuntu.

    There are two types of OSS developers out there:
    • the Linus type "have fun and cooperate" and
    • the RMS type "OSS is religion"
    The group of the relgious people however manages to silence the more pragmatic ones in the name of "higher ideals". But what is worse is that the concept of meritocracy fails too. Most of the people on debian-legal are no lawyers at all but amidst the blind the one eyed is king - even if color blind and short sighted.

    Example from debian-legal of a discussion about postgres:
    > What sort of legal advice has Debian consulted that came to a > different opinion? There is a sizable pool of people that regularly examine licenses for Debian, looking for problems. Debian does not regularly consult practicing attorneys on these issues. debian-legal [debian.org]
    How could the situation be better exposed: "people (without any merits) looking for problems". That's what they are. All developers would reject a mailing list "debian-techadvice" where clueless people could make binding technical decisions, i.e. whether to use gcc 4.0 or 4.1.

    One has to go through a notorious process to become a developer but it just needs an email client and a subscription to debian-legal in order to strangle 1500 developers. Time to change Debian back from a supermarket thing [kitenet.net] to one of the leaders of technology. Congrats Anthony!

  • It's pretty obvious that discussing java's license was going to be slow and painful and so it's also obviously why people would want to short circuit the whole process. But once you think about it for 5 seconds that's a really stupid plan. People are still going to discuss it but now they're going to be more pissed off.

    Also this email is stupid. Debian needs SPI and when people start suggesting otherwise that means they are taking a vacation in retardo-land.

    Here's the other thing. When I heard Debian had included java into their distro, I was like, "Wow. That must be a really improved license. Debian doesn't just include any old license into the distro." But a week later, I learned that 3 debian leaders had rammed java through without any discussion and really the license was very questionable. Debian is basically going off the informal Sun FAQ when they included. Does anyone even know that the FAQ was written by a lawyer or was it written by an intern in the PR dept?

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Well that's easy to say. From Sun's perspective though they spent more than 5 years and ridiculous amounts in legal fees trying to get an agreement that everyone was happy with. They never claimed that new the license was the end of the process, but they did say (rightly) that it was a significant step forward and that it had the support of some Linux distrots, including Debian. As someone who writes a lot of code in Java and deploys a lot of it on Linux (as well as Solaris, AIX, and even occasionally Wi
    • Does anyone even know that the FAQ was written by a lawyer or was it written by an intern in the PR dept?

      Yes, it was written by their lawyers, and was intended to clarify those aspects about the license the ftp-masters found troubling. Read the various posts about how java was accepted for details.

      A major problem was the large disclaimer declaring the FAQ not legally binding. This appears to be a goof on the part of SUN, and the latest version clarifies this disclaimer considerably (see DLJ FAQ 1.2 [java.net]).

  • ...well.. I think I speak for most of us when I say, "I'm going to continue using Ubuntu."

    I love Debian, and I love Free software, but sometimes a guy just wants to run Java. You know what I'm saying? I think the distribution of Java would help linux immensely, and I'm all for seeing my beloved OS reach new levels of convenience and usability. Only way to oust Windows, you know...

  • Buying software (Score:2, Insightful)

    So how many people consult their lawyer about the software license before purchasing/downloading the software? This seems to be a similar situation to me. It might have been wise to consult them but the tone of the SPI email should have been "it might be a good idea to talk to us about these sort of things since we are here to help you" and not "how dare you make a decision before you talked to us first". Lawyers are supposed to be their to help you with legal advice not to run your life for you...although
    • Not many people consult their lawyer before uploading MP3's to Kazaa.

      Not many people consult their lawyer before robbing a bank. ... before going to the super market.

      Just because people don't routinely consult a lawyer about it does not mean it is right or wrong to do. (Or legal or illegal.)

