Problems with aspell-en license
I'm working on packaging the new upstream GNU/aspell, and I've
discovered a problem with the (attached) license of the English
dictionary. The license, which is a mishmash of mostly free licenses,is
not DFSG free as I understand it due to the DEC Word list license
(beginning on line 134).
The version of aspell-en currently in the archives is also licensed
under this non-free license, but the package's copyright file falsely
states it's licensed under the LGPL. That's bad.
With the release of aspell 0.50, the English dictionary has been
packaged separately. However, prior to 0.50, this English dictionary
was distributed with the aspell source tarball. This is true for the
version of aspell currently in the Debian archives. Would this license
contaminate the whole aspell source package and thus make aspell,
aspell-doc, aspell-en, libaspell-dev, libaspell10, libaspell4
non-distributable? It's not clear to me because the license is so
vague, and also because I'm not familiar with license issues regarding
I'll get in contact with upstream about packaging a DFSG-free version of
the English dictionary. But, in the meantime, I think the aspell-en
package, and possibly all of aspell, should be removed from the Debian
People said I was dumb, but I proved them!
This english word list is comes directly from SCOWL (up to level 65)
(http://wordlist.sourceforge.net/) and is thus under the same
copyright of SCOWL.
The SCOWL copyright follows:
The collective work is Copyright 2000 by Kevin Atkinson as well as any
of the copyrights mentioned below:
Copyright 2001 by Kevin Atkinson
Permission to use, copy, modify, distribute and sell these word
lists, the associated scripts, the output created from the scripts,
and its documentation for any purpose is hereby granted without fee,
provided that the above copyright notice appears in all copies and
that both that copyright notice and this permission notice appear in
supporting documentation. Kevin Atkinson makes no representations
about the suitability of this array for any purpose. It is provided
"as is" without express or implied warranty.
Alan Beale <firstname.lastname@example.org> also deserves special credit as he has,
in addition to providing the 12Dicts package and being a major
contributor to the ENABLE word list, given me an incredible amount of
feedback and created a number of special lists (those found in the
Supplement) in order to help improve the overall quality of SCOWL.
The 10 level includes the 1000 most common English words (according to
the Moby (TM) Words II [MWords] package), a subset of the 1000 most
common words on the Internet (again, according to Moby Words II), and
frequently class 16 from Brian Kelk's "UK English Wordlist
with Frequency Classification".
The MWords package was explicitly placed in the public domain:
The Moby lexicon project is complete and has
been place into the public domain. Use, sell,
rework, excerpt and use in any way on any platform.
Placing this material on internal or public servers is
also encouraged. The compiler is not aware of any
export restrictions so freely distribute world-wide.
You can verify the public domain status by contacting
3449 Martha Ct.
Arcata, CA 95521-4884
The "UK English Wordlist With Frequency Classification" is also in the
Date: Sat, 08 Jul 2000 20:27:21 +0100
From: Brian Kelk <Brian.Kelk@cl.cam.ac.uk>
> I was wondering what the copyright status of your "UK English
> Wordlist With Frequency Classification" word list as it seems to
> be lacking any copyright notice.
There were many many sources in total, but any text marked
"copyright" was avoided. Locally-written documentation was one
source. An earlier version of the list resided in a filespace called
PUBLIC on the University mainframe, because it was considered public
Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2000 19:31:34 +0100
> So are you saying your word list is also in the public domain?
That is the intention.
The 20 level includes frequency classes 7-15 from Brian's word list.
The 35 level includes frequency classes 2-6 and words appearing in at
least 11 of 12 dictionaries as indicated in the 12Dicts package. All
words from the 12Dicts package have had likely inflections added via
my inflection database.
The 12Dicts package and Supplement is in the Public Domain.
The WordNet database, which was used in the creation of the
Inflections database, is under the following copyright:
This software and database is being provided to you, the LICENSEE,
by Princeton University under the following license. By obtaining,
using and/or copying this software and database, you agree that you
have read, understood, and will comply with these terms and
Permission to use, copy, modify and distribute this software and
database and its documentation for any purpose and without fee or
royalty is hereby granted, provided that you agree to comply with
the following copyright notice and statements, including the
disclaimer, and that the same appear on ALL copies of the software,
database and documentation, including modifications that you make
for internal use or for distribution.
