Re: POSSIVEL SPAM-- Re: Binary-only firmware covered by the GPL?

From: Humberto Massa
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 12:42:37 EST

@ 30/03/2004 14:09 : wrote Henning Makholm :

Scripsit Humberto Massa <humberto.massa@xxxxxxxxxxx>

to modify the fw[], at least *legally* is MHO that any
recipient/redistributor of the file _can_ and _must_ consider the file
in *that* format as the preferred form for modification (pf4m) *and*,
considering it the source code, follow the directions of the GPL in
respect to modification and redistribution.

No, law does not work that way. The phrase "preferred form for
modification" has a clear enough, if somewhat fuzzy, literal meaning,
and one cannot *implicitly* make it mean something that directly
contrast to the literal meaning. If nobody *actually* prefers the
binary blob for modification, then the binary blob is *not* the
preferred form for modification. That's irrespective of whether the
copyright holder behaves inconsistently.

Things could be different between jurisdictions, here the doctrine says about the interpretation of contracts, licenses, and law: we obey (1) what is written (2) what is implied by what is written (3) what is derived from what is written via case law (4) what is derived from what is written via the doctrine in law. In that order, and respecting legislative hierarchies.

There is another fail in your reasons here: as I said before, it just _happens_ to happen that fw[] = {} *is* the source code. What we must decide is what to do in the cases where *we don't know*.

After all, what happens is somebody *actually* prefers the binary blob for modification? And, what happens if _the copyright holder_ actually prefers the binary blob for modification? No inconsistency here.

* the /status quo/ obtained by observation of the previous item
prevails _until somebody proves_ that the fw[] = {} is *not* the
source code;

And Debian's approach to software freedom doesn't work that way
either. We treat software as non-free and non-distributable unless and
until we see good and self-consistent evidence that it is actually
free and distributable. The "burden of proof", to the extent that
expression applies, is always on the side that claims that the
software in question is OK for Debian to distribute.

NOW you have a good argument. This mostly ends my line of reasoning. In debian: in dubio, non-free. This is not really nice, but it's OK. And I can live with that.

An addendum:
the DFSG does not define source code;
the GPL defines it as: "The source code for a work means the preferred form of the work for making modifications to it.";
the AFL goes further: "The term "Source Code" means the preferred form of the Original Work for making modifications to it and all available documentation describing how to modify the Original Work.";
maybe a good definition of source code is something we are needing? in the case of the AFL, not only { 0x0... } could be ruled out as source code, but even some-unknown-dsp-asm-without-comments, too.

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