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Re: Unsure about a License with mandatory attribution clause

Andreas Moog <andreas.moog@warperbbs.de> writes:

> while packaging libml I noticed the following part in a license text:
> (https://github.com/volkszaehler/libsml/blob/master/test/unity/license.txt)
>  The end-user documentation included with the redistribution, if any,
>  must include the following acknowledgment: "This product includes
>  software developed for the Unity Project, by Mike Karlesky, Mark
>  VanderVoord, and Greg Williams and other contributors", in the same
>  place and form as other third-party acknowledgments. Alternately,
>  this acknowledgment may appear in the software itself, in the same
>  form and location as other such third-party acknowledgments.

This is more specific, but IMO not more onerous, than attribution
clauses in the BSD licenses.

So the questions to answer, I think, are: Does this restrict the
recipient's freedoms under DFSG?

* Attribution requirement is, in general, considered DFSG-free.

* The clause only takes effect if there is already “end-user
  documentation”. All Debian packages must be distributed with end-user
  documentation; the ‘debian/copyright’ file is part of that, as you
  point out.

* The attribution states a fact that will, I believe, remain true so
  long as the software continues. (Some licenses, e.g. the FDL, require
  preserving statements of fact that are not always true. So it's good
  to consider this question.)

* The clause also allows for the notice to appear “in the same form and
  location as other such third-party acknowledgements”. So, that
  definitely describes the ‘debian/copyright’ file.

My conclusion is that this is a DFSG-free license, with an
unconventionally specific requirement of attribution.

I would prefer that the copyright holders should choose a conventional
well-understood license, but I don't see that this one causes any
specific problem for Debian recipients.

 \            “Simplicity is prerequisite for reliability.” —Edsger W. |
  `\                                                          Dijkstra |
_o__)                                                                  |
Ben Finney

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