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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 
for hire'.

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. :-(


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