[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[off topic] Re: Licensing issues

Alessandro raises very good points on the freedom of documents, and at
the start I should explain that I consult to a publisher but do not
work for them; I do what I do for Macmillan primarily out of my own
agenda for world domination.  It's my agenda, not theirs, and I am
dragging them, kicking and screaming, to see things my way.

>>>>> "A" == Alessandro Rubini <rubini@prosa.it> writes:

    A> And I, as an author, want to block "proprietarization" of my
    A> free documents and derived ones. The GPL is a viable mean,
    A> although not the perfect license for this task.

This is also the concern of publishers.  If a document is offered for
free, they do not (did not) like finding a competitor snarfing the
document and getting it to press in direct competition --- armed with
a "prior-art" clause!

    A> A free book must be freely reprinted.  It's like the software
    A> issue: we don't want to reinvent or rewrite everything, we want
    A> to be able to build on the existent. 

A very good point, but we need to consider that GPL software is now 15
years mature, whereas OPL documents have not yet seen the printers

It is like those companies (MySQL for example, Sun for another) who
have been giving out free binaries and now toy with the opensource
model, trying not to risk too much in their first baby steps.  I
believe they will find their OPL books will outsell the non-OPL on
principle alone, but the real value to them will not appear until
their books are the product of peer review and revision, exactly as
now happens in software.

Before we get there, publishers must have a model for constructing
modular books (ie XML), a model for distributing incremental updates
(OPL and just-in-time printing) and, the area which is my main
interest, a model for iterative incremental revisions (eg monetary
incentives for revisions); the model of the author-superstar must fall
to the model of the endless-contributors as we see in the Linux
Contrib file.

I humbly offer that the notion of "anyone may modify" is ever so
slightly misunderstood.  If a doc is OPL, a teacher can modify it,
edit it, annotate it, and distribute it freely with very little fear
of reprisal, but they cannot slap a cover on it and ship it to Barnes
and Noble under their brand name.  Let's be honest: The same is true
of all 'official' Linux distributions.

You or I cannot make a contribution to Linux.  It is closed.  Shut
tight.  We are banned from making contributions.  We can modify our
local copy, but only Linus and the inner circle can actually change
the official kernel --- all we mere mortals can do is recommend
changes and offer patches.  This model works very well and is emulated
in most GPL and BSD projects, so let's not fool ourselves into
thinking that the same restriction on a doc is somehow less free.
This is why we have the issue of contacting the original doc

It is also true that we can create a derived Linux, which is what
RedHat and others do when they apply their own patches and ship under
their own brand name, but we cannot change any of those other derived
Linux proucts, we can only derive our own.  Further, OpenLinux, RH,
Turbo and the others are all derived works, but they are often not
compatible with tux.org Linux; not even the mainstream distros can
modify official linux.

The publishers want elements of this: They want to ensure any changes
to their 'official' edition are submitted to them as patches and
recommendations, and my plan for their process is to also let them
commission 'official' incremental revisions.

This is not just a clash of cultures, but a clash of media: Software
is distributed *only* electronically, so there is no issue of the
*physical* edition.  The OPL matches everything you can say about
software; Option B only restricts the tactile artifact called 'book',
and this has no parallel in software.

    A> ... time. If a publisher denies printing for 2 or
    A> 3 years I think it is an acceptable trade off

Only if we use the traditional model of a book as a single ISBN with
an edition number.  It would work today, but if I get my way, it won't
work tomorrow.

I want to see never-ending books, where the next shipment to Barnes
and Noble contains all the latest patches.  The book never goes out of
print; readers always get the very latest edition.  I am, of course,
talking about a complete rewrite of the publishing business model but
it would not be my first tilt at a windmill ;)

If - or rather *when* books are produced on-demand with constant
incremental updates (which is how Sun produces all their docs), the
publisher will need to ensure their ownership of the printed edition
until they wrap their heads around a business model where the quality
of their imprint and their presentation are their distinguishing (and
copyright-able) features, they will need to see themselves as
transport and marketing mechanisms rather than as the content source;
this is how RedHat and Caldera carve their niche --- we are a long,
long way from publishers seeing their world this way.

Keep in mind that I can create an LSL-like RedHat distro, but if I
were to copy the package, CD cover and printed materials wrapping Red
Hat 6.0 and put it on the shelf of a local bookstore, I expect I would
hear from Bob Young's lawyers.

    A> ... The LDP distributes the free document and you print your
    A> extended-enhanced-whatever version as proprietary. 

This is the model being used by Coriolis, and I think it is wrong.
It encourages authors to leave the juicy parts out of the free
edition and save them for the paid gig.  LDP gets to be the poor
relation, waiting on hand-outs, having only what is necessary and is
left unrevised and unmaintained while the publisher's deluxe (ie
correct, current and complete) edition rises to #185 on the Amazon
sales list.  Who wins here?

I see the LDP becoming the library of definitive docs, and I want to
see the publishers fund the LDP because it provides their raw
material; like the RedHats and Calderas, the publishers are simply the
means to get publically-created LDP material into the public hands and
the books themselves are largely self-directing creatures.  

For the near term, though, and I am open to any alternative plans, the
only path I see to that world is to let publishers 'adopt' specific
documents, and the only consession we need grant them is ownership of
the commercial imprints --- a rule which is actually only included to
protect each publisher from their own collegues.

Gary Lawrence Murphy <garym@canada.com>  TeleDynamics Communications Inc
Business Telecom Services : Internet Consulting : http://www.teledyn.com
Linux Writers Workshop Archive: http://www.egroups.com/group/linux-hack/
"You don't play what you know; you play what you hear." -- (Miles Davis)

To UNSUBSCRIBE, email to ldp-discuss-request@lists.debian.org
with a subject of "unsubscribe". Trouble? Contact listmaster@lists.debian.org