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Re: Aspell-en license Once again.

Jeff Licquia <licquia@debian.org> wrote:
> On Mon, 2002-11-04 at 13:54, Henning Makholm wrote:
> > Man, you're way out. Some people (not all developers) point out that
> > the Database Directive exists. Not a word has been said about it being
> > "supreme" in any way. It exists. That is all. It that so har to grasp?
> Since we acknowledge that it exists, what should we do about it?
> The problem seems to be centered around the DEC word lists.  From my
> reading of the license, it seems that the original author of the DEC
> list make a serious good-faith effort to identify the contributors to
> the list.  I doubt that tracking down the remaining authors would be
> practically possible, given that we are now removed by two additional
> layers of incorporation from them.
> In addition, it is worth noting that DEC was a US corporation, and
> remains US-owned.  I also note from Kevin's site that he lives in the
> USA.  Finally, Debian's main sites are located in the USA.  The Database
> Directive of the EU, therefore, does not have the impact that, for
> example, the USA crypto laws have.

What is the process for copyrighting things under the database
directive?  Is it automatic, or do you have to register things?  For
things created outside of the EU, do you automatically get protection
in the EU?  I thought that there was a general recognition of
copyrights among countries.  But since it may not have been recognized
in the country of first publication, we may be ok.

> Finally, I don't know how old the Database Directive is, and whether its
> terms are retroactive.  This may have an effect on the status of the DEC
> list if it can be established that it was created before the Database
> Directive went into effect.
> So, given that we have:
>  - a good-faith effort to respect rights that may not even have existed
> at the time,
>  - no way of identifying additional authors besides those contacted by
> DEC,
>  - a significant burden of proof on the part of any claimant, given that
> said claimant did not respond at the time of DEC's inquiry in addition
> to the ease which alphabetized word lists may be generated,
>  - significant jurisdictional issues surrounding the applicability of
> the Database Directive to DEC, the upstream author, or Debian itself,
>  - a significant likelihood that we would be joined in legal liability
> by Hewlett-Packard, the current owners of DEC's assets and a friendly
> ally of both free software and the Debian project,
> I vote that we treat the copyright to this list the same way we treat
> patents generally: wait for someone to complain before pulling the
> list.  The situation is analogous; just as we cannot know which patents
> we currently infringe upon, given the volume of patents and the volume
> of code we distribute, so here we cannot know which copyrights we
> infringe upon, due to our disconnection from their original authors.

Similar arguments were made during the KDE-Qt mess.  There weren't any
authors who were threatening anyone.  I'm really not a big fan of
hoping someone doesn't sue.  Debian does that for patents because it
wouldn't be able to function otherwise.  But here we have a clear case
of something being not freely licensed.  I think the only thing that
muddies things up is whether those people have the right to restrict
distribution.  Certainly in the US and Australia they don't, but in
the EU they might.

> At any rate, it seems unlikely to me that anyone will be able to hold us
> responsible for willful infringement given the circumstances surrounding
> any holder's disregard for his/her rights up to this point.

You don't have to assert copyrights in order to keep them.

Walter Landry

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