Post by Jens Schmalzing
I've just stumbled upon Apple's claim  that their latest version
2.0 of the Apple Public Source License  has been certified as free
by the FSF. Not being an expert in these matters, I am wondering if
this makes the license DFSG-free - if this was the case, I would make
efforts to re-join the Mac-on-Linux packages. Anyone care to
Jens please note that I am not a Debian developer.
As I read the APSL 2.0 it is unlikely it will be considered Debian free
software. As you note, Richard Stallman ("We are grateful to Richard
Stallman for his many helpful comments in this process") and the Free
Software Foundation has approved of the new Apple Public Source License
(APSL) 2.0 as a Free Software licence:
Look at the APSL 2.0 definition of "Externally Deploy":
`"Externally Deploy" means: (a) to sublicense, distribute or otherwise
make Covered Code available, directly or indirectly, to anyone other
than You; and/or (b) to use Covered Code, alone or as part of a Larger
Work, in any way to provide a service, including but not limited to
delivery of content, through electronic communication with a client
other than You.'
`"External Deployment" is defined to cover the external distribution of
APSL'ed code or use of APSL'ed code to provide a service (including
content delivery) to a third party through electronic communication with
The FSF claims:
`In version 2.0 of the APSL, the definition of "Externally Deployed" has
been narrowed in a way that is appropriate for the respect of users'
freedoms. It has always been the position of FSF that the freedom of
Free Software is primarily for the users of that software. Technologies,
like web applications, are changing the way that users interact with
software. The APSL 2.0, like the Affero GPL, seeks to defend the freedom
of those who use software in these novel ways, without unduly hindering
the users' privacy nor freedom to use the software.'
These are strong words and I am surprised this has always been the
position of the FSF when I believe the position was more accurately
represented as "You should also have the freedom to make modifications
and use them privately in your own work or play, without even mentioning
that they exist.": http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html
In the APSL 2.0 when one "Externally Deploys" modified code one must
"make Source Code of all Your Externally Deployed Modifications either
available to those to whom You have Externally Deployed Your
Modifications, or publicly available. Source Code of Your Externally
Deployed Modifications must be released under the terms of set forth in
this License, including the license grants set forth in Section 3 below,
for as long as you Externally Deploy the Covered Code or twelve (12)
months from the date of initial External Deployment, whichever is
longer. You should preferably distribute the Source Code of Your
Externally Deployed Modifications electronically (e.g. download from a
The Free Software Foundation's position is now clear: A licence can be a
Free Software licence even if it requires that non-distributed modified
code be supplied to an entity that is provided with an electronic
communication service. If the Google's of this world used code under
such a licence they would have to make their source code available to me
after I performed a search query and was delivered some content.
This is a hugely controversial issue. And one that shouldn't be decided
without vigorous debate.
What was a substantial freedom as part of GNU philosophy--"the freedom
to make modifications and use them privately in your own work or play,
without even mentioning that they exist"--is now only useful to hermits
and leeches. Anyone contributing by providing an electronic service
would no longer have any expectation of being able to keep modifications
This "way that is appropriate for the respect of users' freedoms" and
this claim that "freedom of Free Software is primarily for the users of
that software" disguises decreasing concern for developer freedoms. Any
users of free software who modify their software are also developers and
they should be able to make some forms of modification without
distribution and without having to publish their code simply because
they provide a service through electronic communication. I don't know
where the line should be drawn but I am presently confident the Free
Software Foundation has crossed it.
I am not going to speculate about the motivations of the Free Software
Foundation because it simply opens me up to indefensible criticism.
Here's a mere consequence: If Debian is persuaded that the APSL 2.0 is
DFSG-free then a subsequent revision of the GPL with the addition of a
viral electronic service clause would also be DFSG-free.