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Re: Updating the OpenContent license

David Lawyer wrote:

> Since Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation has drafted a
> "GNU Free Documentation License" I suggest that the Open Publication
> License (OPL) be merged with it. 

I think that this is an extremely bad idea.  Having more licenses,
particularly those like the OPL and the new FSF licenses, is a good
thing.  Having only one license doesn't do much for an author's "freedom
of choice", really, particularly when you're talking about removing the
aspects of the OPL that make it so attractive in many situations.

> The OPL lets the author choose an option in the license regarding
> modification.  One case is where one may freely modify the publication
> without needing to contact the original author (or current maintainer).
> Another option (which I don't like) is to allow modification only if
> the original author consents.  Suppose the original author can't be
> located, is non-responsive, or is not cooperative in permitting needed
> modifications.  I think that for free publications, anyone should
> ultimately have the right to modify them.

I, as an author, would very much like to be able to choose whether
others are allowed to modify my released documents or not.  I would also
like to be able to choose who has and hasn't print publication rights. 
Granted, restricting print publication rights is a very serious
restriction.  Documents licensed under such restrictions are not
appropriate for the Open Source Writers Group project (you can read our
Licensing Policy at http://www.oswg.org/docs/about.html).  As an author,
however, I would very much like to have that choice.  More importantly,
the ability to restrict modifications is very important to me.  If I
release a paper or essay, for example, I would like to control who makes
modifications and what modifications are made.  

Technical documentation is a different story.  I agree that Open Content
technical documentation should, whereever possible, be released under a
license that allows for free distribution, modification, and
publication.  But technical documentation is only one catagory of the
documents that could possibly be covered by the Open Publication
License.  The OPL is, in my opinion, an excellent foundation for a more
generally usable license.  

It also has to be accepted that not everyone is going to release their
documents under a license that is acceptable to everyone.  That's just
part of the game.  We cannot _force_ authors to release their docs under
a certain license (or at all, for that matter), so why would we work to
eliminate valid licensing options in an effort to create a single
license?  It's simply non-sensical, and completely goes against the
whole idea of "freedom" in terms of allowing an author's freedom of

- deb 

(deb@oswg.org, editor@oswg.org)

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