License problems in teTeX: a release blocker?
Hi release team, hi James,
I wanted to inform you about license problems with teTeX, and ask for
your input. This bug might become a release blocker for etch, or not.
teTeX is a compilation of individual works with individual licenses, and
at the moment the licenses of the individual parts are not listed in
debian/copyright, or anywhere else.
Here are the facts:
We have finally set up an infrastructure that allows to keep track of
license information of individual CTAN packages and even individual
files, and create a proper debian/copyright file.
- Before this bug can be resolved, one needs to go through each
individual package and check its license and the list of files
covered. I have actually started doing that work, it is slowly but
continuously progressing, but we have still *a*lot* of work to do.
- In the small part I have already checked, I have found a considerable
number of files with unclear licenses (in other words, probably
intended to be free but not properly indicated) and some that are
- I expect that in the remaining part, things will be similar. In other
words, I expect non-free or unclearly licensed files in teTeX, which
makes this bug release-critical.
- Even if I continue to work as I do now, I don't know when this will be
finished. And since my professional work situation might change in
the second half of this year, I might even be forced to do less.
There are some more points to consider additionally:
- Debian probably can't release without TeX: even if it could be dropped
as a dependency, replacing it as a build-dependency would be as hard
work as resolving that bug.
- TeXlive, which could serve as an alternative, suffers from the same
problems (and profits from the same work and infrastructure)
- teTeX in sarge has the very same problems. I don't expect any
problems with the files added since then, because both CTAN package
authors and teTeX upstream have been much more license-aware in the
last years than in the old days.
This means that "Debian stable" wouldn't get any better by not
releasing etch because of this bug; but I don't know whether this
- I actually do not expect that we get any real legal problems. The
files in question are and have been distributed so widely and for so
long that *distributabilty* cannot realistically be denied by anyone.
The problems are actually "only" questions of DFSG-freeness.
I intend to ask for help on this bug as soon as the scripts used have
been properly documented, be it release-critical for etch or not. But I
wanted to make you aware of that problem early.
P.S. Many thanks, James, for filing that bug, really. I would never have
imagined the mess teTeX actually is license-wise, and I'm learning a lot
about internal workings of a TeX distribution that way.
Single Molecule Spectroscopy, Protein Folding @ Inst. f. Biochemie, Univ. Zürich
Debian Developer (teTeX)