[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: Acceptability of a documentation license for Debian

On Sun, 29 Aug 2021 20:16:57 -0400 Jeffrey H. Johnson wrote:

> Greetings,
> I'm contacting the list to inquire regarding the acceptability
> of the following proposed documentation license, as I'd like to
> ensure that it will become be an impediment to having
> documentation licensed under it added to Debian in the future.

you seem to be drafting (possibly along with other people) a new
license that you propose for documentation.

Even before commenting the details of the license text, I would like to
express my own personal opinion on the operation itself.
My personal recommendation is: please, don't.

License proliferation is harmful, and adding another newly drafted
license to the already excessively long list of existing licenses
should be avoided, unless absolutely necessary.
Writing a good license text, avoiding all the subtle pitfalls that may
cause unexpected results, is a very hard task: even legal experts may
spend a very long time and yet come up with a flawed text.
The use of existing, well-known and well-vetted licenses is highly

Moreover, you are proposing a license specifically designed to be
applied to documentation only.
This is a poor choice, because the boundaries of what is exactly
"documentation" are not so well-defined as one might think.
In my own personal opinion, a good license should applicable to any
kind of software (in the broad sense of the word, see my [essay] on the
topic, for more details).

[essay]: <https://www.inventati.org/frx/essays/softfrdm/whatissoftware.html>

You are searching for a good simple and permissive license that can be
applied to documentation.

My recommendation is: if you are writing documentation for a specific
program or library, use the same license as the program or library
itself. This allows anyone to transfer material back and forth between
the program or library and the documentation without having to ask for
additional permissions (for instance: material from the documentation
may be used to enhance the online help of a program or the comments in
the source code of a library, and vice-versa).
In the case of DPS8M, I seem to understand that the majority of the
code is under the [ICU license], which looks perfectly OK for
documentation as well (and meets the DFSG).

[ICU license]: <https://gitlab.com/dps8m/dps8m/-/blob/505ed98481766ac936cf0b5ff8de04abd7547f08/LICENSE.md#dps8m-simulator

Otherwise, if you are writing general documentation about many
different programs/libraries or about other topics (science, art, ...),
a simple permissive license that I would recommend is the [Expat]
license or the [zlib] license.

[Expat]: <http://www.jclark.com/xml/copying.txt>
[zlib]: <https://www.zlib.net/zlib_license.html>

> Thank you,

Thanks to you for asking for advice!
I hope my reply may be helpful.

 There's not a second to spare! To the laboratory!
..................................................... Francesco Poli .
 GnuPG key fpr == CA01 1147 9CD2 EFDF FB82  3925 3E1C 27E1 1F69 BFFE

Attachment: pgp6iRki3eNyB.pgp
Description: PGP signature

Reply to: