[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Motivations; proposed alternative license (was Re: LaTeX Public Project License, Version 1.3 (DRAFT))

On Thu, 2002-07-04 at 16:08, C.M. Connelly wrote:
> The LaTeX Project Public License
> =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-


> We, the LaTeX3 Project, believe that the conditions below give you
> the freedom to make and distribute modified versions of The Program
> that conform with whatever technical specifications you wish while
> maintaining the availability, integrity, and reliability of
> The Program.  If you do not see how to achieve your goal while
> meeting these conditions, then read the document `modguide.tex'
> in the base LaTeX distribution for suggestions.

I tracked down a current revision of this file.  There is a long
discussion there that provides insight into the reasons behind the
LPPL.  (A version is available at

My one-line summary of the document would be:

   We hate forking.

The first thing that becomes clear is their desire that LaTeX be as
static and predictable as Microsoft Word over layout issues.  Even the
hooks they do provide for changing LaTeX's behavior makes them nervous:

> Some of the allowed configurations can result in a system that can produce
> documents that are no longer `formatting compatible'; for example, the
> use of different default fonts will most likely produce different line
> and page breaks.  If you do produce a system that is configured in
> such a way that it is not `formatting compatible' then you should
> consider carefully the needs of users who need to create portable
> documents.  A good way to provide for their needs is to make
> available, in addition, a standard form of \LaTeX{} without any
> `formatting incompatible' customisations.

And as for adding new hooks:

> Therefore you should not misuse the configuration files or other
> parts of the distribution to produce non-standard versions of
> \LaTeX{}.

A horror story is even provided; a poor article writer goes through hell
because his 8-page article formats to 9 pages on the publisher's forked
LaTeX, one page over the limit.  In that story, they claim that the
"distribution policy" is at fault, not the publisher (for installing a
hacked LaTeX), the author (for not syncing with the publisher ahead of
time), or both (for not having the good sense to avoid blowing a small
problem out of proportion).  This "fact" is assumed to be true; the
authors of LaTeX seem to feel responsible for providing a perfect world
to every user of their software.

It would seem that they have two major concerns in their licensing:

 - They do not want to be held responsible for a hacked-up version of
LaTeX, or to have LaTeX's reputation damaged because of such hacks.

 - They want LaTeX to be a standard such that people can be confident
that their LaTeX documents will be usable on a wide basis.

Both goals can be met as easily with a truly free license.  Of course,
they should consider their other goals, but something like the following
should work:

1.  You are allowed to redistribute the Program exactly as you received
it, with or without fee, subject to the following conditions:

<insert disclaimer of warranty, other non-controversial stuff>

2.  In addition, you are allowed to modify the Program for your own use
subject to the following conditions:

  a.  All modified files must clearly identify themselves as
non-standard files, both in the text of the file itself and in
appropriate diagnostic output.

  b.  The modified Program must clearly identify itself as having been
modified in whatever diagnostic output it provides generally.

  c.  Documentation describing the changes to the Program, and their
effect on the standard behavior of the unmodified Program, must be made
available to the users of the modified Program.

  d.  All existing copyright notices, disclaimers of warranty, and other
legal statements within the Program must be preserved intact, subject
only to formatting or character set translation.

3.  In addition, you are allowed to distribute your modifications to the
Program created in accordance with section 2, with or without fee,
subject to the restrictions in section 1 and the following additional

  a.  All modifications must be distributed separately from the Program
itself.  The original Program and your modifications may be distributed
in aggregate so long as the original Program, as you received it, is
clearly identified.

  b.  All modifications must be accompanied with clear documentation
describing exactly what modifications have been made, and their effects
on the standard behavior of the Program.

4.  Actions other than distribution or modification of this Program are
not covered by this license, and are allowed.  In particular, use of
this Program is not restricted.

5.  As a special exception, the conditions of 3a and 3b can be waived
when the following conditions are met in addition to the other
conditions in sections 1 and 2:

  a.  The name of the original Program must be removed from the modified
Program in all places except for copyright notices and historical

  b.  The modified Program must not represent itself as being a copy of
the official Program.

6.  Note that third parties must still satisfy part 2 of this license
when combining the Program with modifications they receive from others,
as this constitutes a modification for the purposes of section 2. 
Documentation distributed that satisfies condition 3b shall be construed
to also satisfy condition 2c for the purposes of this license when it is
made available under the conditions set forth in 2c.

This approximately satisfies their need for standards and makes it much
more difficult to pass a fork off as the original, while still allowing
the basic freedoms of free software.  Moreover, it removes much of the
overhead inherent in the LPPL with things like filename poisoning and
the whole "Current Maintainer" business.

I wouldn't use the license above as is; it probably should be firmed up
a bit.  There may be conditions that should be added or removed; in
particular, I would expect some debate on clauses 3a and 5. Clause 2d
has the potential of making the license self-contradictory as well, so
that should be cleaned up if it's preserved.  Nevertheless, it should
work as a starting point for a license that would address the concerns
of all parties involved.

PostScript (pun intended): I am told that the LaTeX people are listening
to this "discussion", but have yet to hear anything from anyone other
than C.M. Connelly, who initiated the conversation in debian-legal.  It
would be interesting to hear their reactions to any of this analysis.

To UNSUBSCRIBE, email to debian-legal-request@lists.debian.org
with a subject of "unsubscribe". Trouble? Contact listmaster@lists.debian.org

Reply to: