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Re: latex2html license: A Letter to Leeds University

On Sun 4 January 2004 02:55, Roland Stigge wrote:
> since we agreed that the current latex2html license is non-free[1] and I
> moved the package to non-free, the original author (Nikos Drakos) and
> the current maintainer (Ross Moore) signalled willingness to change the
> license. But we possibly need an agreement from Leeds University. I
> prepared a letter, as attached.
> Please tell me your opinions about it. Especially, please report typos
> etc. (I'm no native english speaker.)

FWIW, I'd suggest attaching a verbatim copy of the current latex2html license 
to the letter, rather than including it within the letter.  It makes it 
easier to read.  I'd also suggest including a verbatim copy of the GPL, if 
sending my snail mail.  I've attached a suggested rewrite of the letter with 
the text of the original license removed and with the request for their 
agreement to change licenses moved to the beginning of the letter.



Attachment: leeds-new.dvi
Description: TeX dvi file



\address{Roland Stigge\\
         Debian Developer\\
	 \emph{address placeholder}\\
\backaddress{Roland Stigge, Debian Project}
\signature{Roland Stigge\\
           Debian Developer}

\begin{letter}{University of Leeds\\
               Computer Based Learning Unit\\
               LEEDS, LS2 9JT\\
	       United Kingdom}

\subject{Subject: The license of \LaTeX2HTML}

\opening{Dear Sir or Madam,}

I'm a developer of the Free Software / Open Source project called
Debian GNU/Linux\footnote{See http://www.debian.org/} and personally
maintain the popular package
\LaTeX2HTML\footnote{http://www.latex2html.org/} for it. This conversion tool,
designed to translate from the \LaTeX{} publishing format to HTML, was initially
written in 1993 by Mr Nikos Drakos during his work with the Computer Based Learning Unit at the University of Leeds.

The reason I am writing to you is that there is some uncertainty about the ownership of the copyright that vests in \LaTeX2HTML. Mr Drakos has signalled a willingness to change the licensing terms for \LaTeX2HTML but wonders if he needs your permission or support to do so due to the fact that he was employed by the University at the time of creating the software.  As a precaution, we would like your written agreement to change the license terms for \LaTeX2HTML from its current license to the GNU General Public License (GPL)\footnote{Verbatim copies of these two licenses are enclosed.}.

The current license for \LaTeX2HTML was unquestionably written as a Free Software / Open Source
license, however one aspect of the license causes the Debian project difficulties.  The second clause reads:

o  No fees or compensation are charged for use, copies, or
   access to this software. You may charge a nominal
   distribution fee for the physical act of transferring a
   copy, but you may not charge for the program itself.

This violates our self-imposed ``Debian Free Software Guidelines''
(DFSG\footnote{http://www.de.debian.org/social\_contract\#guidelines}), because
it doesn't allow the software to be sold. Debian is actually one of the least commercial system distributions (not even directly providing physical CDs, DVDs or support
contracts) and is a wholly volunteer project as e.g. Linux itself. However, a common way for users to acquire the Debian system is to purchase it on CD or DVD from an independent vendor.

For this reason, the Debian Project has concluded that the current license does not comply with our Guidelines\footnote{http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2003/debian-legal-200310/msg00383.html and follow-ups} and \LaTeX2HTML has been removed from Debian's main distribution. Changing the license terms would allow the program to return to our main distribution and facilitate the already existing large user base of \LaTeX2HTML.

There are a number of arguments in favour of changing the license:
\item The original author of the package, Mr Drakos, has signalled some willingness to change the license, and only wonders if he needs the support of Leeds University, which was his employer at the time he created it. Ross Moore, the current maintainer of \LaTeX2HTML, also expressed willingness to cooperate.
\item The GPL is a popular license in the area of Free Software / Open Source. In contrast to individual licenses like the current one for
\LaTeX2HTML, it is well known around the world and under constant review by
the user and developer base to prevent legal problems (possibly like the one in
\item As you will see in the current license itself, some parts of \LaTeX2HTML
are already licensed under the protection of the GPL. This probably means that
the whole package should be licensed under the GPL anyway.
\item Debian is not the only project distributing \LaTeX2HTML. Other
distributions of the popular GNU/Linux system like RedHat and SuSE and
different BSD derivates also use \LaTeX2HTML and probably have the same problem.
\item The change would protect the investment of the University of Leeds in the Free
Software community by ensuring further widespread use of \LaTeX2HTML.

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me.  I look forward to your reply. Thanks in advance.



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