It's a fair point and thumbs up to gnewsense for making that. Our purpose with the Light Edition is a bit different though.
Gnewsense's purpose is to give people a 100% free and open source system.
We include some patented technologies in our full edition. Let's take MP3 support as an example. Thomson doesn't want us to decode mp3 files without paying them a fee (which we can't afford by the way). We talked about it with them and the reason they're in a position to claim that fee is simply because they're claiming they own a patent which applies to the software we include... in other words: a software patent. Now: only a few countries legally recognize software patents (USA, Japan.. and a few others), so in most countries we don't have to care about what Thomson thinks, they don't own our code, they just think they can make us pay based on something which is legally invalid in most parts of the world. Having said that, their claim (if they sue us) would be valid in the USA and Japan, so before they actually do that, we come with an answer: We don't distribute mp3 support in the regions where their claim is valid. So we come with a Light edition and in a disclaimer we ask people to know about their legislation and to accordingly choose between the light and the full edition.
When one publishes something on the Internet he doesn't have to make sure it's legal in every single country of the world. He needs to make sure it's legal where he does it. When people download it from his website they sort of import it into their own country, so the responsibility relies on them, and for this reason we give the Light Edition's choice.
As for mirrors, you must have noticed they're not German, US.. .etc anymore. They're "European", "North-American" etc..
It's a silly world, with greedy people and we're basically doing prevention here and covering our xxx.
Different distributions have different ways of addressing these threats. Ubuntu doesn't include restricted things. Linspire pays the fees. Some others include everything without worrying about it, we make two different versions and rely on user's responsibility to follow their own legislation.
Just because some countries decided to allow the use of software patents doesn't mean we can't offer US/Japan-patented technologies to the rest of the World.
The worst they can do is actually make sure US/Japan citizens can't physically download the full edition, but as a distribution we're here to stay and there's nothing in US/Japan law which should be able to impact our activity in the rest of the World.
If we're challenged on something we'll remove the component in question (and only for the countries which legislation made that challenge valid: in our light edition, in other words).
I see your point though. It's not totally true to say that the Light Edition is 100% free and open-source.