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Free Standards Group legal policy

I am forming a legal policy mailing list with the short-term goal of
producing a licensing policy for the Free Standards Group which will be
presented to the board of directors for approval.

The initial scope of the licensing policy will be to determine which
license (including warranty disclaimers) should be the default for our
specifications documents.  Active participants in the development of our
specifications are invited to participate on the mailing list:


Note that having a default license will not necessarily mean that other
licenses will be prohibited, perhaps use of non-default licenses will
require some sort of approval.  More than one default license may even
be required, or we may want to allow some flexibility, etc.  We will
need resolve these and other issues on the mailing list.


Here is the outline of the process:

1. Announce formation of policy mailing list (this message)

2. Come up with initial list of goals for license and warranty

3. Formulate proposed policy and distribute publicly to workgroups
   and our legal counsel for comments (1-2 week review period).

4. Review all comments as they come in.

5. Revise and finalize policy proposal and present to board.


The history of why this is happening now:

I think we need to replace the Open Publication License which is being
used by the LSB with a better license.  I have informally proposed that
we adopt the GNU Free Documentation License 1.1 (and possibly version
1.2 when it is finalized).  However, it seems that the issue is
complicated enough to be better handled on a separate mailing list and
that there should be a public comment period so everyone can review and
comment on the policy before it is adopted.

I do not think the OPL is necessarily a bad license. The Filesystem
Hierarchy Standard has not suffered over the last 8 years from having an
even less-restrictive "open document" license than the OPL, but as we
move into the area of certification, I think we need to be more careful
and we should use a better license if one presents itself (and failing
that, we could write our own, but that would take a very long time).

Here are some of the problems with the Open Publication License, all of
which are addressed by the GNU FDL 1.1 (as well as the draft of next
version, FDL 1.2).

  - The OPL licensing terms are not fully separated from the
    documentation about how to apply the license.  Basically, it's a

  - You have to change text in the OPL itself in order to use it, so it
    is not possible to have a canonical version of the license.
    (Incidentally, the original Mozilla Public License had the same

  - Many terms are undefined or unclear in the OPL.  This is bad if
    you're in a courtroom.

  - The OPL has no termination clause.  If someone violates the license,
    they do not immediately lose their rights to continue distributing,
    modifying, etc.

  - The OPL is vague about how modified versions are to be made and also
    has absolutely no requirement that licensees provide "transparent"
    (machine-readable, modifiable, and typesetable) versions.

    Under the OPL, if we publish SGML or another source format, someone
    could take the source, create a derivative work, publish a book and
    their source would never have to see the light of day.

  - The OPL does not require that mass-printings (more than 100 copies)
    include source code or even make source available somewhere.  CD-ROM
    in the back of the book, anyone?

  - The OPL does not include provisions for having invariant sections,
    required words on the cover or back of the book, a history section,
    and some other useful options found in the FDL.

  - The OPL is not sufficiently specific about how citations and credit
    are to be given.

  - The OPL only uses the term "author" (we are working around this by
    adding an additional clause), it should at least also use the term
    "copyright holder".

  - The OPL does not require that modified works bear the copyright of
    the modifying agent.  With the OPL, someone could leave off their
    copyright statement which implies complete ownership by the Free
    Standards Group.  Copyright is technically implicit under the Berne
    Convention, but how would someone know that upon reading a modified

  - The OPL does not cover how translations are to be made.

  - The OPL does not require deletion of any endorsements.

  - The OPL does not require that acknowledgements and dedications
    be retained in modified versions.

  - The way you specify and use the optional clauses in the OPL is
    rather clumsy.

The FDL addresses the above problems.

- Dan

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