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- Subject: Licensing issues
- From: Alessandro Rubini <>
- Date: Sat, 18 Sep 1999 17:40:29 +0200
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- Resent-Date: 18 Sep 1999 15:39:43 -0000
- Resent-Message-ID: <y0zLv.A.C0E.-I743@murphy>
> The problem with NOT contacting the author directly is that changing the
> document without the authors permission is often copyright infringement.
That's one reason why we need that all LDP documents are absolutely
free. The documents must allow modifications (with the usual
disclaimers of non-endorsing etc, and maybe with an exception about
non-techinal parts, but this is controversial, as already noted on
this list -- or was it the older one?).
> Although most documents allow modification it is not modification of the
> existing document.
Sorry, I don't understand. What would you modify if not the document?
> This means that we would end up with the MODEM- HOWTO and the
If the author restricts the use of the document name (like the Apache
group, who don't allow derived programs to be calles "Apache" to
protect their brand), you'll simple end up changing the name of the
Protecting the name, however, is not good policy when the owner is a
single author (instead of an organized group like Apache), as the
person in charge is ephemaral, can loose interests or can simply
disappear. Binding the title to a person leads to problems, like
people looking for a new document with the old name and complaining
that there are no updated documents.
> Personally I still think it is stupid that we allow LICENSING of
What do you propose as an alternative?
> The GPL is not a documentation license. People have stated that it
> will work for documentation, this may be true but it is still a
> little backwards..
When documentation is created in electronic form and is subject to
constant modification and updating like technical documentation, there
is little difference, in my opinion, from a program.
And stressing on source code (like the GPL does) is not insane. If I,
as a teacher, extract parts of the NET-HOWTO to print for my students
(removing editing and adding parts as the target is different from the
howto`s), my students should also get source code (the sgpm), to be
able to reprint and reuse in a different way if that's their need.
And I, as an author, want to block "proprietarization" of my free
documents and derived ones. The GPL is a viable mean, although not the
perfect license for this task.
While talking about licensing, I'll comment on Gary's message.
> I had an email from Alessandro this morning. His understanding is that
> a document published under the OPL (esp OPL with the option to reserve
> book printing rights) prevents a document from being included in the
> LDP. Is this true?
I would like that to be true. While reserving exclusive rights to
derive a book is a sensible requirement (because of economic issue we
all are aware of) I think it is bad in the long run.
First of all, it raises the issue of derived documents. Are derived
docuemnts allowed? If not, then the license is Bad (tm). If yes, can I
print a modified document? How much modified?
Another big issue is that publishers may stop printing a book; if they
have the exclusive right to print, then the book is lost (like most
good books that have ever been produced). For example, let's imaging
old Bill buys McGraw-Hill and Prentice-Hall. Will they still print all
their good books about Unix? (I heard rumors about such a buy out, but
I haven't be able to confirm it).
A free book must be freely reprinted. It's like the software issue:
we don't want to reinvent or rewrite everything, we want to be able to
build on the existent. So I think the "not printable as a book" is a
trap for authors that think to work on free documentation.
That said, I think it is acceptable to restrict printing for a limited
period of time. If a publisher denies printing for 2 or 3 years I
think it is an acceptable trade off, blocking competitors of the
publisher without depriving the community from reusing the material
when economic forces have faded away.
> While I can agree with people like Richard Stallman that the very best
> work can only come out of GPL-style restrictions, it is also true that
> some wonderful software is less restrictive. For example, the BSD
> licences and other have no restrictions against arbitrary restrictions
This is a different issue. You deny reprints of the original work; BSD
gives no restrictions on the original but allows adding restrictions.
While I prefer the "restrictive" GPL for my software, BSD is fine with
If you make your KHG free and allow derived documents to be
restricted, it's ok for me. The LDP distributes the free document and
you print your extended-enhanced-whatever version as proprietary.
Authors that work on the free version are not deprived of their work
while authors that work on the publisher's version know that it is not
a free document. No traps for anyone.
Sorry for the excessive lenght...
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