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Re: License of binary packages

Ole Streicher <olebole@debian.org> writes:

> I am not sure if this is legally so simple: As far as I understand
> licensing, it is the way to allow others to use the product (sorry for
> unprofessional wording here; I am not at all a specialist in that).

Good enough; I'd just replace the term “use” with something more
precise, like “exercise rights reserved to the copyright holder by

> That means, that as long as we don't allow someone to use a binary
> package, he is neither allowed to copy it, nor to use it in any way.
> We (Debian) must grant him some rights.

It is the copyright holder that, through the grant of license, allows
the recipient to exercise certain rights. The Debian project is not the
copyright holder for the majority of this work, and can only grant
license for work in which the Debian Project holds copyright.

> Currently, I don't see that we do that anywhere. debian/copyright
> refers only to sources, not to binaries.

The binary form of a work is generated entirely mechanically, from the

The governing theory, IIUC, is that a right granted in one form of a
work obtains in that work even when it undergoes wholly-mechanical (i.e.
non-creative) transformations. Suc transoration include mechanical
flipping of all the bits, or mechanical chopping into 100-byte files, or
rendering a source document to a PDF, or compiling source code to

So, a license granted in the source form of a work is also granted in
that exact same work in some other form, where “non-creative mechanical
transformation” is included in “other form of the work”.

This is why we speak of “source form of the work” ad “non-source form”
and “preferred form of the work for making modifications”, etc.; the
concept is that a work remains the same work even when it undergoes a
mechanical non-creative transformation.

> Also, the license of the binary is not (always) an unambigious result
> of the source packages: a BSD only licensed source file may also end
> up in a GPL licensed binary.

Yes, and the license for the combined work is the superset of both
licenses. To exercise an action, it must be done in compliance with both
licenses simultaneously.

> Generally, Debian may add additional restrictions to a binary, as long
> as they are conform to the source license(s) and the DFSG. My personal
> understanding of Debian liberalism is that we don't, but I couldn't
> find a definitive statement for that.

I'd say that the Debian project doesn't impose further restrictions on
anything in which copyright is held by others. We don't have that right.

> So, I think, of we offer binary packages, we must clearly define the
> conditions of this offer Otherwise the offer is not (legally) valid.
> Or am I too naive here?

You seem to be arrogating more to copyright than its power allows.
Unless *I'm* being too naive :-)

 \       “One of the most important things you learn from the internet |
  `\   is that there is no ‘them’ out there. It's just an awful lot of |
_o__)                                            ‘us’.” —Douglas Adams |
Ben Finney

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