Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

[P]
Open Documentation? What is Free?

By poet in News
Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 09:42:57 AM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)
Freedom

There is currently a thread on ldp-discuss between several of the LDP members about which licenses should be acceptable within the LDP. Some feel that we should stick to licenses which fall into the FSF definition of "Free". There are others that feel that authors should be able to place commercial printing restrictions on their documents.


An example of a license that falls into the FSF definition is the Open Publication License. This license only qualifies if it is used without options A or B.

Option A states:

To prohibit distribution of substantively modified versions without the explicit permission of the author(s). "Substantive modification" is defined as a change to the semantic content of the document, and excludes mere changes in format or typographical corrections.

Option B states:

To prohibit any publication of this work or derivative works in whole or in part in standard (paper) book form for commercial purposes is prohibited unless prior permission is obtained from the copyright holder.

What do you, the readers, members, and users of the LDP think? Please email thoughts@linuxdoc.org and let us know your thoughts.

Sponsors

Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure

Login

Related Links
o Open Publication License.
o thoughts@l inuxdoc.org
o Also by poet


Display: Sort:
Open Documentation? What is Free? | 23 comments (17 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
Step back and think (4.00 / 2) (#6)
by End on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 09:27:46 AM EST

I say just put it into the public domain. Why in the world do you need to license documentation?? Ego sounds like the only reason to me. It's not like some company's going to swoop down and 'steal' your documentation.

-JD

Re: Step back and think (none / 0) (#7)
by warpeightbot on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 09:43:14 AM EST

Exqueeze me? yeah, there are already folks who have basically taken the entire LDP and made a commercial publication out of it. I think there should be an allowable clause wherein you the original author has the right to control who makes money off your work; in the extreme case, no one, or in the penultimate case, no one but entities like FSF or OSF etc....

[ Parent ]
Re: Step back and think (5.00 / 1) (#8)
by fluffy grue on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 10:39:24 AM EST

Paraquote:
Exqueeze me? yeah, there are already folks who have basically taken the entire GNU/Linux operating system and made a commercial publication out of it. I think there should be an allowable clause wherein you the original author has the right to control who makes money off your work; in the extreme case, no one, or in the penultimate case, no one but entities like FSF or OSF etc....

--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Re: Step back and think (none / 0) (#9)
by Stargazer on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 10:50:27 AM EST

Both the OpenContent License and Option B of the Open Publication License allow you to prohibit this. As fluffy grue keenly points out, this is really bad for GNU/Linux: it means that your contributions can not be included with commercial distributions.

(Yes, I do have something released under the OpenContent License, so I am a hypocrite. I did not realize this potential harm until the last release, though. It will be fixed in the next version.)

One of the main points of the Linux Documentation Project is to make life easier for people. Keeping their documentation off of commercial distributions would do rather the opposite.

-- Stargazer



[ Parent ]

Re: Step back and think (none / 0) (#13)
by DontTreadOnMe on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 11:35:08 AM EST

As fluffy grue keenly points out, this is really bad for GNU/Linux: it means that your contributions can not be included with commercial distributions.

This is very true. My only real problem with the options of the Open Publication License is the confusion which the two options introduce. Both options are reasonable, but do impose significant restrictions which would be better emphesized by having their own, seperate license. As it is, saying "document X has been released under the open publication license" doesn't really tell you if it is free or not, because of the two options which may or may not be included. Saying something has been released under the Free Documentation License, the Free Media License, or the Open Content License does imply very specific conditions, without caveats or confusion.

Of course, having the Open Content License use "OPL" as an abbreviation didn't help with the confusion factor either.


--
http://openflick.org - Fighting Copyright with Free Media
[ Parent ]

Re: Step back and think (3.00 / 1) (#14)
by ImpintheBox on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 01:40:00 PM EST

I recently aquired a Linux book for people who are primarily Windows users and details installing two popular distro's. Half of this 696 page book consists of How-to's. You can take any distro I've used, pop in the cd under Windows and read the same doc's. The remaining half is an excersise in redundancy between the two distro's with whole sections identical except for the names. This might be partially excused in the name of convenience, but I believe the purpose was to publish a 700 page Linux book with 180 pages worth of work. The How-to's are in their entirety so the authors are credited, but I'll wager not compensated. I find this type of for-profit abuse of free material offensive, not to mention a waste of trees. I don't propose any solutions, but I do promise to avoid both the author and the publisher in the future.

