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Re: Has Copyright summarizing outlived its usefulness?

On Wed, 29 Nov 2017 at 23:46:00 -0600, Steve Robbins wrote:
> On Tuesday, November 28, 2017 9:00:10 AM CST Chris Lamb wrote:
> > Hi,
> > 
> > Sorry for the rejection but "Copyright: See individual source files"
> > unfortunatley does not meet the high standards we strive for within Debian.
> [For] a massive multi-author, multi-year work like Boost, there seems very 
> little value in summarizing copyrights.  Boost has nearly 55000 files in the 
> source distribution.  What could one possibly achieve by summarizing this?  
> How would anyone even read and make sense of it?

I've written about this before, for example in
<https://lists.debian.org/debian-devel/2016/08/msg00181.html>, and I'd be
very glad to see an "official" response from the ftp team.

For a large package, gathering the list of copyright holders from
the source into debian/copyright is clearly a lot of work. Is there a
rationale for why we do that work? Is it self-imposed (because there
is believed to be consensus within Debian that we want it), or is it
to comply with the requirements of that particular package's copyright
license, or is it to meet some other legal requirement?

As I said in the past, I am firmly of the opinion that whatever goals we
have for copyright files should be written down, and anything that isn't
necessary to achieve those goals shouldn't be required. If we enforce
some rules because they're the rules, that seems dangerously circular.

Even if the rationale turned out to be "the ftp team have received legal
advice saying that we have to do this, but we cannot publish that advice",
at least that way we'd know. This seems unlikely, though, because legal
entities with considerably more money than Debian (therefore a more
attractive target for lawsuits) are much, much less thorough about this
than we are.

adwaita-icon-theme is a convenient example of a package where following
what are apparently the rules[1] produces what I consider to be an
absurd result (an 88K copyright file naming 200 potential copyright
holders, not all of which are even legal entities but that didn't stop
them from being used in copyright notices, for a not particularly
large package). Doing the same for something actually large like
src:linux, src:perl or src:python3.6 would be worse (Perl's AUTHORS lists
more than 1200 names, Python's ACKS has over 1700), and IMO would make
their copyright files actively *less* useful by burying the most useful
parts under a list of hundreds or thousands of contributors. Whatever
goals the copyright file was meant to achieve, I'm not convinced this
is helping them...


[1] I'll admit that some https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Work-to-rule might
    have been involved in this case