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Re: Licenses for DebConf6

On Sat, 12 Nov 2005 10:45:35 +0100 Henning Makholm wrote:

> Scripsit Don Armstrong <don@debian.org>
> > On Sat, 12 Nov 2005, Anthony Towns wrote:
> The conferences I usually publish at always demand an all-out
> copyright _transfer_. However, in practice they will usually accept a
> non-exclusive license to print and distribute unmodified copies.
> I think it would be sad if Debconf required more than that.

Several distros include non-free software, as long as it's
Debian requires more than that in order to let something enter main.
Is this sad?
Quite the opposite, IMHO.

> >> Debian distributes lots of things that aren't DFSG-free -- not only
> >> stuff in non-free, but also stuff on lists.debian.org (like this
> >> thread), stuff on bugs.debian.org, and stuff on planet.debian.org.
> > Those examples are primarily a case of not being able to do better
> > and still function; here I believe we can do better, and therefore
> > should.
> I fully disagree, also with your implied assertion that wanting the
> author to give up more rights than necessary is "better" for the
> purpose of a conference.

I disagree with your calling "licensing in a DFSG-free manner" as
"giving up rights": this seems to imply that releasing DFSG-free works
is something wrong or inappropriate.

I would like to see more authors licensing in a DFSG-free manner because
I want more freedom for the end-users (conference attendees *and* the
rest of the planet: remember that the papers will be published
somewhere, otherwise there's no use in writing them, since the speakers
are going to give a talk on their subject, not to publicly *read* their

Papers are (most often) documentation: I think that, recently, we
lack DFSG-free documentation more than DFSG-free programs.
Hence I want to promote DFSG-free licensing for documentation (and other
non-program works).
Since the Debian project (luckily) rejects non-free works from its main
archive, a DEBian CONFerence (isn't that the meaning of DebConf?) seems
to be the ideal event where to promote DFSG-compliance...

> > It was merely a statement that no one is forcing anyone to license
> > their works in a particular manner, merely that the organizers
> > (which to avoid confusion, doesn't include me) of the conference
> > determine what the minimal set of permisions they need to do their
> > jobs is. [Not that you should take your ball and go home.[1] ;-)]
> You and Fransesco appear to want the conference organizers to require
> _more_ permissions than what they have already decided are the minimal
> set of permissions they need to do their job.

Yes, in order to give enough permissions to the end-users to call the
papers DFSG-free.
If a paper/presentation/handout is interesting enough (I hope every
author thinks his/her is, otherwise he/she would not give a talk at
DebConf!), someone could modify it (in order to update it, improve it,
translate it into another spoken language, ...) and reuse it (to give a
talk in another conference, or to build a useful HOWTO, or whatever...).
This mechanism would enable further spreading of good documentation on
the subjects we care of.

Oh my goodness, I'm explaining code reuse and the strengths of free
software on _two_ Debian mailing lists!   :-|
These considerations should be seen as well known and obvious here...
How could we arrive to the point I have to explicitly state them?  :-(

> And I cannot see any argument that a conference needs more permission
> than the right to distribute verbatim copies of the papers and
> presentations.

I believe to have just presented one of the arguments.

> > I assume that the right thing is having the works licensed under a
> > DFSG free license; granted, we've disagreed on numerous occasions
> > whether that truly is the right thing or not...
> How do you conclude that? The conference papers are not going to be
> part of an operating system that anybody depends on;

As has already been replied: "says who?".
Some papers could become useful documentation packaged for Debian.
Why not?

> nobody will have
> a need to go about changing them.

Again: "says who?".
Many typos and mistakes may be fixed.
Some parts may be improved.
Some parts may be updated, as time goes on.
What is born as a paper, can become (part of) a HOWTO or similar

Certainly this will never happen, if no permission to modify is granted.

> This is a different situation from
> documentation of code that _is_ in the operating system.

You seemingly fail to see that the two sets (conference papers and
documentation in the OS) may overlap.
And that a member of one set may be modified enough (if legal permission
is granted) to become member of the other set.

> Documentation
> has to be kept up to date as the software it documents changes;

What do you think DebConf papers will talk about?
Or rather Debian-related software?

I would say more often the latter than the former...  ;-)

> that
> is important to people and businesses who have let their computing
> needs depend on the software. On the other hand papers at a conference
> just serve to document what happened at the conference, and this will
> never change until time machines are invented.

Papers are generally written *before* the conference takes place, not
*after* (or does DebConf work the other way around?).
How can papers talk about "what happened at the conference"? I would say
this will never be the case, "until time machines are invented".

None of the (few) DebConf5 papers I (have so far found the time to) read
talks about what happened at the conference. They rather document
changes in the Debian infrastructure, present new programs, teach
something, and so forth...

> I don't see how _anyone_ are better served by having an empty slot in
> the conference instead of a paper, simply because the paper is not
> modifiable.

If you see how users are better served by having a non-free package
moved out of main and possibly not distributed at all by the Debian
infrastructure (e.g.: Sun's Java), maybe you can catch the analogy...

> The valid analogy with the way we handle our OS would be to collect
> all papers without DFSG-free licenses in separate sessions at the
> conference, not to kick them out of it completely.

It would be a significant step forward.
At least authors would find themselves asking "I'm in non-free? Why?
Isn't my license OK?" and some of them could be more easily persuaded to
change their mind...

> But I honestly
> cannot see who that would help: The distinction between main and
> non-free in the OS serves to help people make decisions about which
> software to base their systems on, but who would make decisions about
> which presentation to _hear_ based on whether the _paper_ can be
> modified?

I would certainly make decisions about which paper to _read_ based on
whether the _paper_ itself is DFSG-free[1].
I've already done that with DebConf5 (you know, spare time is not very
abundant here and I tend to consider time spent on free works as better

[1] before you call me crazy: not only on that, of course.

    :-(   This Universe is buggy! Where's the Creator's BTS?   ;-)
  Francesco Poli                             GnuPG Key ID = DD6DFCF4
 Key fingerprint = C979 F34B 27CE 5CD8 DC12  31B5 78F4 279B DD6D FCF4

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