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Re: Sponsorship requirements and copyright files

On Sun, Mar 22, 2009 at 09:00:34PM +0100, Arthur de Jong wrote:
> On Sun, 2009-03-22 at 12:11 +0000, Noah Slater wrote:
> > Firmly in my mind is the cost/benefit of this extra effort. If we
> > succeed in integrating debian/copyright checks into lintian, or dpkg
> > and it's front-ends, it seems reasonable to imagine that this effort
> > would be a good trade-off.

> I have been reading this discussion a bit and I've been wondering what
> use-case you actually have for machine-readable debian/copyright files.

  This is quite different than having the *license terms* recorded in a
  machine-parseable format, which is potentially useful in lots of ways;
  e.g., "license solvers", letting open source-friendly companies get a
  broad overview of what they're getting into when they consider deriving,
  and so on.


I'll add to this that there are various tools out there capable of reporting
on the license status of works.  HP has a project that's doing this, and
there's also the 'licensecheck' tool in devscripts that can give you what it
thinks are the licenses for the files in your package.  Those are each
useful in their own right; but combined with a machine-parseable copyright
format, we have potential for scalable reporting about *discrepancies*
between what the automatic tools say and what the maintainer has asserted in
debian/copyright, making it much easier to identify possible bugs (wishlist,
serious, or otherwise) in one or the other.

Please don't reply with arguments why this isn't enough reason to make
maintainers do extra work.  I'm not trying to make any maintainers do extra
work; I'm pointing out reasons why having a consistent and machine-parseable
copyright format is useful, which is the question that was asked.  That
benefit is there even if only a subset of maintainers opt to use a
machine-parseable format; but given that there is interest in having such a
format, it's important that we come to some agreement on what that format
should be, so that we don't have a dozen incompatible formats running

That's what we should be working on.  This thread with people refusing to
use a parseable format for debian/copyright, and arguing about whether using
the format does or does not provide assurances about the copyright status of
a work, is all an irrelevant (and irritating) distraction.

> This means that if you want to introduce a new format you have to
> convince the maintainer of a package that there is some benefit, be it
> in tools that make their life easier or some concrete benefit for our
> users.

Not really.  There is currently no format specified for debian/copyright,
only content.  That means maintainers can use whatever format they want; if
a number of maintainers choose to use a common and machine-parseable format,
they can do that without having to persuade anyone else of its utility.

On Mon, Mar 23, 2009 at 10:56:57PM +0100, Arthur de Jong wrote:
> 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
> readability).

Of course there aren't.  Why spend time writing tools yet, when people keep
changing the format definition itself?

Once there's a stable spec that has a measure of consensus surrounding it,
instead of a wiki page that someone takes the liberty of rewriting every
month or two, that's when I would expect to see adoption of the format by
more folks writing tools.

> 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)

Well, aside from the section header, nothing in Debian Policy actually says
you need to have a per-source debian/copyright file; and you certainly can
have separate per-binary copyright files in your package that get installed
individually if you choose, there's nothing that prevents you from doing
that even though it's clearly not common practice today.

Steve Langasek                   Give me a lever long enough and a Free OS
Debian Developer                   to set it on, and I can move the world.
Ubuntu Developer                                    http://www.debian.org/
slangasek@ubuntu.com                                     vorlon@debian.org

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