Summary of My DebConf 15 Keynote

by Bradley M. Kuhn on August 17, 2015

In my keynote I outlined the advantages of copyright aggregation for community-oriented projects like Debian. Not only does copyright aggregation assure that a well-equipped organization can enforce copyleft licenses, but also the organization can handle future relicensing requests and cooperate with other Free Software communities who need license exceptions. Holding copyright is a privilege, but it is also a burden, since copyright gives the copyright holder excessive power. In the Free Software community, we mitigate that power by choosing a Free Software license (as I explained in the essay that I cowrote with RMS in 2001). But copyright grants yet another power — which ultimately becomes an obligation. The copyright holder must, on behalf of users, ensure compliance with copyleft so that the users' software freedom is always respected. Conservancy can now help Debian with that arduous task.

In my keynote, I announced an exciting new project that Debian is undertaking with Conservancy, called the Debian Copyright Aggregation Project to address these issues. Debian contributors who choose to can assign their copyrights to Conservancy so that we may shoulder this burden on behalf of the Debian community.

For those Debian contributors who find copyright assignment too heavy-weight or otherwise problematic for their principles, Conservancy's enforcement agreement process, already in use by Conservancy's Samba, BusyBox, and GPL Compliance Project for Linux Developers, allows Debian copyright holders to delegate a revocable license enforcement authority to Conservancy. Furthermore, both these rights delegation programs are purely voluntary and optional for all Debian copyright holders.

I and my colleagues at Conservancy look forward to providing Debian to ongoing access to Conservancy's Free Software licensing and enforcement expertise. Conservancy is available to handle questions and concerns from the Debian community. For efficiency and streamlined access to this service, Debian community members who have such questions should channel them through the DPL, who will manage the communication path with Conservancy staff on these matters.

Finally, and slightly off topic but quite important, I thank the Debian community for their years of excellent work. Conservancy uses Debian heavily for its own daily work, and all Conservancy's staff are delighted to provide these services to Debian.

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