26 August, we discussed on debian-devel (see for references into
the debian-devel archive footnote  below), the Maintainers
database. Part of this discussion was about the copyright of the
Just as with ordinary software, people are tempted to make their
own licence for the (in their eyes) "new" catogory of a
maintainer database. Initially, distribution was limited.
Then some discussion on debian-devel followed , and it was
decided to make it GPL. Then two people got together, and decided
to change it again, to the "current" licence[For text, see footnote 3]:
- You're not allowed to make money selling the list
- You're not allowed to change the list (though you can
- You're not allowed to make patches for the data.
This change already has taken effect, and all new data collected
for the database is with this licence. Without discussion on any list.
Why I think the current licence is bad:
- Suppose I want to organise a meeting of Dutch debian developpers.
I'd like to take the database, remove all entries that
have locations outside the Netherlands, and send email
to the people I'm left with. I'm not allowed to create
that file with just the Dutch developpers, according to the
- Suppose I go on holiday. Suppose I plan to visit both
touristic places, and developpers living close to those places.
Then I'd want to take the developpers database, add a few touristic
hotspots, view the result in xearth, and plan my route.
Dammit, I'm in violation of the licence. I cannot even
do that on my own computer.
- In order to become a debian-developper, new developpers
need the database to find an existing developper close to them.
As the database is non-free (no way it is DFSG compliant),
he needs another package from non-free to become a developper.
He already needed PGP, and FSF is trying to write a replacement GPL
PGP version, because it's not good that free software developpers
depend on non-free programmes. Now we are saying we've created
an essential database ourselves, and we make it non-free,
of our own free will.
Some often-heard disadvantages of a GPL, and why they don't apply:
- "But I don't want my email adress sold to spammers!".
Don't become a debian developper then. Your email is already
in the Packages file, and that is GPL. Your email is already
in your package./debian/control, and the debian files you
added are GPL.
- "We want don't want malicious people to corrupt the database".
If we are really concerned about the integrity of the database file,
please have the maintainer PGP sign the database file.
Also, malicious people who modify the (GPL) Packages file and
pretend it to be the real one, to decieve other people, are
lying, and I do hope that deception is punishable anyway.
So, we don't need the extra protection of the licence.
Please, people, your reactions to this are welcome.
History of the copyright of the maintainers database:
The first incarnation (xearth database) was "can only be distributed
in a debian xearth package" (which is now just as good as "cannot be
distributed at all, as that's not DFSG compliant). Note that the
old xearth database predates the DFSG.
Then, other people started to work on this, and when this happened,
I started some discussion on debian-devel:
My post, where I prefer GPL:
Andreas mentions he doesn't like to give his email adress out:
Jim Pick mentions Andreas's email is already in the Packages file:
Manoj: "The data shall be made available under the GPL":
In the end, it was decided that just plain GPL was the best.
Thus, the data-collector sent out a questionair that just
mentions GPL, nothing else. (Un)Fortunately, I am to lasy to
answer to that first questionair, and I'm now also the prowed
owner of the second questionair. Lo and behold, the copyright
changed. No discussion on debian-devel, but now suddenly we're
not allowed to make profit with the database, we cannot modify
it, and so on. Do I need to say I get angry? I think not.
That's why I sent this email.
Footnote 2: I am really pissed.
I'm not naming any names, to make my pissed-ness less clear.
(Does anybody have a sortof spelling checker that checks for
"potentially offensive" words, like "utter", "crap", "silly", etc,
so that I can go through my posting again and delete those? Would
be useful for me, in my current state of mind).
The current licence (Manoj asked me to include it in this message):
The intent of this document is to state the conditions under which the
data contained in herein may be copied, such that the Copyright Holder
maintains some semblance of control over the Data, while giving the
users of the package the right to use and distribute the Package in a
more-or-less customary fashion.
However, given the nature of the Data, you are not allowed to
modify the contents therein. Specifically, you are not allowed to
remove the association between a developer and the the corresponding
name, electronic mail address, or geographic location, or to change
any of the values of those fields; you are not allowed to add, or
remove, developers to the list mentioned in the Data. You may,
however, reformat it for use with other display programs or for
TERMS AND CONDITIONS FOR COPYING, DISTRIBUTION AND MODIFICATION
The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in
all copies or substantial portions of the Software.
Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies
of the Data, but changing it is not allowed.
Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person
obtaining a copy of the data file accompanying this package, which
contains the names and locations of Debian developers in a format
readable by the popular program "xearth" (the "Data"), to deal in
the Data without restriction, including without limitation the
rights to use, copy, distribute, and/or sublicense copies of the
Data, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do
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is not restricted to, their name, and geographical location in
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