On Sat, 11 Aug 2001, srl wrote:
> After some discussion on IRC, I've added the Open Publications
> Licence to CVS, and set things up so the Bootstrap Guide is licensed
> under that. It seems clearer to me, and it's still Free by the GNU
> definition so long as we elect out of the options. see
> doc/bootstrap-guide/LICENSE for the details.
After further discussion on IRC, I thought I should weigh in with my
opinion here. I'm sorry if this becomes a treatise. For those with
little patience, I've placed an executive summary at the top.
I like the OPL better than I like the FDL. It is more clearly stated,
shorter, a lot easier to understand, and seems less pedantic about the
specific details of what is and is not allowed. I.e. it seems more
I come at this whole license discussion from three angles, which I
will attempt to correlate with three of the seven deadly sins before
I'm done. As an avid fan of Charles Dickens, himself a staunch
supporter of Copyright Law (of which there was none by his death in
1870), I will talk about GREED, aka COVETOUSNESS. As an author myself,
I will talk about HUBRIS, aka PRIDE. And as an author of a derivative
work, I will talk about either ENVY or SLOTH.
Now, although this is shaping up as a sermon, take heart, I think I'm
going to end up saying that these things are all really good things,
and should be protected by our licenses. And I'll try to squeeze ANGER
and LUST in there somehow if I can.
Please stick with me. I will be making some points.
Charles Dickens wrote a few books. Most literate people have heard of
one or two of them, and many have even read one. I have read almost
all of his books. And believe me, there were a crapload of them.
In 1850something, Dickens came to the United States of America, where
he was treated like a celebrity until he told folks what he was here
about. He was concerned that whenever his books arrived in the USA
with his official publishers, everyone had already read bootleg copies
of his books, from which he made no money. He was an advocate of
Copyright Law because he knew that such a law would ensure that he
would be rediculously wealthy.
Many content licenses protect the ability of the author of the content
to make a living off of the content. This, in turn, encourages authors
to write good stuff. Dickens argued that open content licenses - the
ability to reprint an author's work without 1) his consent, and 2)
without paying him anything, will stifle innovation. (Any of this
sounding familiar?) That is, authors would have no incentive to write
His detractors, by they way, said that anything written purely for
money was crass, and only "ars gratia artis", or art for the sake of
art, was ever going to be really good art. His detractors, not
coincidentally, were independantly wealthy.
The point of all of this is that I think that a content license should
protect the ability of the authors to make money off of that content
if they choose to do so. This may be labelled as GREED, but it is what
enables us to live comfortably, take care of our families, and buy
Both the FDL and the OPL (or OCL) protect this right, as I understand
When I write something, I want it to be appreciated. In fact, when I
write, 90% of the reason for doing so is that I want to do something
that people notice - something that is important, makes an impact, and
helps people learn something useful. This inevitably frustrates my
publishers, who want to get a book printed by the end of the fiscal
A content license should protect my pride, in the following way. It
should be difficult to do two things.
First, it should be difficult for someone else to take my work and
republish it without attributing to me the glory due me. That is, if
they reprint it, and say that they wrote it, then they are dealing a
blow to my pride. This is called plagiarism, and is just bad form.
Secondly, it should be difficult for someone to take my work, screw it
up, and then make me look stupid by releasing the mangled version and
attributing it to me. I embarrass myself quite well enough without
your help, thank you very much.
As I understand them, the FDL and the OPL protect me from this, but in
different ways. The OPL requires that if someone makes changes, they
tell me about those changes, that they clearly state that their
version is modified, and that they clearly indicate where the original
can be found. And, it requires that if they publish it that they let
me know before they do so, in order that I can make sure that what
they are publishing accurately reflects what I wanted to communicate.
This is a Good Thing, and adequately protects my PRIDE. The FDL is
much less clear on this point, and unless someone can explain it to me
otherwise, seems only to say that they are required to state where the
original is, and only required to tell me if they distribute more than
100 copies. And it's not clear to me that this is required, just
recommended. On this point, I think that the OPL clearly has the
Derivative works: (ENVY, SLOTH, perhaps others)
I am the author of Apache Server Unleashed. This is basically a
800-page book in which I took the Apache Server Documentation, and
made it more palatable to the common beginner Apache admin. I did end
up contributing some of this back to the Apache docs, and will
probably do even more of that as I work on my second book, but I'm
not sure of that point adds to, or detracts from, my argument.
The point that I'd like to make here is that the license on the Apache
documentation, which, as nearly as I can tell, is the same as that on
the Apache code itself, permitted me to get away with this. The
license on the Perl documentation, and on the various docs on CPAN
modules, on the other hand, would take a team of lawyers to figure
out. And this is stated in the CPAN docs somewhere.
While I ENVY the Apache authors their technical skills, I was able to
excercise my SLOTH to produce a book based on their work - primarily
the work of Ken Coar, who was gracious enough to be my co-author on
that book - and was able to make a tidy sum of money off of doing so.
A content license should protect the ability of the *unrelated*
author to produce a book based on that material, and to sell it, and
to make money on it, and to not give a nickel back to the original
authors of the document.
While it sounds, initially, that this is directly at odds with my
first point, I don't think that it is, because an author with any
integrity whatsoever will not simply republish that document, or
cut-and-paste large portions of that document into their own work,
since that is plagiarism. An author with any integrity will also feel
obliged to contribute back to the original project, although they
should not be required to do so. They should, however, be require to
contact the original authors and tell them what they are doing.
Perhaps this is at odds with my first point. I'm not entirely sure.
This needs more thought.
However, back to the matter that we are debating. The FDL, it would
seem, almost expressly prohibits this sort of thing, while the OPL
permits it, given that the author of the derivative work notifies the
original authors, and submits any modifications that come out of the
And, of course, the original authors should have the foresight to
publish a book of their own, and beat everyone to the punch.
I believe that the Open Content Licsense, or whatever it is called
these days, more accurately reflects my views on the topic of
documentation licensing, and that the PDL explicitly takes away some
of the things that I think are important, in addition to stating
everything in terms that make my head hurt while trying to understand
them, and wondering why they don't just say what they mean.
And, um, I did not manage to squeeze ANGER and LUST in there. For
which I am deeply remorseful. Which is the appropriate reaction to