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Re: mplayer licenses

On Wed, 2003-07-23 at 20:21, A Mennucc1 wrote:
> hi
> this is a call for help
> we have done quite a lot of work on mplayer, to check for
> licenses and copyrights 
> would someone please download the source of mplayer 0.90 from 
>  http://tonelli.sns.it/pub/mplayer
> and re-check it, and state if it can go in Debian or not?

I'm please to see what has been done Andrea. I believe the copyright
file can be improved by these completely unofficial suggestions
(suggestions start with *****):

This package was first  debianized by * TeLeNiEkO * telenieko@telenieko.com on
Mon, 26 Feb 2001 12:24:04 +0100.

Original source can be found at: http://www.mplayerHQ.hu/homepage/

Copyrighted by various authors. Licensed under the terms of GNU GPL.
See /usr/share/common-licenses/GPL for details.

***** How is mplayer licensed under the terms of the GPL when I can't
find a licence statement in the original distribution? (perhaps my
grepping was incomplete). I thought it was odd that you didn't list the
mplayer copyright holders in the above paragraph. Maybe the reason is
you couldn't find them.

The only reference to mplayer being licensed under the GPL in the
original sources is that it contains a debian subdirectory containing
the above comment. While I'm aware that mplayer can't be legally
licensed under anything but the GPL (given the way the GPL is
constructed) it would be nice if mplayer actually contained a LICENSE
file or equivalent. mplayer is more than the sum of its parts.

Thankfully I have located such a statement on the website:

MPlayer can be distributed under the GPL v2 license.

Please amend the copyright file to refer to the GNU GPL version 2. And
link to the website licence statement. Hopefully upstream will make this
clearer in a future release.


  * Copyright (C) 1996, MPEG Software Simulation Group. All Rights Reserved.
WAL> [2nd e-mail] OK. I looked again, but I could not find anything
WAL>  from the MSSG reference decoder there. I think it's clean.

AMS> so the copyright is bogus. The Debian patches the above two 
AMS> files to refer to this explanation.

***** These files now refer to a non-existing file:

* (Mennucc1: the copyright was bogus. Read README.Debian.2)

I'd suggest this rewrite:

* (Mennucc1: MPEG Software Simulation Group copyright no longer applies
as the reference decoder was rewritten. Refer
/usr/share/doc/mplayer/copyright for details)


   *  generic "no liability/as is" license,
ARPI> it's from xanim, Mark Podlipec (xanim author) gave the right for us to
ARPI> distribute it under gpl. Gabucino can lookup teh mail if you want

***** Please consider looking up and quoting this mail and patching
xa_gsm.c with a comment that the code is distributed under the GPL. This
info contradicts comments in the file that indicate it is permissively
licensed (with a request to be informed about uses and bugs--it's only a
request so it's DFSG-free).


there is still a (minor) unresolved issue

(sorry if I am incorrect in the below part... I am no good at 'legal')

during the flames in 2002-03 in debian-legal, it was pointed out
that , since mplayer contains many GPL code from other GPL libraries,
with heavy modifications, and since GPL asks that such modifications
be in some ways declared, this shoul be done

***** The above makes you look unprofessional.

Quote the relevant section of the GPL v2:

2. You may modify your copy or copies of the Program or any portion of
it, thus forming a work based on the Program, and copy and distribute
such modifications or work under the terms of Section 1 above, provided
that you also meet all of these conditions:

a) You must cause the modified files to carry prominent notices stating
that you changed the files and the date of any change.

State that many of the files are missing changelogs.


unfortunately, it is not clear HOW this should be done

this issue is e.g. pointed out in 

[1] http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2003/debian-legal-200301/msg00231.html

it may be argued that currently this is probably not properly dealt with

on the other hand, the mplayer docs and source 
usually references  many 

**** many what? the copyright file is incomplete.

and also, at the end of [1], Don Armstrong says 
"Obviously, if -legal feels that's superfluous, so be it."

so , I have just added a statement in README.Debian

***** Your distribution doesn't contain a README.Debian file! (note the

***** Personally I'd be happy to let this slide unless or until a
copyright holder complains. And they almost certainly won't complain so
long as proper credit is maintained in the code (as it appears to have

***** README.Debian (when renamed)

You refer to debian/changelog. The changelog states:

  * uploaded to Debian. The source code was scrutinized for 
  licenses and copyrights. Read debian/changelog for a detailed

The changelog tells one to read the changelog!. Can you also provide the
path to the correct file when installed.

***** Could you rewrite this paragraph in a way that is less disparaging
of your fellow developers:

``I personally want to trust that a piece of code stating "GPL" or
"LGPL" is indeed DFSG complaint; if mantainers were so paranoids as to
NOT trust licenses in source files (and e.g. think that the code may
come from a non-free project but was simply relabelled), then it would
be humanly impossible to add code to Debian at all. And similarly for
tracking any change to any code: this requirement would make it so
hard to actually reuse the code, that it void the spirit of GPL, that
is, "have code, will share, everybody enjoys".''

I believe your point can be expressed in this sentence: "I trust that
code purporting to be the copyright of a particular individual or
organisation and distributed under a particular licence is accurate
unless there is evidence to the contrary."

For example you gathered evidence with respect to the MPEG Software
Simulation Group copyright. The type of licence is irrelevant. I will
trust whatever is written in the comments of code without good reason to
believe otherwise. And so will most developers. If I use GPLed code it
will be because I believe it is licensed under the GPL, not because of
the spirit of the GPL (code has to be licensed under the GPL before one
can invoke the spirit of the GPL).


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