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Re: Licenses for DebConf6

On Sun, 13 Nov 2005 11:28:41 +1000 Anthony Towns wrote:

> On Sat, Nov 12, 2005 at 07:26:55PM +0100, Francesco Poli wrote:
> > 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.
> Uh, licensing in a DFSG-free manner *is* giving up rights.

Of course it is.
Maybe I didn't explain myself clearly enough, my apologies.
What I meant is that using that description is suitable if you want to
depict licening in a DFSG-free manner as something wrong that people
should *avoid*.

It resembles describing charity as "investment with no return".
Well, it's not an inaccurate description (I think), but you would use
such a definition only if you think that charity is a stupid thing to

> We shouldn't
> forget what an enormous act of generosity that is.

Indeed, it really is.
And Debian would not exist without numerous acts of generosity by many
many people around the planet.
Thinking that should remind everyone that giving back to the community
should be considered a good thing to do, everytime it is possible...

> > 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.
> Sure -- and all those things are possible with certain classes of
> non-DFSG-free licenses too.

Possible? Yes, but with non-free constraints and conditions that make
it less likely to happen.
Personally I would not spend time to create a derivative of a GFDL'd or
CC-by-nc-sa'd work. The conditions to be complied with are too
demanding, IMO.

> You might as well have said "If a paper is interesting enough, someone
> might want to include it in Debian" -- in which case I'd have to
> demur; I don't think my debbugs paper should be included in Debian,
> because as interesting as it is, it's stuck in a particular time,
> that, four months after the fact, is already obsolete. As far as good
> documentation goes, updating the inline documentation in the code
> would be much more valuable. OTOH, if someone wants to do that, and
> has an actual use for content from my paper (which seems unlikely to
> me), I'd be happy to bless that work under the debbugs license.

So why didn't you license it in a DFSG-free manner in the first place,
if you are ready to relicense upon request?
Time is precious, you know: many people could be interested to build
upon your paper, but be `scared' away by the license and be too busy (or
shy) to try to persuade you to relicense.
Maybe there are people that did so: you will never know...

One of the strengths of free software is allowing unexpected and
surprising uses and modifications of one's work.
Think for a second about Linux.
Linus Torvalds started it as a little personal project (IIRC, he
initially described it by saying that it would never going to be
something serious...). In that context a non-commercial license (similar
to the old Minix one) could make sense.
Imagine how the history could be different from the one we know, if
Linus had chosen such a restrictive license...
Fortunately he chose the GPLv2.
> As a counter example, debconf5 went pretty well without
> those permissions.

Pretty well from many points of view, but not if you count the number of
DFSG-free works that were produced for the conference... Very few people
chose DFSG-free licenses.

> What activities would you want to undertake that
> have been specifically blocked by the dc5 paper licensing?

I don't know. I haven't even had much time to _read_ the papers.
But, as I explained above: expect the unexpected...

> > 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
> > document.
> > 
> > Certainly this will never happen, if no permission to modify is
> > granted.
> That would be the case if relicensing were impossible, but, well, it
> is.

So your ideal situation is: everyone choses non-free licenses and then
is got in touch with, asked to relicense and, after a long discussion,
re-releases the paper in a DFSG-free manner.
Remember that each author would need a separate (possibly) long

I still think it's much simpler to get DFSG-free papers in the first

> > Huh?
> > 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"? 
> In the same way that astronomers can tell you that an eclipse is going
> to happen on a certain day at a certain time? They're written by the
> author, who's quite able to predict what he or she's going to talk
> about, unless the conference somehow manages to go completely off the
> rails.

You state that papers talk about the same topic that will be presented
at the conference (I agree that this will be the most common case),
which to me seems to be a different thing from saying that papers talk
about "what happened at the conference" (e.g.: the author met a guy who
provided interesting feedback, one member of the public asked a question
because she didn't understand something, there was a blackout just in
the middle of the presentation, ...)

> > 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...
> ...the description of which _happened at the conference_.

That is the distinction: a paper that documents the new behavior of some
part of the Debian infrastructure seems documentation to me, a paper
that tells how the previous speaker delayed the beginning of a talk does

> > 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...
> Do you seriously think there are people who'd want to present at
> debconf who're unfamiliar with the DFSG?
> No, seriously -- don't just respond with some variation of "well, I
> didn't, but now I wonder", ask yourself if you really believe there's
> some cadre of developers who don't know the difference between
> DFSG-free and non-DFSG-free licensing, in spite of all the efforts in
> n-m to indoctrinate folks, in spite of the REJECTions by ftpmaster if
> you get it wrong, in spite of the bug reports users file when that's
> missed, in spite of _everthing_. And if you don't believe that, try to
> imagine why people who do understand the DFSG might not think it's the
> be-all and end-all of licensing thought everywhere, even within
> Debian.

They are probably familiar with the DFSG, but I was surprised to see
that many of them apparently fail to consider compliance with the DFSG
as an important thing even for works that are not (yet) packaged for

    :-(   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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