[darcs-users] Licensing and copyright fun.

Trent W. Buck trentbuck at gmail.com
Mon Oct 6 00:48:16 UTC 2008

You may have seen my earlier post about the tedium of documenting the
mishmash of copyright and license declarations in the convenience copies
of perl libraries in tests/lib/perl.  I have just had a chat with a
debian-legal fellow, and while that's not official legal advice, I now
feel confident that the assertions below are reliable.

The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119.


The notes below are based on the assumption that "the work" occurs at
the granularity of the file level.  I'm not convinced that we can claim
the entire repository is a single "work", which would avoid some (but
not all) of the tedium mentioned below.


If a file has no copyright declaration(s), copyright still applies.
Therefore adding copyright declarations is NOT REQUIRED, but is
RECOMMENDED because it makes it explicit just who owns the work.  This
applies to *ALL* files (that aren't autogenerated), including
documentation, tests and build files.

Because there's no copyright assignment for the darcs project,
individual files are copyright by the people who performed significant
work on them.  ("Significant" is not clearly defined.)

The darcs repository is publicly accessible; this constitutes
"publication".  Thus copyrights are for the year in which the associated
patches were recorded.

It's not hard to rip this information out of the darcs metadata
programmatically, although I don't know how to ignore trivial changes.
Perhaps we can discard patches that change less than, say, ten lines of
the file in question?


If a file has no license declaration, it *is not licensed*.  Therefore
adding license declarations is REQUIRED.  It is *not* sufficient to
simply include a COPYING file in the root directory.  This applies to
*ALL* files (that aren't autogenerated), including documentation, tests
and build files.

It's not clear to me if we can add a license declaration to a file
without checking with the copyright holder.  Are contributions to darcs

- implicitly "GPL2";
- implicitly "GPL2 or higher"; or
- not implicitly licensed?

If the last, we need to contact each contributor and get them to agree
to license their contributions.  Much of this has probably already been
done when kowey et al were getting openssl exception agreements.  I'll
have to go back and look at their message to see if correspondents were
agreeing to "GPL2 & openssl exception" or "GPL2+ & openssl exception".

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