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Re: Acknowledgment clause in GPL code?

On Thu, 21 Dec 2006 11:53:25 -0600 Jordi Gutierrez Hermoso wrote:

> The readme.txt file states
>      This program is released under the GNU General Public License.
>      It may be modified and/or redistributed under the terms of said
>      license.  The creator is not responsible for damages occuring
>      because of this program.  IT MAY NOT BE REPRODUCED OR MODIFIED
> so what does that mean?

It's not easy to say.
It could be interpreted in various ways: as a GPL permission notice with
a summarized explanation for lay persons, for instance, or otherwise as
a contradictory license grant (GPL + additional restrictions).

For a discussion on the effects of adding restrictions to GNU GPLv2,
see the following thread:

> If I grab the code myself and modify it for
> Debian, I need to explicitly credit myself as an author too?

Well, I think the "AUTHOR" which is talked about is the original author,
not the modification author.
So, no, I don't think you are forced to credit yourself too.

> What does
> "explicit credit" mean, beyond the copyright notice present in the
> source files?

That is hard to say.

> The source files also have a curious format for
> presenting their GPLness, referring the reader to readme.txt instead
> of explicitly stating that they are GPLed (although this can probably
> be modified).

If each file has at least the "copyright" line and a pointer to where
the full notice is found, then it has everything that is really required
for the GNU GPL to apply.
See the instructions on how to apply the GPLv2, after the end of terms
and conditions of the GPLv2 very text:

|   To do so, attach the following notices to the program.  It is safest
| to attach them to the start of each source file to most effectively
| convey the exclusion of warranty; and each file should have at least
| the "copyright" line and a pointer to where the full notice is
| found.

> It also does not specify a GPL version, nor even includes a copy of
> the GPL with itself. As I understand it, this means that I can apply
> any version of the GPL to the code, correct?

Yes, quoting from GPLv2, section 9.:

| If the Program does not specify a version number of this License, you
| may choose any version ever published by the Free Software Foundation.

> I take it this package is suitable for Debian, is it not?

I think that asking clarifications from the upstream author(s) is
strongly recommended, before proceeding any further.

Upstream should clarify whether he/she interprets those added sentences
as explanations/suggestions/guidelines or as additional restrictions
beyond the GPL.
Upstream should ideally be persuaded to adopt a more "conventional"
way to apply the GPL to his/her work (simple recommendations can be
found at the end of the GPLv2 text).

But it is also tradition that times *must* and always
do change, my friend.   -- from _Coming to America_
..................................................... Francesco Poli .
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