[darcs-users] Licensing and copyright fun.

Stephen J. Turnbull stephen at xemacs.org
Wed Oct 15 05:57:30 UTC 2008

Trent W. Buck writes:

 > Over at Debian we are not allowed to rely on the faith in the good
 > intentions of upstream.

Of course not.  Like the FSF, Debian takes a very large number of
contributions from unknown third parties, who often as not are legally
naive.  That's very different from a tight-woven community like the
Darcs developers who probably have never once thought about their
right to sue each other, and having read this post, probably never
will again (until some perverted pedant like me mentions it again).

 > > I would say they are implicitly GPL2, for sure, with "or higher" if
 > > and only if that's David's license.
 > What I've seen of David's licensing doesn't even explicitly say GPL 2:
 > it just refers to "the GPL".

Then it is "any version of the GPL ever published" by the FSF.  See
the clause (para 9 in version 2) in the GPL where it defines this.  I
don't have a copy of V1 here, but I'm pretty sure it's in there, too.

 > I consider any work in Debian that is not explicitly licensed to be
 > broken -- either it should be (explicitly) licensed or it should be
 > removed from Debian.  As the Darcs maintainer for Debian, I'm
 > initially focusing on Darcs because I'm responsible for it.  I'm
 > pestering people about explicit licensing because I'd rather not
 > remove Darcs from Debian, which as I see it is the only other
 > long-term solution.

As I mentioned above, Debian (as a software distribution agent) has
very different needs from those of the Darcs community.  Your concerns
about Debian's needs are valid IMO as an interested and somewhat
informed bystander, and (obviously) in the view of debian-legal, which
is what matters to you.

 > I have no problem with [improving the legal protection of Darcs
 > gradually over time].  I do have a problem with dismissing explicit
 > licensing as unnecessary.

"Necessary" for what purpose?  U.S. law does not require it, ie, it is
not necessary to conform to the law.  It may be necessary to minimize
the cost of protecting Darcs developers from frivolous lawsuits, or
the community from loss of access to important stanzas of code, or
legally necessary in other jurisdictions.

My point is simply that the Darcs community may (I think it unlikely,
but it's possible) decide that participating in the Debian
distribution is insufficient reason to pay the price of dealing with
licensing issues after the FSF model.

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