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Re: Sensibility and caveats of Debconf translations of licenses

Christian Perrier wrote:
Quoting Helge Kreutzmann (debian@helgefjell.de):
I just finished translating the debconf prompts for
ttf-mathematica4.1. The text appears to be the "license" (the debconf
template also uses the word contract) from the upstream author(s)
which the user has to acknowledge prior to usage (i.e. download in
this case).
I have two questions:
a) Are there any precedents about translating licenseing texts
   (especially for non-DFSG-licenses?). In this case the license is
   rather straight forward, but generally speaking a user might not
   (fully) understand the english original (i.e. Debconf is just
   made to ask the user in his own language for the most important
   parts of the configuration).[1]

b) Should I/Do I have to ammend the translation to state that
   a) The legal relevance is unclear (IANAL, but there are
      restrictions in Germany what can be within a contract) and
   b) The translation is only inofficial, hence in doubt the english
      version is valid only - but this presents the (technical)
      problem that the user has no (easy) possibility to switch the
      language in situ. The only option would be to abort and restart
      with LANG=C or similar.

After I discovered that new debconf template, I immediately filed a
bug report for the licence to be marked untranslatable, which the
maintainer just fixed in the last version of the package.

My personal view here is to put ourselves on the safe side: as we have
no way to guarantee that the translation is acceptable wrt legalese
stuff (probably few translators are expert in the legal jargon), the
safe method is keeping the licence untranslated..:-)

Indeed, the SFLC (Software Freedom Law Center) strongly recommends against translating licenses: if you consider doing this you should provide a *clearly marked unofficial translation* with a disclaimer to help people unfamiliar with the original language of the license but translating a license is bound to cause big problems.

See http://www.gnu.org/licenses/translations.html and
http://scripts.sil.org/OFL#0b8d92bc for examples of such guidelines and disclaimers.

Nicolas Spalinger

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