[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

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?

Reply to: