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Re: documentation licenses

On Tue, Oct 16, 2001 at 10:29:27AM -0400, Clint Adams wrote:
> On the other hand, if the various restrictions on modification
> and printed copies in the GFDL can be considered DFSG-free,
> then what about such restrictions in the OPL?

The OPL can be used as a free documentation license.  However, if you
exercise any of the license options, it becomes non-free, because it
prevents modifying and/or publishing the documentation.

> Would it be possible for a document to be licensed "freely" yet
> prevent commercial printed copies to go into main under current
> or future guidelines?

Under the DFSG, it is clear that it must be possible to distribute printed
copies of the documentation.  I would suggest to keep this requirement.
It is important that documentation can be printed and published in book
form, just like it is must allowed to put them on CD and distribute them.
However, of course there might be requirements, like accompanying the book
with the source code and the license of the book.  I think the GFDL is a
good compromise, because it tries to fit the need of the publishers, the
authors and the users equally.
> If there are to be separate standards for documentation, how
> would such documentation qualify, and how can the potential
> slippery slope be avoided?

I suggest not to start thinking about this from scratch.  Other people have
already spent a lot of work into identifying the needs for a free
documentation license, for example the FSF.  A list of good licenses can be
found at:


Instead of listing requirements, we could also just make a list of good
licenses, and add to this list new licenses after review.  Considering that
the field of free documentation licenses is comparatively young, it seems
wise to me to wait until good criteria have actually emerged, before
defining good base criteria (considering how much time we had with free
software licenses before the DFSG emerged).

A good list to start with, from the above link:

   The GNU Free Documentation License.
   The FreeBSD Documentation License
   The Apple's Common Documentation License, Version 1.0
   Open Publication License, Version 1.0. (without any LICENSE OPTIONS active)

I think that taking a constructive approach, allowing all DFSG free software
licenses and the above documentation licenses, and letting this evolve over
time, is much better than spending a month in a discussion about fundamental
criteria and then letting this important issue die, as it has happened many times
before.  However, if we were to define a document similar to the DFSG, then
I think that just adopting most of the DFSG would be the most
straightforward approach.

Of course, we need to review the existing documentation in main, and
probably exclude documentation if it slipped through in the past because
nobody cared.


`Rhubarb is no Egyptian god.' Debian http://www.debian.org brinkmd@debian.org
Marcus Brinkmann              GNU    http://www.gnu.org    marcus@gnu.org

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