[EMBOSS] Files included in EMBOSS but licensed ...

Adam Sjøgren asjo at koldfront.dk
Fri Jul 29 20:35:13 UTC 2011

On Fri, 29 Jul 2011 09:39:46 +0100, Peter wrote:

> It might make things clearer if someone from Debian could explain:

(I am not from Debian, but here is my take on it anyway:)

> (a) why a Creative Commons licence is an issue for you

One of the fundamental software freedoms is the freedom to change the

The Debian Free Software Guidelines' definition of free software
includes this freedom².

So the "No Derivatives" variants of the Creative Commons licenses aren't
free by the DFSG definition.

(The GNU Free Documentation License on documents with invariant sections
is considered non-free by DFSG-standards as well, even if the invariant
sections are things that nobody would want to change.)

When a project of volunteers packages 29000+ thousand packages, I think
making a judgement call on whether it is okay that the license of a
couple of files does not live up to the guidelines is neigh impossible.

The answer to "Why would you want to?" is, because you might need to.

It is more obvious with programs and code than it is with database
entries, granted - but I guess the equivalent problem would be that the
licensor didn't want to fix a problem in such a database, and that
problem made the programs using it malfunction. It would be a pain if
you weren't allowed to fix the problem and distribute the fixed data
yourself, say, if "upstream" didn't want to include the fix for some
reason or another; maybe they happened to turn sour on the world/you -
stranger things have happened.

I don't think that will happen in this specific case, but making
judgement calls on what organisations/people will do in the future isn't
quite firm ground.

So, nobody is probably ever going to exercise that freedom in this
specific case, I think, but ignoring some of the freedoms in special
cases is infeasible for a project such as Debian.

This is just me trying to explain how I understand it, so take it with a
grain of salt, and swing by debian-legal³ for the experts.

> (b) why you appear to consider a copy of a whole or part of a public
> biological database as part of an "operating system"

They are part of a package which is included in the Debian GNU/Linux
free operating system.

(I personally think it would make sense to change to a Creative Commons
license that allows derivative works - Uniprot and others are going to
be the canonical source for the data anyway, so nothing will be lost by
them by doing that, as far as I can see.)

  Best regards,


¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_software#Definition
² http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debian_Free_Software_Guidelines
³ http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/

 "Good car to drive after a war"                              Adam Sjøgren
                                                         asjo at koldfront.dk

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