Debian policy on copyright
The recent media debate over a released HD-DVD key, and resulting DMCA take-down
notices, got me thinking about a broad range of questions regarding Debian
policy about "IP rights" in general, and specifically about numbers as
copyrighted "intellectual propery." Any piece of digital "content" is a single
number, so the issues raised by the copyrighted key apply to any other type of
binary data, including images, audio recordings, "ebooks," object code, etc.
Like the banned key, an HD-DVD image is a single copyrighted number. Losslessly
transcoded copies, as reversible mathematical transforms, would probably be
covered by the same copyright. Some lossy transforms may also covered, but an
interesting exception is the HDTV broadcast flag, which applies a lossy
non-reversible tranform, presumably resulting in a public domain copy. It begs
the question, at what level of transform lossiness does the copy lose its
"protection" and become public domain?
I have long questioned whether copyright can be clearly enough defined to be
generally enforceable. To be a useful, it must be very narrowly defined. It was
initially limited by available technology, and the original purpose was to
protect the investments of book publishers, indirectly protecting society's
access to books. Now copyrights have been expanded and interpreted as broadly
as possible, with clearly adverse effects on society's access to information.
In one extreme example, copyright was used to keep popular folk songs out of
Girl Scout song books. The HD_DVD key seems to yet another example of the abuse
of copyright laws.
I wonder how Debian policy is shaped in this area, and how it's applied to the
free/non-free designation of various programs? Is there a democratic way to
determine policy? If Debian lawyers are involved, which country's laws are
followed? Is there any place where these policies are clearly publicly stated?