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Re: Overview of copyright issues + Debian

From: Anthony W. Youngman
Subject: Re: Overview of copyright issues + Debian
Date: Thu, 10 Sep 2009 16:12:42 +0100
User-agent: Turnpike/6.07-M (<E7X6TtDsPTSov3mv$WZ+2+jHNF>)

In message <address@hidden>, Joseph Wakeling <address@hidden> writes
Now, future policies -- I would suggest new contributions be requested
to follow these rules:

   -- for code, GPLv2 or later or a more liberal compatible license;


Some people are likely to be unhappy with "or later".

The requirement should be "compatible with GPLv2 *AND* GPLv3". But *don't* demand "compatibility with licences yet to be written" ie GPLv3.1, GPLv4 etc. By all means ask for it, but don't demand it.

   -- for docs, GFDLv1.1 or later/GPLv2 or later dual license (or
      more liberal compatible license);

GFDL must be "with no invariant sections". While the FSF may want invariant sections, it's meant for political diatribes. Do we *really* want chunks of documentation that we can't update as lilypond changes? There is NO REASON WHATSOEVER for having invariant sections in what is real documentation, and every reason for NOT having them.

   -- when altering a file that already exists, use the same license
      as for the rest of that file (so if someone contributes a code
      file under a BSD/MIT-esque license, anyone who adds to that file
      uses the same);

Yup. Use the word "should" rather than "must", however - see below.

   -- patches that make a significant alteration to a file should add
      the author's name to the copyright notice

Along with the author's licence - if the "significant alteration" is tantamount to a major rewrite, they might want to change the licence. And if the resulting file is mostly their work, then why shouldn't they?

Or they might add a completely new function that belongs in that file, but is self-contained and worthy of its own licence.

Or if the file is "v2 or v3", the author might want to use the more lax "v2 or later".

Obviously, the licence applied to the patch MUST be fully compatible with the main licence applied to the file. If the "patch author" wants to apply a GPL patch to a BSD-MIT file, that would only be acceptable under the "major rewrite" reasoning because it's actually changing the main licence on the file.

   -- new files should be required to carry a copyright and licensing
      notice when added to the source code.

Yup. Basically, any code more significant than bug-fixes, for which the author can reasonably claim copyright, then copyright should be claimed (or explicitly disclaimed).

Note that if all this goes OK, we should then be OK to unilaterally
upgrade to GPLv3 (if that's desired).

Makes sense.

Does this sound good to everyone?

Pretty much.

Anthony W. Youngman - address@hidden

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