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Re: Updating the OpenContent license

>>>>> "R" == Richard Stallman <rms@gnu.org> writes:

    R> The Open Publication License is a reasonable starting point for
    R> a license, but the last version I saw had a serious (though not
    R> fatal) problem: it has two optional clauses, and if either of
    R> these options is invoked, then the license becomes non-free.

I think David may be on to something here: We have, essentially, two
very distinct licences for two very distinct purposes.  There is no
value in merging them, but there may be value in posturing each for
complementary purposes.

"Free Beer"

    We have the Open Publication Licence which sits now at the Open
    Content website (but should not be confused with the Open Content
    Licence which is a simplified DGPL)

"Shoulders of Giants"

    We have the DGPL and the Open Content licence of which the DGPL
    appears to my non-legal-trained mind as the more thorough and thus
    the more likely to withstand a court case.

I propose we keep the distinction.  There is merit in documents which
can be freely copied (does anyone really want to modify Alice In
Wonderland?) and merit in documentation which can be let to grow and
adapt with changing times and technology (find me a map of Toronto's
_real_ underground city!)

I propose we merge the Open Content licence into the DGPL so it can
cover more than just technical documentation, and I propose we call
our licences the Free Publication Licence (where 'publication' is a
verb) and the GNU Publication Licence (where it is a noun), one of
them abbreviated FPL, the other, for iconic clarity, abbreviated DGPL.
One describes a thing than can be freely distributed, the other
describes a thing that can be freely adapted or/and distributed.

As I have written elsewhere, I'd be most happy if we had a single
source of licences, just for the convenience of avoiding the mess you
see with 1001 licences on Freshmeat, but I'm not really hopeful that
will happen --- the FSF has a certain integrity to maintain and to
fold non-free options into their licences would be a stark departure
from their historical position.

    R> Of course, people who want to use non-free licenses with those
    R> clauses will still be able to do so; we cannot stop them.  But
    R> at least we can avoid suggesting and encouraging the practice.

Context.  We must be mindful of context.  We can suggest to an author
that document A, because it describes a technology in a way which can
and should be extended and ammended over time, should be DGPL to be of
maximum worth to the community (and probably to the author as well)
and we can recommend that document B is so much a work unto itself
that we wish to ensure forever that no one will change a hair of it.

For example, there is no reason on earth why "Open Sources, Open
Minds" (publ by ORA) should be DGPL.  Yes, it can be considered a
technical doc which describes a science of open source philosophy, but
why would I want to edit what the contributing authors say?  Yes, what
many of them say is different than what even they themselves might say
today, but to revise such a work is revisionist: The work reflects the
way they thought at that time and, apart from its subject matter, it
is a work unto itself.  

I would, however, want to see the copyright allow for free
distribution of this document, for example, allowing electronic
duplication on CDROM, or to let me xerox copies of a chapter to give
to a class; after all, without the GPL (&c) work freely given by RMS
and the great masses of other, none of the contributors to this book
would have anything to write about, and what they say deserves max

Similarly, I really see no reason why "Red Hat Unleashed" (publ by
SAMs) should not be DGPL as the main flaw in major tomes like that is
that it has no hope of currency; the subject matter is far more
important than any ego questions and the work would better serve the
community if it was an ongoing community effort.  

That said, though, I do concede that a 'book', a proper book which has
been edited, cross-ref'ed, indexed, typeset, bound and shipped, is not
just a manuscript between soft covers. There is considerable expense
involved in its production, expense which can only be offset by
protecting the royalties through the sales of the packaged product;
GPL software is justified because the software is not the end-product
(some service which the software performs is the revenue generator)
whereas, in publishing, the physical artifact of a book is the

This is where DGPL for something like "Red Hat Unleashed" is too
restrictive and actively prevents good documentation. It amounts to
placing a licence on GCC that says "any programs built with this
compiler must be distributed for free and with full source" --- that
restriction will sound familiar to some of the old-timers reading
this, but even the younsters will recognize that GCC would quickly die
out under that rule.  

Our best analogy, and a weak one, would be if we could DGPL the raw
paragraphs of the original authors' final draft, but be permitted to
slap arbitrary restrictions on the final product (just as we now do
with software written using GCC).

Unfortunatly, written language has no counterpart for a 'compiler', for
some entity which is not the final product but which defines rules and
data to produce the final product.  Or maybe it does, but "natural
language" is already in the public domain ;)

So perhaps this is a direction, history repeating itself and all: What
if we look upon publications under the OPL as analogous to software
under the LGPL, ie "This document may be free, but its products need
not be free" in which case, it is perfectly acceptable to say that my
manuscript is 'free' but the rights to implementing a book from it are
totally entitled to be restricted without tainting the 'free-ness' of
my manuscript.  Correct me if I am wrong, but I think I have just
reframed the OPL (options and all) as a documentation LGPL.

Gary Lawrence Murphy <garym@canada.com>  TeleDynamics Communications Inc
Business Telecom Services : Internet Consulting : http://www.teledyn.com
Linux/GNU Education Group: http://www.egroups.com/group/linux-education/
"Computers are useless.  They can only give you answers."(Pablo Picasso)

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