Stallman on Python 1.6, the CNRI License, and the GPL

Posted by Richard Stallman to the Debian Developer Mailing List

Someone wrote this:
> I am disappointed that RMS is fighting over something as
> trivial as a company asking that legal issues be settled
> in their home state (country).  This is common practice.

I am not fighting, I am pointing out the situation as it
exists.  I don't believe the CNRI license is inherently 
bad.  It is a reasonable free software license.  I have no 
reason to want to fight.

But I believe it is incompatible with the GPL, and that 
constitutes major practical problem.  CNRI agrees that this 
would be a problem--they want to make it possible for GPL-
covered programs to use Python.  So we are not fighting, 
just disagreeing.

Whether a given license A is compatible with another 
license B is not a decision, not a choice someone can 
make.  It is a judgement about the nature of the situation, 
based on the facts and laws as they exist.  I believe, and 
the FSF's lawyer believes, that these licenses are 
incompatible.  I can't make the GPL and CNRI licenses 
compatible just because I wish they were, any more than I 
can make pi equal 3.

However, law and its consequences are not as rigorous as 
mathematics. It is peculiar that their lawyers think the 
licenses are compatible. I suspect that they have missed 
some point about the GPL, but that is just a guess; I have 
not spoken with them and do not know their arguments.  It 
is conceivable they saw something I and our lawyer missed.

We are trying to arrange for him to talk with them.  That 
should at least make it possible for one side to convince 
the other about whether the licenses are compatible.  If 
they can convince us that the incompatibility we saw is not 
real, that would be fine--it would make the problem 
disappear.  Alternatively (and I think more likely) our 
lawyer will show them the incompatibility they did not see. 
That too might be a step towards solving the problem, or at 
least I hope so.

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