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Re: [aspell-devel] Problems with aspell-en license

On Tue, Oct 22, 2002 at 09:29:48PM +0200, Henning Makholm wrote:
> The U.S. Supreme Court can put a doctrine to rest within the USA. In
> some other parts of the world (notably all E.U. member states),
> something that looks very much like "sweat of the brow" is an official
> part of the Law.
> Do you argue that only U.S. law is relevant to how Debian should behave?

No.  Debian has typically labored under the presumption that, aside from
a few countries where most people don't even have Internet access, U.S.
intellectual property laws are the most draconian in the world.
(Witness that Debian has had a "non-US" concept for many years, but
never a "non-UK", "non-DE", "non-AU", or "non-EU".

The reasons for this may be purely historical.  They may also stem from
a certain degree of anti-U.S. chauvinism, which is unfortunate, since it
tends to blind people the injustices being wrought in their own

The Debian Project, at least, can be assured that as long as I draw
breath I will never fail to find reasons to protest the cronyism and
creeping plutocracy that infests my own government.

In every country where Debian has developers or mirror sites, we need to
be aware of the impacts of the copyright laws in those countries, and
not just blindly assume that all countries' IP laws are less oppressive
than those of the United States'.  Organizations like WIPO seek to
achieve "harmonization" of IP laws such that there is assurance that
extortionate taxes will be extracted from people everywhere, not just in
the United States.

To steer back towards the point, I'm only qualified to gripe about my
own country.  Members of the Debian and Aspell projects from outside the
U.S. who know something of their countries' laws should speak up and
share their knowledge.

> Note that many word lists for languages other than English are likely
> to be packaged and used mainly by people outside the USA.

Perfectly true.  If simple words lists are uncopyrightable everywhere,
then there is no reason not to put such lists in Debian "main".

> > There is no opportunity for "originality" to inject itself.
> It puzzles me that you can so sweepingly deny originality of the
> (non-mechanical) choice of *which* words to include in the list.

I haven't been presented with any evidence of selectivity in the lists
in question.

Look, if you guys aggravate me much more with this nonsense I'll just
ITP an English word list package which will be in the public domain,
even in the European Union where, apparently, the labor of a your
computer performing an obvious and wholly unoriginal process gives you
the right to piss a copyright onto its output.  I'll seed it with public
domain sources and add words to it on the premise that any word other
than a proper noun or proper adjective is uncopyrightable on its face.
Proper nouns and adjectives from public domain works for which no
trademark is in evidence can also be included.  Let me know if you guys
think this is the best solution.  Aspell-dev readers, since none of you
have contributed to this discussion I'll assume the legalese has bored
you to tears.  This is one suggestion I have for putting a stop to it.

I am willing to maintain an English word list in the public domain for
several reasons:
	1) I think it's nonsense to assert copyright in such a thing,
	   for reasons I have explored exhaustively;
	2) There doesn't seem to be one already in uncontroversial
	3) The EU has crazy copyright laws that are even worse than the
	   U.S.'s in some respects (I presume it's still *allowed* to
	   put your work into the public domain under EU copyright law)
	4) I am constantly annoyed with spell checkers that fail to
	   recognize dictionary words which I use (I often file bugs
	   against ispell's American English directory, for instance);
	5) Spelling errors annoy me;
	6) It's for the good of mankind that such a thing exist.

> Your "common words" definition is clearly sufficiently fuzzy that
> applying it 500.000 times will easily constitute just as large an
> amount of intellectual decisions as writing a novel or a poem, if
> not more.

An intellectual decision is not necessarily an act of originality.
You're making a "sweat-of-the-brow" argument.  That doesn't hold water
in the U.S.  I'd appreciate cites of statues in countries where it does,
or English-language discussions in countries where the law is not
written in English[1].

[1] native English speakers, *mentally* insert your favorite joke about
"the law" not being "written in English" here, so that you don't have to
contribute it to this discussion

G. Branden Robinson                |
Debian GNU/Linux                   |      If encryption is outlawed, only
branden@debian.org                 |      outlaws will @goH7Ok=<q4fDj]Kz?.
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |

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