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The copyright of a keyboard mapping and its implementation


there are two available layouts for French Dvorak keyboards. One of
them, which is the cause of my concern, was written by Francis Leboutte,
and was originally distributed as a (non-free) Windows driver.

I started then to make another implementation of the same mapping, for
X11. It soon turned out that the mapping forces to use dead keys, which
sucks, so I used a variant that removes this need. Several people asked
me of a French Dvorak layout, so I started to distribute it under the
X11 license, and it finally ended up in the official X.org tarballs.

Later, Francis Leboutte started to license the *layout* (not only the
Windows driver) under a clearly non-free license (CC-NC-ND), and asked
X.org to remove the driver, arguing that the X11-licensed version is
illegal, being a derivative work of his layout. The X.org guys finally
agreed to distribute the original variant instead, with the following
licensing header:
// Licence  : X11 (the layout itself is released under CC-NC-ND licence)

It is my opinion that, in European law, the copyright on a keyboard
mapping does not affect that of its implementation, because, among other
things, of the interoperability exception – in the same way a function
prototype is not subject to copyright while the function itself is.
Francis Leboutte believes the opposite and claims that drivers
implementing a derivative layout are illegal. I don’t think this
disagreement will resolve, since it could only happen in a court, and we
both have better things to do than suing each other for a keyboard

However, the Francis Leboutte mapping is now included in Debian. This
means we should settle on this issue: if we consider it non-free, we
must remove this layout (and all derivatives) from the distribution; if
we don’t, there’s no barrier against including some variants. I’d tend
to say we should opt for the conservative approach and remove them;
despite the fact that I like the mapping, we shouldn’t include software
with such an unclear copyright status.

Thoughts anyone?

 .''`.      Debian 5.0 "Lenny" has been released!
: :' :
`. `'   Last night, Darth Vader came down from planet Vulcan and told
  `-    me that if you don't install Lenny, he'd melt your brain.

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