Non-EU? (Was Re: Aspell-en license Once again.)
So how about that non-EU section?
Having looked into copyright law, I find that there are two primary
theories of copyright:
1. It is a 'natural right', a property right lasting forever, and
national laws merely shorten copyright and remove it from certain
things. This is the view taken traditionally in many
Continental European countries. Under this legal tradition,
corporations cannot hold initial copyright; it is always held by one or
more individuals and assigned to corporations.
2. It is not a natural right. It is a government-granted monopoly, and
as such is subject to severe restrictions. This is the view taken
traditionally in the UK, and the view embedded permanently in the United
States Constitution (despite whatever garbage rulings certain corrupt,
corporate-owned courts might come up with). See the plaintiffs'
arguments in Golan v. Ashcroft. Under this legal tradition,
incidentally, corporations *can* hold initial copyright to works 'made
Contrary to common perception, there is no such thing as an
'international copyright'. All that international copyright treaties do
is the following: if you have copyright in a work first published or
written in one country, you receive the same treatment in every country
as if you had written and published it there.
In particular, if your work is not copyrightable in a particular country,
you gain no extra rights there. If copyright lasts five years in a
particular country, you only get five years copyright protection there.
There's no such thing as a "Berne copyright".
If your work is not copyrightable in its country of origin, you can
generally obtain copyright in a country where it is copyrightable simply
by publishing it there, although many countries have registration
requirements for such circumstances (often left over from earlier
versions of their copyright laws and forgotten about).
Under US law, word lists and phone books are not copyrightable (given a
few days I could probably find the court case). US government documents
are not copyrightable. Copyright cannot be restored to works which have
lost it for any reason (despite the unconstitutional passage of the
None of these are true under continental European law; European
government documents are often copyrighted and under restrictive
licenses; there's the infamous Database Directive, but it just
reinforces existing Continental law.
The Internet has of course led to a nasty set of jurisdictional debates.
However, despite the attempt of the French government to claim that
anything on the Internet is subject to French jurisdiction, and a
similar claim made by California, these theories of 'universal
jurisdiction' simply aren't going to fly; enough judges understand the
jurisdictional issues to strike down such claims.
Copyright law isn't going to synchronize to the European mold, despite
the best efforts of corporate Hollywood, because they'll never get a
constitutional amendment passed. And it's very unlikely to synchronize
to the US mold because the current trend among people who pay lobbyists
is in the other direction.
Accordingly, the correct way to distribute as much free stuff as
possible is to have servers located in different countries distributing
things which are free there.
I think there's a very good case for starting a 'non-EU' section. Word
lists are unequivocally uncopyrightable in the US, no matter where they
originated (they could be lifted straight out of a dictionary by a
European), and Debian should distribute them. In continental Europe,
word lists are often copyrightable and therefore the status of the word
lists is unclear.
The differing lengths of patents is another issue. If the LZW patent
is (next year) void in the US and valid in Germany, we certainly want to
distribute code implementing LZW, but not from German servers.
The copyright to "Peter Pan" is immortal in the UK by act of Parliament.
"Peter Pan" is in the public domain in the United States, and has been
for many years. If I want to add the text of Peter Pan as a Debian package,
it needs a 'non-UK' division.
So in conclusion, a non-EU section is an extremely good idea, for
safety; there's a lot of stuff which is inherently public domain in the
US but not necessarily in Europe. :-(