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Re: Bug#218832: ITP: libnettle -- a low-level cryptographic library


I don't disagree with anything you've stated regarding my sloppy arguments. However, as you are implying on a public forum that I don't grasp the subject matter of licenses, I'm going to defend myself a little.

I wrote, unfortunately, "If the library as a whole must be under GPL license, how is it significant that parts of it were once under LGPL or on the public domain?" What I meant was if a library file (in object form) contains both GPL and non-GPL'd software, how is it significant that any of it is non-GPL? This was from the admittedly narrow point of view of an application that can't use GPL'd software, a case I had stuck in my head. The libnettle maintainer pointed out that it is significant, because such an application can still statically link to the library, assuming it only drew from non-GPL object files.

I'm interested in the notion of license metadata for file packages (in the general sense)-- what the semantics would be, whether or how it could be useful, etc. As someone pointed out, there is no such thing for Debian packages. But ITP's do have the "License" field, so I was asking about the semantics of an entry like "GPL, LGPL, public domain". Here it means that parts of the package are covered by one license, parts by another, etc. It doesn't always mean this. See <http://bugs.debian.org/205951>, for example.

-John Belmonte

Branden Robinson wrote:
[Follows set to debian-legal.]

On Thu, Nov 06, 2003 at 02:22:31PM -0500, John Belmonte wrote:

If the library as a whole must be under GPL license, how is it significant that parts of it were once under LGPL or on the public domain? The purpose of the License field is to tell the user what license the software in the package is under, not to give a history of previous or constituent licensing.

I don't think you understand licensing very well.  If more than one
party still holds copyright in an aggregate work, no one party can make
a single license apply to the work "as a whole", as you say.

What do you mean by "once under the LGPL or public domain"?  What
mechanism do you propose causes works to stop being licensed under the
LGPL, or withdrawn from the public domain?  Mere distribution in
compliance with the terms of the GNU GPL is certainly not such a

"Historical" (i.e., inapplicable) licensing is not necessarily something
that needs to be explained in a debian/copyright file, though it might
be of use to people if there are many confused questions on the subject
with respect to a given package.

"Constituent license" is indeed apropos for debian/copyright, as it's
reasonable to expect our users to be bound by those licenses if they
attempt to modify or further distribute the packge in question.

I suggest you scrutinize the licenses in your own packages more closely,
as you appear to have been working from a number of invalid assumptions.

If you have any questions, please consult the debian-legal mailing list
for advice.

http:// if  ile.o g/

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