WordNet 1.6 Copyright 1997 by Princeton University. All rights
THIS SOFTWARE AND DATABASE IS PROVIDED "AS IS" AND PRINCETON
UNIVERSITY MAKES NO REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR
IMPLIED. BY WAY OF EXAMPLE, BUT NOT LIMITATION, PRINCETON
UNIVERSITY MAKES NO REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES OF MERCHANT-
ABILITY OR FITNESS FOR ANY PARTICULAR PURPOSE OR THAT THE USE OF THE
LICENSED SOFTWARE, DATABASE OR DOCUMENTATION WILL NOT INFRINGE ANY
THIRD PARTY PATENTS, COPYRIGHTS, TRADEMARKS OR OTHER RIGHTS.
The name of Princeton University or Princeton may not be used in
advertising or publicity pertaining to distribution of the software
and/or database. Title to copyright in this software, database and
any associated documentation shall at all times remain with
Princeton University and LICENSEE agrees to preserve same.
The 50 level includes Brian's frequency class 1, words words appearing
in at least 5 of 12 of the dictionaries as indicated in the 12Dicts
package, and uppercase words in at least 4 of the previous 12
dictionaries. A decent number of proper names is also included: The
top 1000 male, female, and Last names from the 1990 Census report; a
list of names sent to me by Alan Beale; and a few names that I added
myself. Finally a small list of abbreviations not commonly found in
other word lists is included.
The name files form the Census report is a government document which I
don't think can be copyrighted.
The name list from Alan Beale is also derived from the linux words
list, which is derived from the DEC list. He also added a bunch of
miscellaneous names to the list, which he released to the Public Domain.
The DEC Word list doesn't have a formal name. It is labeled as "FILE:
english.words; VERSION: DEC-SRC-92-04-05" and was put together by Jorge
Stolfi <email@example.com> DEC Systems Research Center. The DEC Word
list has the following copyright statement:
To the best of my knowledge, all the files I used to build these
wordlists were available for public distribution and use, at least
for non-commercial purposes. I have confirmed this assumption with
the authors of the lists, whenever they were known.
Therefore, it is safe to assume that the wordlists in this package
can also be freely copied, distributed, modified, and used for
personal, educational, and research purposes. (Use of these files in
commercial products may require written permission from DEC and/or
the authors of the original lists.)
Whenever you distribute any of these wordlists, please distribute
also the accompanying README file. If you distribute a modified
copy of one of these wordlists, please include the original README
file with a note explaining your modifications. Your users will
surely appreciate that.
These files, like the original wordlists on which they are based,
are still very incomplete, uneven, and inconsitent, and probably
contain many errors. They are offered "as is" without any warranty
of correctness or fitness for any particular purpose. Neither I nor
my employer can be held responsible for any losses or damages that
may result from their use.
However since this Word List is used in the linux.words package which
the author claims is free of any copyright I assume it is OK to use
for most purposes. If you want to use this in a commercial project
and this concerns you the information from the DEC word list can
easily be removed without much sacrifice in quality as only the name
lists were used.
The file special-jargon.50 uses common.lst and word.lst from the
"Unofficial Jargon File Word Lists" which is derived from "The Jargon
File". All of which is in the Public Domain. This file also contain
a few extra UNIX terms which are found in the file "unix-terms" in the
The 60 level includes Brian's frequency class 0 and all words
appearing in at least 2 of the 12 dictionaries as indicated by the
12Dicts package. A large number of names are also included: The 4,946
female names and 3,897 male names from the MWords package and the
files "computer.names", "misc.names", and "org.names" from the DEC
The 65 level includes words found in the Ispell "medium" word list.
The Ispell word lists are under the same copyright of Ispell itself
Copyright 1993, Geoff Kuenning, Granada Hills, CA
All rights reserved.
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modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions
1. Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright
notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.
2. Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright
notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the
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such. Binary redistributions based on modified source code
must be clearly marked as modified versions in the documentation
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This product includes software developed by Geoff Kuenning and
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