Bug#741419: missing license in debian/copyright

Thorsten Alteholz alteholz at debian.org
Mon Mar 17 19:38:23 UTC 2014

On Mon, 17 Mar 2014, Markus Koschany wrote:
> I disagree with your assumptions of the term "public domain". The whole
> reason for granting a work to the public domain is to waive any form of
> copyright. Public domain works can also be freely used in derivative
> works, non-free or free. By creating the jdom2 software such a
> derivative work was created and the jdom2 license rightfully covers this
> new work.

Despite waiving any copyright, nobody but the owner can change the public 
domain status of the work. PD works can be used by others, but nobody has 
the right to change the PD status and apply a license to it. This can be 
done only with derivative work. It is definitely no derivative work if you 
put something together with something else. A derivative work needs to 
have some substantial changes. So all files under PD won't have the jdom2 
license. Thus they must be mentioned seperately in debian/copyright.

> Please also note that the Hamlet text by Shakespeare is not
> copyrightable under German law since Shakespeare died more than 70 years
> ago.

My PD example should only show that the PD status is not as easy as you 
think. I didn't want to apply it to this package. Btw. the file in 
question is not the original work from Shakespeare but the digital version 
or the SGML/XML version in this package made by somebody else.

>    For what it's worth there is no indication that the developers of
> jdom2 are not allowed to incorporate this text under the same license as
> documented in debian/copyright.

They can incorporate the file without question and distribute everything.
Nevertheless the file is still PD and not under the jdom2 license.

> I could only imagine that someone might add a comment to
> debian/copyright with the clarification written above. The severity of
> such a request would either be wishlist or minor.

No, of course not. debian/copyright shall contain all information 
(copyright holder, licenses, any other status) of any file in the source 
tarball. If something is missing, this is definitely a policy violation.

>> The files catalog.xml, catalog.xsl contain:
>>    A simple XML file from Elliotte Rusty Harold's talk at SD 2000 East
>>    http://www.ibiblio.org/xml/slides/sd2000east/xslt/
>> I don't see any evidence that upstream is allowed to change the license
>> of the original work or that upstream created a derivative work. So
>> upstreams license does not apply to these files.
> I cannot find a license that differs from the one upstream uses.

So please show me where you found the license from the original author. If 
you don't find such license, then the author still holds all rights and 
Debian has no permission to distribute the file. In this case please 
remove it from the package. Do you want me to file another severe bug for 

> The
> Debian policy also says that the copyright file "_should_ name the
> original authors". I agree that a mention of Elliotte Rusty Harold would
> be an improvement but I still don't see any reason why this issue should
> be release critical.

In case a file is not distributable due to problems with the license, it 
has to be removed from the archive. Do you really think that has nothing 
todo with the release?

> Upstream just states that their own license is _similar_ to the Apache
> license.

But this is not true. It is similar to an ancient version. 
It is by far not similar to what is nowadays called "Apache license". But 
this is bean counting and has nothing todo with the real problem.

> I can only come to the conclusion that the correct severity of this bug
> report should be either wishlist or minor. There is no policy violation.

Ok, I admit that I am not a writer and my wording might be ambigious 
sometimes. So please tell me what you didn't understand so far. Maybe you 
want to refresh your memory by looking at some articles in the Wikipedia?


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