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Debian-legal summary of the OPL

Debian-legal has concluded that the OPL (Open Publication License) v1.0
is not a DFSG-free license.

- It requires the original publisher and author to appear on all outer
  surfaces of a paper copy, and defines how they should appear.  This is
  a significant restriction on modification (DFSG §3).

- The person who makes any modifications must be identified.  According
  to the Dissident Test this is an unacceptable restriction on
  modification (DFSG §3).  (See the DFSG FAQ[1] for a description of the
  Dissident Test.)

- A reference to the original, unmodified version must be included in
  any modified versions.  This may not be known or available, and may be
  impossible under certain circumstances (e.g., the document is included
  as help text in a binary).  This is an unacceptable restriction on
  modification (DFSG §3).


As a copyleft license for documents debian-legal suggests the GPL with
the optional addition of explanatory text (text which is not part of the
license) explaining that the author believes the preferred form for
making modifications (i.e., source) to be an electronic version in the
original format.

If the goal is a compromise between allowing paper-only versions and
copyleft, debian-legal suggests using the GPL with an additional
exception to the source distribution requirement for small-scale or
non-commercial distribution.  As always, it's best if the exception can
be dropped at the choice of the recipient, so as to maintain GPL

NOTE: The above is not legal advice.  If you need legal advice you
should contact an attorney.

The latest version of the Open Publication License can be found at:


It is included below in full.

[1] http://people.debian.org/~bap/dfsg-faq.html

Open Publication License
v1.0, 8 June 1999


The Open Publication works may be reproduced and distributed in whole or in
part, in any medium physical or electronic, provided that the terms of this
license are adhered to, and that this license or an incorporation of it by
reference (with any options elected by the author(s) and/or publisher) is
displayed in the reproduction.

Proper form for an incorporation by reference is as follows:

    Copyright (c) <year> by <author's name or designee>. This material may be
    distributed only subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the Open
    Publication License, vX.Y or later (the latest version is presently
    available at http://www.opencontent.org/openpub/).

The reference must be immediately followed with any options elected by the
author(s) and/or publisher of the document (see section VI).

Commercial redistribution of Open Publication-licensed material is permitted.

Any publication in standard (paper) book form shall require the citation of
the original publisher and author. The publisher and author's names shall
appear on all outer surfaces of the book. On all outer surfaces of the book
the original publisher's name shall be as large as the title of the work and
cited as possessive with respect to the title.


The copyright to each Open Publication is owned by its author(s) or designee.


The following license terms apply to all Open Publication works, unless
otherwise explicitly stated in the document.

Mere aggregation of Open Publication works or a portion of an Open Publication
work with other works or programs on the same media shall not cause this
license to apply to those other works. The aggregate work shall contain a
notice specifying the inclusion of the Open Publication material and
appropriate copyright notice.

SEVERABILITY. If any part of this license is found to be unenforceable in any
jurisdiction, the remaining portions of the license remain in force.

NO WARRANTY. Open Publication works are licensed and provided "as is" without
warranty of any kind, express or implied, including, but not limited to, the
implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose or
a warranty of non-infringement.


All modified versions of documents covered by this license, including
translations, anthologies, compilations and partial documents, must meet the
following requirements:

 1. The modified version must be labeled as such.
 2. The person making the modifications must be identified and the
    modifications dated.
 3. Acknowledgement of the original author and publisher if applicable must be
    retained according to normal academic citation practices.
 4. The location of the original unmodified document must be identified.
 5. The original author's (or authors') name(s) may not be used to assert or
    imply endorsement of the resulting document without the original author's
    (or authors') permission.


In addition to the requirements of this license, it is requested from and
strongly recommended of redistributors that:

 1. If you are distributing Open Publication works on hardcopy or CD-ROM, you
    provide email notification to the authors of your intent to redistribute
    at least thirty days before your manuscript or media freeze, to give the
    authors time to provide updated documents. This notification should
    describe modifications, if any, made to the document.
 2. All substantive modifications (including deletions) be either clearly
    marked up in the document or else described in an attachment to the
 3. Finally, while it is not mandatory under this license, it is considered
    good form to offer a free copy of any hardcopy and CD-ROM expression of an
    Open Publication-licensed work to its author(s).


The author(s) and/or publisher of an Open Publication-licensed document may
elect certain options by appending language to the reference to or copy of the
license. These options are considered part of the license instance and must be
included with the license (or its incorporation by reference) in derived

A. To prohibit distribution of substantively modified versions without the
explicit permission of the author(s). "Substantive modification" is defined as
a change to the semantic content of the document, and excludes mere changes in
format or typographical corrections.

To accomplish this, add the phrase `Distribution of substantively modified
versions of this document is prohibited without the explicit permission of the
copyright holder.' to the license reference or copy.

B. To prohibit any publication of this work or derivative works in whole or in
part in standard (paper) book form for commercial purposes is prohibited
unless prior permission is obtained from the copyright holder.

To accomplish this, add the phrase 'Distribution of the work or derivative of
the work in any standard (paper) book form is prohibited unless prior
permission is obtained from the copyright holder.' to the license reference or


Jeremy Hankins <nowan@nowan.org>
PGP fingerprint: 748F 4D16 538E 75D6 8333  9E10 D212 B5ED 37D0 0A03

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