Can usage of free software be restricted?

Eric Feliksik milouny at
Thu Apr 14 21:00:46 CDT 2005

Colin Watson wrote:
> On Tue, Apr 12, 2005 at 04:53:43PM -0400, David Mandelberg wrote:
>>On Tue, 2005-04-12 at 22:03 +0200, Eric Feliksik wrote:
>>>I don't like this. It's not realistic to read those licenses for normal 
>>>use. Ubuntu ships software with many different licenses, and  reading 
> I think the main part of Eric's point is that free software licences
> typically require you to abide by them when you're modifying or
> distributing them, but, while legally you have to abide by a work's
> licence in order to use it, in the case of most free software licences
> this is trivial because they impose no use restrictions.
> Even if there are some counterexamples to this, I do agree that the note
> on /legal could be better written to note that all software in Ubuntu
> main has certain minimum freedoms for use.

Indeed, that is my point.

What licenses must I agree on? As said, it's not listed (AFAIK). But 
would that be possible? Some programs have a specific-for-that-program 
license. Would it be reasonable to place a message like

"Usage of the software distributed on the ubuntu cd is unrestricted. For 
redistributing modified versions you should comply to the license 
requirements for the specific part of the software you modified. "

This could be followed by a "see here-and-there for the licenses", but 
that might be a lot of maintainance-work.

points that need attention:
- I say cd to exclude the unsupported repositories
- are all DFSG-free licenses indeed free from restrictions on usage?
- does the statement hold for all included non-free drivers in Ubuntu?
- the usage of software for web-accessible stuff is by Eben Moglen 
considered as "redistribution", is it fair to make the above statement then?

J.B. Nicholson-Owens wrote:

 > What most people do is irrelevant here because the issue is how
 > copyright law works, not what is convenient.

Ok, I'm afraid I can't argue with that. But not only are the licenses 
not listed, it is simply infeasible to read them all for a normal person 
wanting to use Ubuntu. I know law is not primarily about what is 
convenient, but we want to make things as convenient as possible. I 
don't think a free OS that requires you to do all that legal research is 
really nice. I am no legal expert, but I understand now that (US) 
copyright law makes the copyrighted work only usable after accepting the 
author's licence.

If this is all not feasible, I don't intend to bother you till the end 
of times. But we all want to make ubuntu as easy as possible, and we all 
don't want to end up with a request to read a EULA as long as that of MS 
products (although our licences will always be friendlier). I think the 
legal page is just as important as any other page, but I'd like to keep 
it plain and simple for users.

Thanks for your time,


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