[ Parent ]
Think back, and Step! (none / 0) (#16)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 04:26:23 PM EST

Let's try this slightly differently, with a different form of IP(law):
I say just put it into the public domain. Why in the world do you need to license software?? Ego sounds like the only reason to me. It's not like some company's going to swoop down and 'steal' your software.
Or, you can subsitute: art, music, etc...

As pointed out, you're wrong - some 'companies' (read: shyster publishers) have done this. And conceptually, it's all intellectual property.

The problem with this is that documentation for free-commerical distributions needs to be useable by those commerical distributions. And if that software is freely modifiable, and the documentation is not, then you have to either completely re-write the documentation (uggh), or send it out with only a documentation attachment (which would work better as a patch).

Part of the problem is that you'd like to bundle the documentation with the software - people like to get the whole package at once. And people will pay to get their hands on the software, even if it's free. And authors of documentation don't usually have lucrative day-jobs, or people who will pay them to write things given away for free. Because people don't value documentation like they value software.

You don't have to re-write documentation for use within a company. You don't need to have an on-hand author, to quickly bang out some documentation for your users, like you need a production programmer. Documentation a one-time expense.

So authors either want to make money (to pay bills), or they want to insure that other people don't make money from them (they have another job). I don't see a case where many authors are going to come out of the woodwork and allow their writings to be distributed in a way that other people will make money off of it.

We either need a bounty system (Red Hat, etc put up money for documentation), or make the people putting together the software write documentation (have you read some of that??).

Another idea, would be to just accept the fact that documentation is something you have to pay for seperately, or find on the net by yourself.

-- Ender, Duke_of_URL

[ Parent ]

Re: Think back, and Step! (none / 0) (#19)
by End on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 05:55:34 PM EST

Your analogy documentation == {art,music,software} is meaningless because documentation is not sold. Why the heck do I care if some company uses my documentation?? Big deal. Documentation requires no particular writing skill, just a knowledge of what you're writing about. It's just a matter of pounding on your keyboard for awhile. I don't see why I would need a license to protect a howto I wrote, for example. What motivation would a company (or individual) have for "stealing" a howto? And if they did, what's the loss to me? Fame? Fortune? Zilch.

-JD
[ Parent ]

Re: Think back, and Step! (none / 0) (#20)
by bmetzler on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 07:44:38 PM EST

Your analogy documentation == {art,music,software} is meaningless because documentation is not sold.

What do you mean that documentation isn't sold? Documentation is sold. Documentation is what I get when I buy O'reilly books.

-Brent
www.bmetzler.org - it's not just a personal weblog, it's so much more.
[ Parent ]
O'Reilly... (none / 0) (#22)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jul 25, 2000 at 12:23:16 AM EST

Maybe he's trying to argue that HOW-TOs are a different quality of writing than textbooks....

I dunno.

Seems to me rather obvious that people purchase IP in various flavours, but various flavours of IP have different expected outcomes in payment to their originators, with software being the highest average overall payments, music being a crapshoot (90% of all musicians don't become superstars) with *very* high payoffs (in the mulit-millions), and written material a crapshoot with low payoffs (on average) and a few rare cases of pretty good payoffs.

Non-software IP runs into problems with distribution, software usually can find a business that needs it, and will sell itself to that business.

I wonder if he's willing to argue that authors of novels should just publish into the public domain, obviously no company would bother to steal their work...

-- Ender, Duke_of_URL

[ Parent ]
Okay, you're one of those exceptions... (none / 0) (#23)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jul 25, 2000 at 12:53:25 AM EST

> So authors either want to make money (to pay bills),
> or they want to insure that other people don't make
> money from them (they have another job).
   I bet you've got a job writing software, and writing documentation is just something you do on the side - as an adjunct to your paying work.

> authors are going to come out of the woodwork and
> allow their writings to be distributed in a way
> that other people will make money off of it.
   Okay, you're fine with this. Many people would not be. They still have to do something to put food on the table. Journalists who do reviews, novelists, and other wordsmiths would not be able to pay their bills if they gave away their work.
   So, they'll either do other types of work (and not writing up documentation, amongst other things) and write occassionally on the side (probably for their own pleasure - and who would write documentation for fun?) - or we have to figure out another way to pay them.

   And you're wrong, documentation *is* sold. Why can't you just walk away with any book on computer stuff you want? And yes, those authors *do* see money back from that sale. It's not all just dead-tree distribution costs.

