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Re: "License": public-domain

On Wed, 13 Sep 2017, Nico Schlömer wrote:
> I sometimes see in d/copyright
> > Copyright: John Doe
> > License: public-domain
> e.g., [1]. However, these two statements contradict each other: public
> domain means exactly the _absence_ of copyright [2].

The Copyright: field in this case is usually indicating who holds any
residual copyright or author's rights in a jurisdiction which does not
completely support public domain (PD). It also indicates who the
individual was who dedicated the work to the PD.

> Specifically, public domain is _not_ open source [3].

PD works are not necessarily open source in all jurisdictions, but they
can satisfy the DFSG in many.

> Since Debian is usually quite careful when it comes to legal issues,
> I'm wondering what the official view point is here.

The official viewpoint is that the software must meet the requirements
of the DFSG. Generally, a CC0-style PD dedication is viewed as
sufficient for all jurisdictions, and can satisfy the DFSG if source is

Finally, I'm unaware of a case where a jurisdiction has upheld a
copyright claim to a work which has been dedicated to the public domain
everywhere. This is a potential theoretical source of problems, but
there's enough actual problems with copyright and licensing for us to
concentrate our limited time on them instead.

> Should there be a lintian error if the "license" is public domain and
> a copyright holder is specified?


> Should "public-domain" perhaps be prohibited in general?

Definitely not.

Don Armstrong                      https://www.donarmstrong.com

He quite enjoyed the time by himself in the mornings. The day was too
early to have started going really wrong.
  -- Terry Pratchet _Only You Can Save Mankind_ p133

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