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Re: MaintainerDatabase Copyright

On 10th April, Dale Scheetz wrote:
  >For those who don't agree with what has been said so far, I would say
  >that, in any case, "The material submitted by me to the 'Maintainer
  >Database Project' is copyright 1997 by Dale Scheetz". If I checked the GPL
  >option on the form (and I honestly don't remember which I chose), then it
  >was I who declared how the material was to be licensed.
  >Licenses are about distribution and use. Copyright is about ownership.

But copyright does not protect purely factual data, with no element of
compositional effort.  If I tell someone my address, I cannot assert
copyright; otherwise we would all have been in breach of copyright
whenever we passed on someone's address.
  >While this state of affairs makes a "General License Agreement" for the
  >collection of this material a non-trivial problem, the very fact that the
  >information request form asked the authors to destiguish the form of
  >distribution license they would allow declares who has ultimate "control"
  >over the information contained in the database, and it isn't Manoj (or any
  >other package maintainer who does this work).

The copyright in the compilation should belong to the Debian project, which
means, I suppose, SPI. (If copyright can be asserted at all, that is.)
  >WRT, the GPL and it's use here. This document _is_ a license agreement.
  >While it is generally used to protect the free distribution of software,
  >it is general enough in its terms to be used for more than just
  >documentation of that software (which is clearly covered in the GPL). It
  >is also my understanding that the GPL allows for "unmodified" source, (at
  >least the DFSG certainly does) as long as any modifications are allowed as
  >diff files.

I don't think it's a good idea to take a licence designed for one purpose and
apply it to a different kind of thing.  The purpose of the GPL is to promote
the use and distribution of free software. Here we want to restrict the use
of a database to legitimate purposes.  Those purposes should be spelt out
and unauthorised uses should be spelt out.

  >While I see no reason for downstream users to "modify" the data in this
  >collection, I see no reason to restrict it, beyond requiring original
  >source integrity.
  >Given the above discussion as a "place to work", it seems to me that the
  >problem resolves itself into "How do we license a set of copyright
  >material when each copyright may have a different individual license?"

As I said above, I don't believe that every item of information is
individually copyrighted. However, we should not include any information
about individuals without their consent.

Another issue that has not been considered is European legislation on
holding data on computer.  In Britain, the Data Protection Act requires
anyone holding details about identifiable individuals to be licensed with
the Data Protection Registrar; the kind of compilation we are talking of
here could not therefore be mirrored on any British site without an
amendment to their Data Protection licence.  I believe that British 
legislation may be weak in comparison to that of some other European 
countries.  Therefore the collection should be held only on the
Debian web site (which is in USA?) and potential users should be very
careful of possible consequences of downloading it.

My conclusion from all this is that amateurs should not attempt to be lawyers,
especially when we are dealing with the laws of (potentially) 250 odd 
It's not just a simple matter of copyright under the Berne Convention.

Oliver Elphick                                Oliver.Elphick@lfix.co.uk
Isle of Wight                                  http://lfix.co.uk/oliver

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