   Loss to you is money to pay the bills... but you've already got that covered. You don't rely on your writing skills to put food on the table. Some fame, if you're a good author you can expect to do more work, and get paid more for it. You already have a day-job, so that's not a consideration for you. You're one of the people that doesn't have to license if you don't want to, you can put it into the public domain if you feel like it.

   I think we need to advocate a way to do it that systematically will support things that are worth the value of our labor.

-- Ender, Duke_of_URL

[ Parent ]
The author chooses the license (none / 0) (#10)
by mattc on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 10:58:50 AM EST

I don't see anything unreasonable in either of these options. If a linux distribution (for example) wants to package parts of the LDP in a manual with their box and sell it, they should at least have the decency to ask the author's permission first.

However, you might want to add some sort of reasonable limitations to prevent people from claiming copyright on a single paragraph or one sentence or some other nonsense... like "anything in the LDP under 5k is considered public domain"

clarification (none / 0) (#11)
by mattc on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 11:01:59 AM EST

Replace last paragraph with the following:

However, you might want to add some sort of reasonable limitations to prevent people from claiming copyright on a single paragraph or one sentence or some other nonsense. A good rule might be something like "anything in the LDP under 5k is considered public domain"

[ Parent ]

Authors need to be assured of proper credit (4.00 / 1) (#12)
by DontTreadOnMe on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 11:08:41 AM EST

I think any author deserves to at least be given proper credit for their contribution and the work they have done, and to chose whether or not they wish to retain all commercial rights to their work. This applies no less to authors who document Free Software than it does anyone else. Even if, like me, one isn't interested in retaining exclusive commercial rights to their work, I think "public domain" is not a good answer, as someone could then take the work, put their name on it, and claim they wrote it. I am not a fan of copyright law, or even the concept, as it is currently implimented, but some mechanism does need to be in place to insure that proper credit is given where due.

I am releasing my material (it is not software documentaiton, but rather a work of fiction) under my own Free Media License, which is designed to be a GPL-like license for non-software media (printed works, film, music, etc.) I would rather my work get read and enjoyed as widely as possible, and perhaps contribute some small part to someone elses work. For that reason I am taking a lesson from the free software world, in which projects which do place restrictions on commercial use/reproduction tend to do less well than those without such restrictions (e.g. xv vs. various GPL image viewers/editors such as the Gimp and electic eyes) and releasing it in a GPL style way, without significant commercial restrictions (except the "share and share alike" restriction that the commercial work must remain libre as well). However, that is my choice, and not one which should be imposed upon others (unless they base their work upon mine, in which case, since they've used my material, their derivative work must also remain libre)

Other licenses such as the GNU Free Documentation License, The Open Content License, and the Open Publication License (without the options) meet the criteria of "free" and assure that credit is given where credit is due. I've found that each has its pros and cons, and while none met my personal criteria, they are each fine in their own right. However, I think it would have a very chilling effect on the publication of books and materials supporting open source products, if we start demanding or requiring (either formally, or through some sort of misguided "political correctness") authors to give up their commercial rights to their work.

Far better to facilitate the means for those who wish to create Free Content to do so (which all of these licenses do in one way or another) without coercing anyone into doing so.
--
http://openflick.org - Fighting Copyright with Free Media

Re: Authors need to be assured of proper credit (none / 0) (#17)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 04:45:26 PM EST

http://openflick.org -- the url you provided did not work as i tried it...

[ Parent ]
Re: Authors need to be assured of proper credit (none / 0) (#18)
by DontTreadOnMe on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 05:45:10 PM EST

http://openflick.org -- the url you provided did not work as i tried it...

My bad luck. Our ISP was down all afternoon (everyone in Chicago with a Northpoint DSL circuit through concentric was offline). It is back now ...
--
http://openflick.org - Fighting Copyright with Free Media
[ Parent ]

NO solution.. but.. (none / 0) (#21)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jul 25, 2000 at 12:13:57 AM EST

I think the problem is rather simple. We want people to be able to add to and use the LDP documentation freely, including publishing it in commercial manuals..... We don't want companies pulling a fast one, and simply printing LDP material, and selling it to people simply because those people don't realize they can get it for free. It should be made clear, on the cover, that this includes large amounts (or is totally) material from the LDP, available online at such-and-such location. Simple. THat way, people are not being 'deceived' at all. Certainly, there is good reason to buy the manual!

Open Documentation? What is Free? | 23 comments (17 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
Display: Sort:

kuro5hin.org

[XML]
All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!