Re: FreeBSD Use Case for Short Identifiers

Max Mehl

Hi Warner,

~ Warner Losh [2021-04-02 19:03 +0200]:
The policy seems really similar to the REUSE standard [1] for licensing
notices, which combines the SPDX license list with a convention for
where and how to put these notices in the source tree. Given that your
draft policy has many of the same objectives as REUSE, you might want to
consider adopting the REUSE standard fully, as it would allow you to use
existing tools to check and add these notices. It also allows you to
generate SPDX documents automatically, if that is something you are
interested in.
Thanks @Sebastian for bringing up REUSE! Indeed, I concur that it's a
worthy goal for FreeBSD. It reminds me a bit of KDE's story. The project
also adopted REUSE in their policies, and made larger parts of the
codebase REUSE compliant already. They also wrote a tool to convert
traditional copyright notices to SPDX license identifiers
(licensedigger). The interview with Andreas may provide a good overview:

I did have one question about REUSE.

At one point it says:

"To implement this method, each plain text file that can contain comments
MUST contain comments at the top of the file (comment header) that declare
that file’s Copyright and Licensing Information."

and a little later:

"The SPDX-License-Identifier tag MUST be followed by a valid SPDX License
Expression describing the licensing of the file (example:
SPDX-License-Identifier: GPL-3.0-or-later OR Apache-2.0). If separate
sections of the file are licensed differently, a different
SPDX-License-Identifier tag MUST be included for each section."

These seem to contradict a little since you need to associate the copyright
with the license, I'd think. Not sure how big a deal it is, but it was
confusing to me.
Do you refer to the different sections? Indeed, we're are currently
working on improving and standardising the declaration of differently
licensed/copyrighted parts (snippets). For this, I've started a PR for
the SPDX spec to define the tags and syntax that REUSE can pick up:

At the moment, we have ~25k of the ~95k files in our tree with SPDX tags.
It will be quite some time before we get everything marked. In the
meantime, we'd hoped to use the short form to nip in the bud the number of
variants that pop up as people cut and paste and then tweak things.
Copyright notices, however, are much better represented. We have ~6k
Makefiles w/o marking, and maybe a few thousand more that are mostly (but
not entirely) tests or other files that don't go into the build or whose
format cannot tolerate comments. Part of this effort, long term, is to
clean all that up, but it can't have it gating the other stuff.
Totally understandable. You may be interested in tools that help you
with the conversion, e.g. the aforementioned licensedigger. IIRC the
Linux project also came up with some conversion scripts to distinguish
their different notice headers (GPL version, only/or-later,


Max Mehl - Programme Manager - Free Software Foundation Europe
Contact and information: | @mxmehl
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