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Re: Copyright Question

mike_skaggs@agilent.com wrote:
> I have a copyright question for you.  To the extent my company wants
> to use the Debian Linux O/S as an embedded O/S in a device, can you
> please advise what copyright notice I should cite to?  I understand I
> must include the GPL language but after reading your policy manual, I
> am unclear if I must cite to a Debian copyright for the version we
> may use.

Debian is not solely under the GPL, and does not have only one copyright
holder.  Debian consists of a large set of packages from various
sources, with individual copyright holders and licenses.  I'm not
entirely sure what you mean by "what copyright notice I should cite to".
 I assume that you are attempting to ensure that your product is
distributed in compliance with the various Free Software licenses that
cover Debian.

(Please note that I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.  The
authoritative source for this information would be the actual licenses
for the packages you include.)

Assuming you use only packages from the Debian distribution (in "main"),
all of the licenses on those packages satisfy the Debian Free Software
Guidelines (if they don't, that's a release-critical bug), which greatly
limits the types of conditions they may impose.  If you post the list of
packages you are using to debian-legal, along with which ones are
modified and which ones are used by software written by you, we may be
able to supply more detailed information about the conditions of the
licenses on those packages.  The primary ones you may need to work with are:

* Preserving copyright notices and licenses

Any requirements to preserve the copyright notice and license for a
particular package are already satisfied by the Debian binary package,
as long as the file /usr/share/doc/[package-name]/copyright is included.
 You also need to include the files in /usr/share/common-licenses from
the package "base-files", which are referenced by many of these
copyright files.

Note that since you are creating an embedded system, the size of all
these files may be an issue.  I believe you could legally supply them
separately as long as they are supplied in the same distribution; can
anyone else on debian-legal confirm that?  Also note that many of these
files are identical amonst several binary packages; I don't think you'd
need to supply the duplicates.

* Requirements to supply the source for the packages you use.

Every Debian binary package has a corresponding source package (which
may be the source for several binary packages).  Not all Debian packages
require that you distribute source for the binaries you distribute, but
many do.  The easiest solution is to distribute the source packages for
all the binary packages you include; if you want to be more selective in
what you include, you will need to check the licenses on the individual
packages you are using.

You can either distribute the source packages along with the binaries
(such as by putting them on a CD included with the product), or you can
distribute an offer to supply source.  If you choose the latter option,
the offer needs to be good for at least 3 years, and needs to allow
anyone with a copy of the offer to order the source (on a "medium
customarily used for software interchange", such as a CD) for no more
than the costs of distribution.

Note also that while supplying the source on your website and pointing
users to that does not actually satisfy the requirement, it does satisfy
almost all users, such that very few will actually exercise the offer
for physical media, saving you time and effort.

* Requirements on modifications you make

If you distribute your own software that is a derivative work of a
copylefted program, such as if you distribute a program linked to a
GPLed library, or make any modifications to a GPLed work, you must
supply the full source (including both the original work and your
modifications).  The above possibilities for distributing source apply
here as well.

Other licenses may place requirements on derivative works as well;
again, we'd need to know more details about which packages your software
is based on to supply more information.

I hope that helps you with your project.  Thank you for contacting
debian-legal, and for taking the time and consideration to comply with
Free Software licenses.

- Josh Triplett

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