copyright notice, and what else?

J Lovejoy

Hi All,

Sam and I were discussing what to include (in the context of an SPDX document or generally for compliance with OSS used in a product) in terms of copyright notices and other “related” text one may find with a copyright notice.  For example, if you came across the following, would you provide the second line?

# Copyright (C) 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 Free Software Foundation, Inc.

# Written by Gary V. Vaughan, 2004\n",

In terms of the SPDX specification, the relevant parts of two sections on copyright notice (package and file sections) state:

Identify the copyright holders of the package, as well as any dates present. This will be a free form text field extracted from 
package information files. The options to populate this field are limited to:
(i) any text related to a copyright notice, even if not complete; 

If we take that literally, I’d say only the actual copyright holders is required (the first line), but one could interpret “any text related to a copyright notice” to include the second line.

If we are talking about license compliance, then we'd defer to the license. Although even then, we may be take either a thorough or minimal stance.  What I mean is that if the license requires reproducing the copyright notice, then we end up with the same question as above; the second line arguably isn’t part of the copyright notice (strict interpretation), but one may still decide to include it.  In any case, I don’t think including or not including the second line would hurt or help either way. 
If the license does not require the copyright notice explicitly for a binary redistribution (not all do), it still may not change the question.  I’d argue that good practice would be to collect and provide the copyright notice anyway, in which case, we are back to whether or not to also include the second line.  

I’d be curious to hear:
1) what other people think and do in practice
2) consider whether we want to clarify the wording in the specification in any way to be explicitly strict as to what should be included in that field or intentionally leave it to be interpreted with some discretion (for examples such as this).


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