Re: for discussion: license inclusion guidelines

Richard Fontana

On Wed, Sep 7, 2022 at 2:17 PM Steve Winslow <swinslow@...> wrote:

Jilayne -- yes, I'd be open to a lighter-weight or streamlined approach to approving licenses submitted from use in distros such as Debian and Fedora.

In these cases we have greater confidence that those communities have done the work to vet certain of the license inclusion principles. In particular the first and most important "Other Factor" re: "substantially complies with open source definitions"; and its inclusion in the distro likely demonstrates the "substantial use" factor for SPDX purposes.

I expect we'd want to be a bit specific about what we mean by "is included in the distro". For instance, for Debian I'd think `main` would be covered, `non-free` would not, and I don't know for `contrib`. I don't know how Fedora divides things up...
In contrast to Debian, Fedora does not have separate
official/project-administered package repositories with different
license inclusion criteria.

Fedora has an explanation here that may be helpful:

To summarize, there are different categories of material to which
different license standards are applied:

- The general "allowed" category -- licenses here are determined by
Fedora to be FOSS through a sort of common law-like approach (Fedora
has no DFSG/FSD/OSD counterpart of its own)
- "Allowed-documentation" -- licenses approved only for documentation.
The intent here is that the licenses are libre, i.e., equivalent in
permissiveness/restrictiveness to software-oriented FOSS licenses,
except that a few licenses (already recognized by SPDX) are treated as
allowed-documentation for historical reasons even though they can't
seriously be considered to meet all the standards of the licenses in
the allowed category
- "Allowed-content" -- licenses approved only for "content" which
basically means something that can't be considered software,
documentation, or fonts. These have to be FOSS except they can
prohibit modification and have a "no patent licenses" provision.
- "Allowed-firmware" -- licenses approved only for binary firmware
files that meet certain technical operating system-related criteria;
these licenses need not be FOSS but only certain kinds of non-FOSS
terms are permitted.
- "Allowed-fonts" -- licenses approved only for fonts. These licenses
must meet the standards for FOSS except that they can have a "Sun RPC"
clause (i.e. a prohibition on resale/distribution in isolation, which
is for some reason commonly found in pseudo-FOSS font licenses). The
main community authorities on FOSS definitional norms (FSF, OSI,
Debian) have all implicitly taken the position that these kinds of
clauses do not preclude a classification of a font license as FOSS,
but to varying degrees and with a large dose of historical
inconsistency have taken the view that they are generally not
acceptable in a FOSS software license. Fedora is simply being more
transparent that there are relaxed community standards for font
licenses in this one respect.

So I think Fedora has made an effort to ensure that the licenses in
the "allowed", "allowed-documentation" and "allowed-fonts" categories
substantially comply with widely-held community open source
definitions. That can't be said of all licenses in the
allowed-content (probably) and allowed-firmware (definitely)
categories. However, I wonder if the fact that these generally
non-FOSS licenses are determined to meet the license criteria of a
distro that is basically conceptualized as a free software community
distro ought to justify the lighter-weight review Jilayne speaks of.


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