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License problems in teTeX: a release blocker?

Hi release team, hi James,

I wanted to inform you about license problems with teTeX, and ask for
your input.  This bug might become a release blocker for etch, or not.

teTeX is a compilation of individual works with individual licenses, and
at the moment the licenses of the individual parts are not listed in
debian/copyright, or anywhere else.

Here are the facts:

Good news:

  We have finally set up an infrastructure that allows to keep track of
  license information of individual CTAN packages and even individual
  files, and create a proper debian/copyright file.

Bad news:

- Before this bug can be resolved, one needs to go through each
  individual package and check its license and the list of files
  covered. I have actually started doing that work, it is slowly but
  continuously progressing, but we have still *a*lot* of work to do.

- In the small part I have already checked, I have found a considerable
  number of files with unclear licenses (in other words, probably
  intended to be free but not properly indicated) and some that are
  actually non-free.

- I expect that in the remaining part, things will be similar.  In other
  words, I expect non-free or unclearly licensed files in teTeX, which
  makes this bug release-critical.

- Even if I continue to work as I do now, I don't know when this will be
  finished.  And since my professional work situation might change in
  the second half of this year, I might even be forced to do less.

There are some more points to consider additionally:

- Debian probably can't release without TeX: even if it could be dropped
  as a dependency, replacing it as a build-dependency would be as hard
  work as resolving that bug.

- TeXlive, which could serve as an alternative, suffers from the same
  problems (and profits from the same work and infrastructure)

- teTeX in sarge has the very same problems.  I don't expect any
  problems with the files added since then, because both CTAN package
  authors and teTeX upstream have been much more license-aware in the
  last years than in the old days.

  This means that "Debian stable" wouldn't get any better by not
  releasing etch because of this bug; but I don't know whether this
  warrants "etch-ignore"

- I actually do not expect that we get any real legal problems.  The
  files in question are and have been distributed so widely and for so
  long that *distributabilty* cannot realistically be denied by anyone.
  The problems are actually "only" questions of DFSG-freeness.

I intend to ask for help on this bug as soon as the scripts used have
been properly documented, be it release-critical for etch or not.  But I
wanted to make you aware of that problem early.

Regards, Frank

P.S. Many thanks, James, for filing that bug, really.  I would never have
imagined the mess teTeX actually is license-wise, and I'm learning a lot
about internal workings of a TeX distribution that way.

Frank Küster
Single Molecule Spectroscopy, Protein Folding @ Inst. f. Biochemie, Univ. Zürich
Debian Developer (teTeX)

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