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Re: location of UnicodeData.txt

On Fri, Nov 29, 2002 at 11:37:41AM +0100, Bernhard R. Link wrote:
> * Jim Penny <jpenny@universal-fasteners.com> [021128 03:35]:
> > So, according to Branden, international standards are supposed to allow 
> > debian the right to modify them and to distribute the modified versions.  
> > Absent said permission, which is hardly ever going to be given,  they 
> > must be considered non-free.  (This is, of course, logically forthright.) 
> > Moreover, according to the non-free removal proponents, we should not 
> > even distribute the un-modified copies of these files.
> > 
> > Yet, unicode is supposed to be the canonical character encoding scheme
> > for debian.  
> > 
> > Does this mean every unicode text editor belongs in contrib (depends on
> > something non-free)?
> I think you are missing the points here.
> First of all, DFSG applied to the standard does not want to change the standard, 
> but wants all to be able to change the text of the standard.

Huh?  If I change the text of the standard, I have changed the standard!
For example, if I have :
and change this to
Then the standard has been changed!

That is, this file is line after line of character number assignment,
followed by character name, (and other information).  There is no
possible change that does not change the standard!

Hint: (from standard writer's viewpoint) - A standard that can be
changed by anyone, at anytime, without notice and consultation is not
a standard, especially if it is a contentious standard that has some
people seriously upset (i.e, Russian and XJK users).

> This is a good thing, the text of standards should be modifiable. How else 
> shall someone write the following standard without having written the first 
> or having to write all from scratch?

The text of every standard that I know of is modifiable.  However, it
normally takes the consent of the standards body and is issued under
its aegis.  Again, Jim Penny's unicode standard has no value, and even
debian unicode has very limited appeal.

On the other hand,  if you wish to create a competitor to the unicode 
standard, say the debicode standard, I see no moral right that you have 
to incorporate, without permission, the unicode standard.  You should 
expect to start from scratch!

> Secondly: What has a unicode editor have to do with the unicode
> standard? It should only implement it. If it would contain parts
> of the standard-text (tables or whatever) that were protected by
> copyright law and the standard would allow no modifications, then noone 
> would be allowed to copy the editor. (No special problem with debian)

A unicode editor must know certain properties of the character set
(note, I am not talking about font properties here, unicode does not
deal with fonts.)  Examples might be langauge, combining marks, 
bidirectionality, input methods, surrogates, Hangul syllables.  These
are things that an editor must know, and that pretty much, must be
looked up in the unicode table.

Now, the unicode license happens to be fairly clear, and fairly


It specifically gives permission for redistibution, without fee,
providing a statement of copyright, and a disclaimer are preserved.  It
also specifically allows incorporation into programs under the same
terms.  But those terms happen to be non-DSFG free.  They fail 3 and 8.

Now, IANAL, but I suspect that any unicode editor that reproduced enough
information from the unicode standard to be useful would be considered a
derived work.  More importantly, I think that is is arguable that this
table is, in the terms of the Debian Social Contract,  "necessary for 
the execution" of a full unicode editor.  (The language of the debian 
Social Contract is even more general and vague than copyright law!

In either case, the social contract would place the unicode table into
non-free; and any editor that depended on the table, or information
derived from the table (in a copyright sense) in either non-free or

I have no problem with this result.  But saying that the unicode
character table cannot be distributed by debian, in spite of specific
language permitting us to do so, seems a bit extreme.  And the
consequences of this decision will probably seem extreme to many people.
This example just happens to be particularly cogent; there is no doubt
it is non-free, there is no doubt it is copyrightable, there is little
doubt that it is "necessary for the execution" of a substantial corpus
of programs which are otherwise DFSG free.  These program would
certainly include unicode editors, and would probably include python,
perl and ruby.

Jim Penny

> Hochachtungsvoll,
>   Bernhard R. Link
> -- 
> <gEistiO> sagen wir mal...ich hab alle sourcen in /lost+found/waimea
> <me> gEistiO: [...] Warum lost+found?
> <gEistiO> wo haette ich es denn sonst hingeben solln?
> -- 
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