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Re: Bug#251209: hwb: Upstream does not own the rights to the material

Stephen Stafford wrote:
> It was (and is) my understanding that all material in hwb was submitted to hwb
> for inclusion __under the current hwb license__.  However, because not all the
> contributors are available (in a couple of cases, I believe it's not known who
> the contributors are even) logistically, it's not possible to contact them all 
> If you do not own the rights for something it says nothing about whether you
> have the right to distribute it.  It *does* mean that you can't summarily change
> the license as I understand it.  I'm CCing debian-legal to make sure my
> understanding is correct.

That is correct, and that scenario is common in many
almost-but-not-quite-free software projects.  For example, the main
PovRay team would like to change the license to a Free Software license,
but so many contributors are unavailable now that replacing their code
would be a complete rewrite, so the process is taking a long time.

However, if the main Hardware Book Team and the contributors they can
reach hold a significant portion of the copyrights, it would be worth
relicensing those portions of hwb under a Free Software license.  If
enough of the material was relicensed, Debian could provide separate
packages for hwb and hwb-non-free, and the missing material could be
replaced over time.

> The license for hwb is:
> Copyright The Hardware Book Team 1996-2001.  May be copied and redistributed,
> partially or in whole, as appropriate.
> This is clearly not DFSG free as it doesn't grant the right to modify, but it's
> clearly distributable.


Interesting question to debian-legal for curiosity's sake: could the
right to distribute "partially or in whole" be stretched enough to argue
that modified versions are just various partial distributions of hwb
combined with some additional material?  I'm inclined to think no, but
it might be arguable.

- Josh Triplett

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