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Re: debian/copyright verbosity

(the discussion seems to have some new wrinkles, so including
‘debian-devel’ again)

Neil Williams <codehelp@debian.org> writes:

> On Tue, 14 Apr 2009 09:45:19 +1000
> Ben Finney <ben+debian@benfinney.id.au> wrote:
> > Matthias Julius <lists@julius-net.net> writes:
> > 
> > > In the light of the recent discussion about debian/copyright on -devel
> > > I am wondering how verbose it actually needs to be.  Given the
> > > following files:
> > > or even further to:
> > > 
> > >  Files: *.c
> > >  Copyright: 2006, 2008 Mr. X
> > >  Copyright: 2005 Mr. Y
> > >  License: GPL2+
> Is perfectly fine and very commonly used syntax across Debian main.
> > Neither of these are true statements of the copyright; 
> I cannot see how that is a sustainable position.

Well, to sustain that position, I need only demonstrate whether it's
true or not. That position isn't about whether it's acceptable.

> It is perfectly acceptable to collate copyright statements for files
> under the same licence. Every package does it to one degree or
> another.

Non sequitur. Either it's a true claim about the copyright, or it isn't.
If we want to say that it's acceptable for Debian copyright files to
make untrue claims, that's a different matter.

> > you have *altered* the copyright claim so that it now makes a false
> > claim (e.g., you now state that ‘bar.c’ is “Copyright 2006 Mr. X”,
> > which is contrary to what the original source claims).
> It's not altering copyright at all, the copyright is as-is,

That's not what I said. I'm saying that the *claim* being made is
different from what the original source claims; and, further, that the
claim being made is incompatible with what the original source claims.

> debian/copyright contains the copyright statement and the fact that
> such statements apply to files in the source.

To the extent that the original source's copyright statement is
prserved, you're right.

But that's not what I see going on in the hypothetical collations
presented here: the claim of copyright holders, and of the years of
copyright, is being broadened to a false claim that *all* the listed
holders hold copyright in *all* the listed files through *all* the
listed years. That's not what the original source claimed, and is almost
certainly not true except by blind chance.

> Copyright statements are different to licence statements, there is no
> need to uniquely separate every single copyright statement, there is
> particularly no need to repeat copyright statements to cover all
> possible permutations.

You seem to be advocating a position that, in the interest of brevity,
there should be a loss of the mapping between copyright statements in
‘debian/copyright’ and the scope of those statement made in the original
source. From that assumption, a pertinent question would be why to
bother listing those copyright statements in ‘debian/copyright’ at all.
Is that your position?

> > I don't think it's acceptable to make false copyright claims in the
> > ‘debian/copyright’ file.
> Neither do I, but collating copyright statements is NOT the same thing
> as making a false copyright statement!

I think I am beginning to see why you say that, but I disagree, for the
following reasons.

It seems to me that the ‘debian/copyright’ file, when it says:

    Files: *.c, *.h
    Copyright: 2008 Sam Bar
    Copyright: 2004, 2006 Max Foo
    License: GPL-2+

is saying: “All files in this package matching ‘*.c’ or ‘*.h’ are
copyright 2004 and 2006 by Max Foo and copyright 2008 by Sam Bar”. If
that's not what the original source claims (in the original poster's
example, the original source seemed to have exactly one holder, for
exactly one year, for each file), then I don't see a justification for
claiming that in ‘debian/copyright’.

You seem to be advocating that ‘debian/copyright’ is not, itself, making
any specific copyright claims beyond “some combination of these
holders, these years, and these files, have some set of copyright
associations; but this file isn't going to tell you what those
associations actually are”. If this interpretation is correct, I
certainly can't see how it follows from the existing requirements for
that file. I also can't see how such a claim is useful enough to bother
writing in the file.

I think that side of the argument does have some basis, though, and a GR
on this issue seems like it might be more worthwhile than I previously

 \         “My girlfriend has a queen sized bed; I have a court jester |
  `\   sized bed. It's red and green and has bells on it, and the ends |
_o__)                                         curl up.” —Steven Wright |
Ben Finney

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