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Re: Sponsorship requirements and copyright files

Ben Finney <ben+debian@benfinney.id.au> writes:
> Russ Allbery <rra@debian.org> writes:

>> If the upstream license doesn't require that we preserve the copyright
>> statement (or if upstream doesn't have them), I'm not sure we need to
>> be requiring that they be collected into debian/copyright.

> I am working from the assumption that we need, at least in principle, to
> maintain an accurate knowledge of the copyright status of the works we
> distribute in Debian. I base that assumption on the necessity of that
> information when evaluating claims (made against the Debian project) of
> copyright infringement in those works.

Why?  Serious question -- as I say, I could be missing something.

I can't imagine when the debian/copyright file would ever be useful in
that respect.  If someone actually threatens litigation, surely we'd have
to look at the specific files and review the notices therein, and outside
of that, I don't see why it ever matters to us which named people or
organizations hold the copyright on files as long as there's a clear
license.  But maybe I'm having a failure of imagination?

(Also, there's no such thing as a claim against the Debian project per se,
since there is no legal entity corresponding to "the Debian project," but
that's a side point.)

> If ignorance of the copyright status of a work were a valid defense,
> that would certainly obviate the burden for a distributor to actively
> maintain accurate copyright status knowledge in the works they
> distribute. I don't think that's true, though.

I don't really follow the logic.  Copyright notices are pretty much
irrelevant for copyright claims, at least in Berne countries, so far as I
understand it.  They only affect damages in the US, for instance, and then
only in really unusual circumstances.  What matters is knowledge of the
license the work is released under.

Russ Allbery (rra@debian.org)               <http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>

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