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Re: License for code comments in postgis package

Joe Healy <joehealy@gmail.com> writes:

> This may be a question for upstream rather than debian, but I thought
> I would start here to see if anyone was aware of this issue or had
> dealt with it previously.

Thank you for raising the issue. Yes, this should also be discussed
(separately, and diplomatically) with the upstream maintainers.

> At a number of places in the source code for postgis, reference is
> made to the comp.graphics.algorithm FAQ [1].

To be clear, I don't think reference (in the sense of referring via a
mention, or a URL) invokes any issues for the redistribution of
‘postgis’ or any other work.

You mean, I think, that the ‘postgis’ source code directly includes
parts of the FAQ document.

> As an example, see the comments at [2]. This appears to be a fairly
> direct lifting of text from the FAQ, a document which a Joseph O'Rouke
> is (claims to be?) the author of.

The Debian Project tends to take the position that, if a work is claimed
to have copyright held by a party, we should take that claim on face
value until demonstrated otherwise. This is partly from the pragmatic
position that we usually have no better information.

The example you point to may be argued as a representation not of
creative work, but of brute fact; and therefore not restricted by
copyright. That would be open to argument and only a court case could
really decide it.

> It appears that redistribution of that document in its entirety is
> permitted, however nothing is said about partial extracts.
> This article is Copyright 2003 by Joseph O'Rourke.  It may be freely
> redistributed in its entirety provided that this copyright notice is
> not removed.

These conditions do not grant license to redistribute derived (modified)
works. So a work under these conditions would thereby be incompatible
with the GPL. It would also thereby fail to meet the DFSG.

> 1) Should Joseph O'Rouke be listed in the debian/copyright file?

For this specific case, I don't know. As above, I wonder whether this
extract is restricted by copyright.

> 2) Do we (and upstream) have permission to distribute the resulting
> source code (as GPL or otherwise)?

>From the copyright holders of the FAQ document, we clearly do not have
such permission.

Whether the FAQ document's copyright extends to this work, is an open

 \         “If you can do no good, at least do no harm.” —_Slapstick_, |
  `\                                                     Kurt Vonnegut |
_o__)                                                                  |
Ben Finney

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