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Re: Old manifesto boilerplate licence

On Mon, May 12, 2003 at 12:50:38AM -0700, David Lawyer wrote:
> On Sat, May 10, 2003 at 03:42:42PM +0100, Colin Watson wrote:
> > On Sun, Mar 23, 2003 at 06:28:25PM +0000, Colin Watson wrote:
> > >    1. Send your derivative work (in the most suitable format such as
> > >    sgml) to the LDP (Linux Documentation Project) or the like for
> > >    posting on the Internet.  If not the LDP, then let the LDP know
> > >    where it is available.
> > > The Debian legal guys usually say that requirements for people
> > > making modifications to contact the author or similar are non-free,
> The premise that this license contains such a requirement is false.
> It's only requested (not required) that the author be contacted.

By "author or similar", I was including the requirement to "send your
derivative work ... to the LDP ... or the like for posting on the
Internet". It's a weak requirement, true, but Debian does have users
without Internet access and we've promised not to put that requirement
on them even if they want to change stuff we distribute.

> > > However, clause 2 says that derivative works may be licenced under
> > > the GPL. May I consider this mail as the required notification to
> > > the LDP that Debian will be distributing trivial (i.e. unchanged)
> > > derivative works of all HOWTOs and mini-HOWTOs using this licence
> > > from http://ftp.debian.org/debian/pool/main/d/doc-linux/, and
> > > distribute them all under the terms of the GPL instead? The original
> > > licence will be included in /usr/share/doc/*/copyright, the standard
> > > location for copyright notices in Debian packages, within the
> > > packages provided there.
> > The above and this mail are notice that the Debian doc-linux-html and
> > doc-linux-text packages will adopt this practice as of the next
> > release, since the "send your derivative work to ..." clause is a
> > problem for us 
> Well, if you don't send it to LDP then you must let the LDP know where it
> can be found.

As above, our current version will always be available from
http://ftp.debian.org/debian/pool/main/d/doc-linux/. There will be no
actual modifications to these documents other than the packaging; you
can verify this by looking at the *.diff.gz files.

> > and the option to relicence under the GPL removes that problem.
> But it introduces new problems.  GPL wasn't intended for documents.  Yet I
> would prefer it over GFDL.

I would suggest that anyone who has problems with the GPL for documents
shouldn't use a licence that mentions it, though. :-)

> > I think it's reasonable to assume that authors don't object
> > to this; if they do then I wonder why they're using a licence that
> > says "... or use GPL".  :-)
> Once in GPL, there's no escape to another license, but in this case there
> is a way around this since it's also under the boilerplate license.
> Since anyone who wants to modify it will likely go to LDP for the latest
> copy, they will find it there with the boilerplate license so they will
> thus have more choices.

Yep, no problem there.

> So what you propose doesn't cause any significant harm, but I think
> that going ahead with this is introducing unnecessary complications
> for people creating the Debian packages.

Well, I'm the person creating the Debian packages; I've been told in the
past that I can't keep the licence above in the main distribution, and
since I don't want to move documents to non-free if I can possibly help
it (I've just split out the Debian packages between free and non-free,
and I only had to move under 10% of documents) I'm making the best
effort I can to draw a compromise between that and honouring the

I do realize that it sounds ridiculous and that authors are probably
bored by the legalities; personally I'd rather be programming than
having to worry about this stuff. I like licences such as
http://en.tldp.org/COPYRIGHT.html; it's a nice simple documentation
licence which does a reasonably good job of protecting authors' rights
without causing problems for distributors.

> PS: I mistakenly let my spell checker change "licence" to "license" but
> then found out that "licence" is a valid alternative to "license" so I
> attempted to restore it.

Yeah, I speak British English. :)


Colin Watson                                  [cjwatson@flatline.org.uk]

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