Post by Ben Finney
My understanding is that the entire operating system is delivered as
packages, and each package declares its copyright information in its
That does raise an interesting question â things like the package long
description are used all over the place, and combined together (e.g., in
the package lists).
Is https://packages.debian.org/stretch/bash a GPL violation, because it
doesn't include the full text of the GPL, a copyright statement, etc.?
In fact, it claims (via tiny license terms link at the bottom) to be
Generally, this is package metadata and has one or multiple entries in the
debian/copyright file per package for the whole debian subdirectory - typically
GPL-2+ or the like. As you've already seen, this file normally is also installed
with other data and can be viewed on the local system after the fact.
I cannot see a violation, other than maybe not parsing information in
debian/copyright and publishing it per-package on websites or whatever else uses
this information. This, however, is not trivial to do (for instance some files
within the directory could be differently-licensed, the format isn't too
While, e.g., GNU programs recommend to include at least the license name
somewhere in the help text, though better even the short license text, there is
no hard guideline to *always* specify the license whenever something is executed
or shown. Such a requirement doesn't exist for a good reason - it would spam the
license all over the place. Even apt-cache would have to list licenses for each
package (for instance in the search command that does list short descriptions).
Thinking of artwork, if some requirement like this was in effect, every piece of
artwork would need to state the license as well, which sounds very ugly. Think
watermarks for visual artwork or spoken text for aural artwork.
As long as the copyright and license information is available and properly
stated, everything's fine.
Translations are made, maintained outside the
package (AFAIK), and then combined together and displayed various places.
As far as I know (but I could be wrong), translations always adopt the original
In practice, we seem to consider use of package descriptions to be fair
use, and ignore the license.
Why would you think so? As stated above, these components *do* have a license
and as they are part of the packaging metadata, which is typically complex
enough to also warrant one, also a copyright.