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Re: [off topic] Re: Licensing issues

On Thu, Sep 23, 1999 at 01:05:33AM -0400, Gary Lawrence Murphy wrote:
>     T> The GPL doesn't talk about cost in a dollar sense. Of course
>     T> you can sell those things. The question should be: Should those
>     T> derived works be covered by GPL?
> It's the "2B or not 2B" :)  meaning of course, paragraph 2b of the GPL (1991)

I'll concede that point. It does talk about cost in dollar sense. Ok, so
you can't take a GPL'd document modify it and sell the document.

> True, but the work retains its lineage.  If I modify XBill, it has a different
> face, but the logic is still just the logic.  In words, I can change the logic
> dramatically with the insertion of just a few words, and it still 'works'

I can change the logic too.

> Then visit comp.os.linux.setup.  The demand is huge.  They are screaming
> for new docs.  What modem *do* I use for mgetty?  Don't tell me the XyZel,
> because it has long since ceased to exist.

The LDP is a community project, if no-one steps forward it doesn't get done.
The community are screaming for certain types of software too, screaming alone
doesn't make things happen.

> Publishers meet the demand.  The 185th most popular book in all of Amazon
> last month was a Linux book.  The author made several thousand dollars per
> month basically just doing what the LDP should do: Teach the basics of
> installing and running a Linux machine.

Heh, if publishers met the demand why would there be people screaming in
comp.os.linux.setup? :)

> Exactly.  Now, what if you were being paid to fix it, and someone else
> first filtered out the "I didn't understand" comments.  This is what happens
> with publishers.  We finish a book and no sooner does it get to the bookstores
> when the publisher calls back for a revision.

It wouldn't make any difference. Unless you are paying me enough that I can
give away my full time job I'd be no more inclined to work on it. Time is the
issue, not motivation.

> flash.  Because your howto was a gift, you gave it and then had to hand
> it off because it no longer served any purpose for you but bother.

That isn't the case at all. My HOWTO's *never* served me any purpose beyond
intangible. It's the reality of workload that caused me to hand them off.

> That just renames the same thing.  You gave a gift.  You didn't do it
> for yourself and your clients didn't pay for it.  You paid for it and
> gave it as a gift.  Out of guilt, perhaps, but it is still a gift.
> (thank you)

But you're not understanding .. you seem to think that dollars are the only
form of legitimate reward. It's the whole money culture that is what I find
most distasteful.

> No.  Some software, but not the really good stuff.  GCC for example
> has contributors from every major computer house in the world.  Emacs
> is also a who's who of commercial software engineering.  Linux is
> constantly improved to scratch real itches.  It's noble to think of
> lone hackers in their basements working selflessly for the good of
> mankind, but the reality is the vast majority of good free software
> is written by and for the people who need it for real, tangible and
> bottom-line-dollar reasons.  Even in university research, we used GCC
> to save us the cost of SGI C, and hacked at it to support GL (that was
> before openGL)

Look this is well and god, but it doesn't alter what I said and they
aren't doing it to get exclusive distribution rights. If a company wants
to freely contribute to the LDP, that is fantastic. Noone is stopping
them doing that right now. But you aren't suggesting free contribution,
you're suggesting contribution with a catch.

> Then why are the pre-release books at ORA and MCP so popular?  Is it
> because people want to know a book is good before they buy it, or are
> they like me and distrust books until repeated use of the online version
> tells me it is more economical to just go buy it.  For example, I want

How do you know they are? How does "Joe user" know that an online
version is popular? Have you done any sort of poll to determine to
truth of this? I've stopped the web and ftp logs of our LDP mirror and it's
pretty clear from that what people are consuming online.

The only person I know who does readily consume online books is blind.
There aren't many Linux books published in braille.

> We are solving that :) On of my authors is teaming with a legal
> expert to write a book on open source licences.

heh, it'll be interesting to see how well it sells.

> You see? Even you appeal to the 'official kernel' :)  I will wager that
> the first winmodem module, even if binary, will get wide distribution on
> Linux CDs by all distros.  The itch is too great not to scratch it.

I used it as an example, that's hardly an appeal. Of course the commercial
distributions will include them, they already include non-free software.
That hardly demonstrates anything. Debian won't.

> Would you really even consider printing an entire book?  I don't even
> print entire HowTo's ... I just print the parts I need.  If I gave you
> my Kernel book, would you need the SMP chapter?  What if all you needed
> was the SMP chapter?  What if all you needed was one table in the SMP
> chapter?

I certianly wouldn't consider printing an entire book, that was my point-
online versions of books aren't necessarily all that useful.

It would depend very much on the nature of the book, if it was a technical
reference manual and it were published online in a form that allowed me
to easily locate just the bit I wanted and to print just that bit then I
probably might consider printing just that portion. If the book were
tutorial in nature then I'd probably need whole chapters at least, and
at that point I'd probably not bother either reading or printing it online.

> Then let's see it because ORA, NewRiders, Coriolis and Sams are already
> doing this.

It's never been suggested before. The LDP in the early days did provide
links to commercial publications. If it doesn't now I think it should.

> To repeat, I am not advocating a blanket policy on all docs, just on
> these that are 'donated' by the publishers.  The micro-publishers of
> the SAG &c can still do that.  Also, the licence says you cannot publish
> "without permission" and there are many precidents for such permission.

And I repeat, the total gain for the LDP still has to be greater than the
value of the LDP endorsement for the company/book for it to be worthwile.

> Oh, wouldn't that be something!  Why wouldn't it work? It works for
> Linux CD's

How does it work for CD's ? Most companies producing CD's are more analogous
to a publisher than the LDP. Publishers already exercise the right to pick
and choose which LDP documents they publish. Some add value of their own
by way of additional content. All add some value in terms of presentation
and marketing.

This is nothing like a guild of software authors deciding which CDROM
manufacturer will distribute their software.

In any case, I feel like a lone voice in this discussion.

Complacency is the problem.

The community doesn't appear to value or appreciate free documentation, that
removes most of the incentive to produce it.

I say go for it, whatever it is that any of you want to do. Linux thrives
and grows because people do things, that's how it's always been.


terry@albert.animats.net, terry@linux.org.au

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