      The difference here is that we aren't talking about a person, we're talking about a group. They have a responsibility to themselves and everyone that downloads Debian. That responsiblity is to make sure that everythin
  • by linvir ( 970218 ) * on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @06:22AM (#15485999)
    There's a riot in the bazaar!
    Quick! Let's hide in the cathedral!
  • by mpcooke3 ( 306161 ) * on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @06:56AM (#15486075) Homepage
    I had wondered how debian could possibly agree to include that software in non-free with those license conditions.

    see: http://linux.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=186539&c id=15398000 [slashdot.org]

    I guess they "forgot" to check with the lawyers...
  • by Pecisk ( 688001 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @07:55AM (#15486236)
    Let's be honest - most developers don't give a white sh@$#%t about what clauses and doubtful legal situations can arise of use of software, so Debian-legal thoughts are usually have been taken with lot of anger and confusion. Devs just want to work with software and apps, but D-L is full of idealists and clever individuals in legal field, who see things quite differently (and it is NOTHING bad about that), and so conflict is in full force.

    But in this case, I *think* it is totally overblown and feels like that Debian-legal just want to say big f12#$%k off to Java usage in Debian - non-legal arguments like "I don't use non-free", "there are ALMOST working free software implementation in main", etc says almost everything about discusssion - it is not about LEGAL situation, but about fears that if Java will be aviable in non-free and will be supported by DD, CLASSPATH and other Java projects will slowly loose momentum they achieved so far now (Again, it is just my thougts after reading almost half of thread).

    I can understand both sides, but thinking "We will get free implementation, we don't need stinkin Sun official implementation" sounds like too much dreaming. Let's be honest - it is simply not possible. Oracle won't use CLASSPATH, they will insist to use JRE. Other software will too. Yes, there will be desktop apps which will run on Free Software versions just fine - like Eclipse, lot of different small aps, but for enterprise it will be big NO-NO.
    • by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @09:21AM (#15486620) Homepage
      Here's a hint:

            A lawyer should be consulted on a license- NOT a developer. It's a legal matter, not a coding matter.

      There's a legal gotcha on the Java license that SPI, being the legal interface for the Debian
      project, that if things go wrong, they'd have to absorb and deal with. Without SPI, each of
      the devs involved with the project would be held individually liable for potentially millions
      of dollars each (And that is exactly what is possible with the new licensing from Sun on Java).

      Do you now see WHY devs shouldn't be the final call on a license?
  • by Distan ( 122159 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @09:57AM (#15486846)
    Maybe (probably) I'm missing some subtlety specific to Debian/SPI, but when I compare this situation to what I encounter in my professional life, it appears that SPI is in the wrong.

    I work for a corporation. In my position, I frequently negotiate deals with software vendors, and this includes negotiating the contract terms. I am not a lawyer, however, so I work with our corporate attorneys in negotiating these contracts. They are responsible for understanding and explaining the legal ramifications of the contract terms, and I am responsible for understanding and explaining the business objectives of why we are trying to license the software.

    Indemnification in particular is often a sticky subject in these negotiations. We usually get the indemnification clause that makes our lawyers happy, but in rare cases we do not.

    In the end, however, it is notthe lawyer's job to decide whether or not we accept the terms of any contract. It is their job to advise me (and my managers) what risk we are taking with any given contract. It is then up to management to decide of that risk outweighs the business benefits we are trying to seek.

    If somehow the Debian developers have gotten themselves in the position of needing permission from their attorney to sign a contract, then something has gotten seriously screwed up in their relationship. That would be like the CEO of McDonalds needing permission from some random fry cook to enter into a legal agreement. The attorney is to be an advisor, not a decision maker.
    • by James McP ( 3700 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @11:27AM (#15487562)
      Debian is a *project* not an entity or person. Projects cannot be held legally accountable or own things.

      SPI is not a legal firm full of lawyers. SPI is a corporation that provides the legal entity that can own property & purchase services for the Debian developers. SPI is the entity that OWNS the name "Debian", the servers the files are hosted on, and that contracts the attorneys that protect Debian developers. (Without knowing the twisty history, I wouldn't be surprised if Debian wasn't the project that caused SPI to be created.)

      In human terms, SPI is Debian's legal guardian. SPI is legally responsible for Debian's debts, obligations, and will be the one against the wall if Debian does something bad. However Debian admins can agree to legal terms and contracts which put SPI on the spot.

      I quote one of the posts: SPI projects shouldn't be taking advice from Sun's attorneys. We should be taking advice from SPI's attorneys.

      In other words: "don't take legal advice from the attorneys who may be suing you tomorrow, especially when those attorneys may be suing you, me, and two dozen other people in the process."

      Darn good advice.

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