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Re: What are the benefits of a machine-parseable ‘debian/copyright’ file? (was: Sponsorship requirements and copyright files)

On Mon, 2009-03-23 at 10:03 +1100, Ben Finney wrote:
> > Anyway, thanks for the work on the format. To me it seems to
> > probably be a good thing. I hope this mail wasn't too negative.
> I find this a little confusing, since you spent most of your message
> saying how you *don't* think it's a good thing (nor, presumably, much
> of a bad thing), but thanks for the positive note :-)

I think having a uniform format for debian/copyright is a good thing in
general. It makes it easier to read and write.

The problem is that I don't see much use for a machine-parsable format
though at this point.

Firstly (and most importantly for me), there are no tools to support it
so there is no immediate benefit (except the improvement in

Secondly, the use-cases that have been pointed out are very limited and
IMHO don't justify the amount of effort that has to be put into
converting files.

BTW, the use-case where you don't want to install FDL content and have
some way for apt to warn you before doing so won't be solved by a new
format because debian/copyright is written at the source-level and not
on the binary package level (think -doc packages that have FDL stuff and
-bin packages that have other-licensed stuff). (not that I've given this
too much thought)

Also I think that for complexly licensed packages a single line wouldn't
do justice to the license at all (think of a GPL-licensed work with some
BSD-licensed source parts, CC-licensed documentation, MIT-licensed
whatever, etc,). For those, if you would be really interested, you would
have to read the copyright files completely anyway (either that or GPL +
CC docs would also do it).

I have converted a couple of my packages to the new format (it's
probably old by now) but for a more recent one (nss-ldapd) I skipped
because the wiki page was unreadable and it would also be more effort
(patches are welcome though ;) ).

Note that this is completely separate from whether or not to list all
copyright holders and for which files to list them. I would like to see
some simplifications here or at least some rationale (but that's another

-- arthur - adejong@debian.org - http://people.debian.org/~adejong --

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