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Re: debian/* license of non-free packages

Svante Signell <svante.signell@gmail.com> writes:

> This is a puzzling question for me: If you are the copyright holder of
> patches (they can be substantial) which license should apply?

Whatever license you want to put on it.  However, it's going to need to be
compatible with the upstream license or the resulting patched work will
probably not be redistributable.

> I have not seen this before, maybe I missed it. This question applies to
> free as well as non-free packages.

> 1) As a Debian patch, not forwarded upstream
> 2) The Debian Maintainer forwards the patch upstream
> 3) The patch submitter forwards the patch upstream

> The third case might be clear, what about the other two?

Actually, all of those cases are equivalent, and in all of those cases the
patch author has the option of what license they want to use.

It's conventional (although not entirely legally sound) in the free
software community to just assume that any patch submitted without any
explicit license statement is licensed under the same terms as the
upstream source.  But that's just an assumption, and if upstream is being
legally conservative in their license handling, they would require
explicit statements of license in any patch.  Similarly Debian for patches
that we apply at build time.  And some upstreams are that legally
conservative; ones that require either a copyright assignment or a
contributor agreement, for example, will usually have, somewhere in that
paperwork, an explicit statement concerning licensing that the contributor
agrees to.

But there is a grand tradition of not crossing this T in all cases, and
being more formally precise about it is probably not a good use of project
time.  I for one don't intend to start asking bug submitters about the
license on their included patch unless I have some reason to believe they
don't intend it to be covered by the upstream license; I think that would
be more annoying than helpful.

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

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