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Re: DEP-5: Clarifying copyright/license requirements (was: Clarifying the mandatory contents of the Debian copyright file.)

Pushing this towards debian-project, which is where the DEP-5 discussion
is supposed to happen.

Peter Miller <pmiller@opensource.org.au> writes:

> http://dep.debian.net/deps/dep5/

>         "Files paragraph (Repeatable)
>         "The declaration of copyright and license for files is done in
>         one or more paragraphs. In the simplest case, a single paragraph
>         can be used which applies to all files and lists all applicable
>         copyrights and licenses."

> It says "all applicable copyrights and licenses".  Note the "and".  To
> me, in a standards context, this means conjunction (logical and) not
> disjunction (logical or).

So it sounds like we need to explicitly say that if there are files
Copyright 2010 and others Copyright 2009, you just write:

    Copyright: 2009, 2010 whoever

and be done with it.  This is one of those things that to me is "obvious,"
but apparently it's not that obvious so we should spell it out.
Furthermore, we should probably also say that if upstream has a general
copyright notice, it's not required to sort through every file and find
every other mention of a copyright holder (but we should be sure that
ftpmaster is okay with that, since on that front I've heard conflicting

Similarly, if the licenses used by upstream on the files allow releasing
under some other license that's covering the work as a whole, we should
probably say that it's okay to just list the license under which
everything is being distributed (although it's probably ideal to document
the separate licenses).

> If there was some other intent, the words don't say it.  Note there are
> *three* potentially ambiguous lists in that definition, they *all* need
> to be disambiguated in the language of DEP-5.

If you have those handy, could you mention where they are?

> Look at it from the other perspective:
> (a) given filename X, what license(s) apply?  Does DEP-5, by conflating
> copyrights and licenses, risk returning too many licenses? inapplicable
> licenses?

The work as a whole is often distributed under some particular license,
with individual files under some other, compatible license.  In that
situation, the most important thing to document is the license of the work
as a whole, since we know that we can deal with everything within that
work under that license and (most importantly) that's the license of the
resulting binaries.

Documenting the separate compatible licenses of individual files is useful
to people who want to separate the work, but is not nearly as important.

> (b) given filename X, what copyright(s) apply?  Does DEP-5, by
> conflating copyrights and licenses, risk returning too many copyrights?
> inapplicable copyrights?

I don't think this is a good way to look at it, honestly.  That's not why
we document copyrights; it's almost never important in copyright law to
get the exact list of copyright statements that apply to a specific file.
Collecting them and collapsing the years is de rigueur.

The main reason why we document the copyright notices is because many
licenses require them.  The secondary reason is that if there are any
legal questions, those are the people who have to be asked.  Neither of
those reasons require treating "Copyright 2009 foo" and "Copyright 2002,
2010 foo" as distinct strings.

> One solution may be to separate it into two paragraphs, one for
> applicable copyrights, and one for applicable licenses.  That is, you
> can have "Files:" && "Copyright:" || "Files:" && "License:", but you
> can't have "Files:" && "Copyright:" && "License:"

I think this is way too much overhead.  I'd rather just clarify the
wording to make it clear that you can do the, to me, obvious thing.

Incidentally, this conversation would be easier to have if you didn't come
across as quite this angry.  No one involved in DEP-5 is trying to
strangle your kittens or torture your dog, I swear!

Russ Allbery (rra@debian.org)               <http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>

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