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GNU is Not Unix

GPL for Books? 123

teebo writes "I'm am currently creating a large tutorial for Perl to take the place of many books in print on this subject. My goal is to have it be one of "the best" books there is on Perl. To achieve that goal, once it is written it will need constant updating and revision by The Community, perhaps even employing a cvs system. I would like to use some sort of license on it like GPL, but of course I cannot use that as it is for programs. What advice could you friendly smart cool people give me?" A similar question was asked with regards to databases and I mentioned the possibility of an Open Content License. Would such a thing help this issue as well?
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GPL for Books?

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  • by TheDullBlade ( 28998 ) on Sunday January 23, 2000 @02:09AM (#1345763)
    I think this [opencontent.org] is what you're looking for.
  • The Artistic License [opensource.org] might be what you want. As the beginning of the license says:

    "The intent of this document is to state the conditions under which a Package may be copied, such that the Copyright Holder maintains some semblance of artistic control over the development of the package, while giving the users of the package the right to use and distribute the Package in a more-or-less customary fashion, plus the right to make reasonable modifications."


    The open content license mentioned previously also seems useful.

  • by TheDullBlade ( 28998 ) on Sunday January 23, 2000 @02:17AM (#1345765)
    Hit send a little quickly (why can't the preview button and the submit button be on opposite sides of the page, I'm a clumsy clicker).

    Anyway, this looks pretty good to me, but why not release it into the public domain? It's not like some evil corporation can grab chunks of text and hide them away where you can't see it, like when you compile source code into binaries. Sure, they could claim their ownership of their own changes, but what are the odds of that ever mattering?
  • Here [linuxworld.com] is a copy of the Open Content License for IDG Books [idgbooks.com] who are building The Essential Open Book Project [linuxworld.com]. This is aimed at being a community generated "living guide to the planning, installation, and operation of a Linux system". I haven't been following this project for a while, but it does seem to be moving with rough drafts for several chapters and hierarchical structure mapped out for the majority of the book.
  • ..it is not very possible to release a book without Sourcecode. :)
    I've always wondered why all the Linux-HOWTOs and other documentation comes in a much stricter license than GPL-software.
    I figured people like to get credit, but you can't combine full credit with the right of everyone to change the document, because it would be way to easy for someone to change the content, keeping you as author, and making you look like a moron.
    But then I thought about the GPL. If it doesn't require any credit given, why should all the documentation require it? Am I missing something here? Does documentation require far different handling than software?
    Is there really a difference between a book that contains tutorials, and one that contains GPL-code that can be scanned in, and used?
    People seem to think it's obvious you'd need a different license. Why?
  • The Danish Linux book
    ``Linux -- friheden til at vælge''

    (``Linux -- the freedom to choose'') makes use of the
    OpenContent License

    .

    --
  • The link [sslug.dk] disappeared, sorry.
    --
  • The problem I see with public domain is that you give up almost all control. If you distribute under the licesnes you link to then there are requirements made on people who want to copy, modify, and distribute the document. Additionally by attaching this license you are reducing your liability by expressly denying any waranty etc.

    Credit and control of your name are also inheriently good things. If it wasn't for getting credit for Linux, Linus would probably still be freezing in scandinavia, instead of nice and warm in Silicon Valley working for what looks to be a startup with very good prospects. Control of your name keeps someone from draging it through the dirt. Lets say Andy publishes a book detailing how to safely swim with sharks, and the founding principle is that you are in a cage all the time. Now Bill comes along and dosen't agree with this principle, so he deletes all reference to the cage, and also includes a waranty with his book, explictly stating that this book tells you all you need to know to swim with sharks. The waranty allows him to charge a lot more for it. By distributing under this license Bill has to denote that he made changes, so that when Charlie gets eaten his family knows that it is Bill's and not Andy's fault that Charlie got eaten.
    ------------------------------------------------

    Opinions expressed herin are just that. I claim no legal knowledge about these matters. YMMV.

  • I have no idea why, they just do.

    The problems with public domain that forced the creation of the GPL do not exist for natural-language documents.

    To distinguish their licencing from public domain, they have to add more restrictions.

    Sorry, I just can't come up with a better explanation than an irrational hatred of placing anything in the public domain, it seems like they always have to have just a hair more restriction than the public domain allows, so they can step on someone's toes.
  • Placing a work in the public domain does not entitle anyone to edit it and still claim that you are the sole author; in cases where this is undesirable (like someone inserting long racist speeches in the middle of your public domain novel, for example) it's fraud or libel.

    You can (superfluously) disclaim warrantee in a public domain release, too. If someone edits that out, it doesn't make you responsible for it.

    Also, it is pretty generally accepted that by using something in the public domain you accept full responsibility for the consequences of your own action. In selling something, there is an implied warrantee (which can't be disclaimered away in a legally binding manner, regardless), in giving something away there is no such thing. No court would award damages to someone suing the author of a public domain work, unless it was deliberately harmful (in that case, you're screwed and you deserve it, no matter what weaselly licence you've used).
  • by Eythain ( 120617 ) on Sunday January 23, 2000 @03:16AM (#1345775)
    I'm not sure I see the reason for YAL (Yet Another Licence) here. Presuming you use a language like LaTeX or XML or similar, the analogy holds perfectly. The source here *is* source code in every sense of the word, so the GPL would work here in just the same way as it does on any other program. And everything else follows as expected. If this is what you want, then I *really* don't see any reason why you need a different licence... remember that the GPL is the General Public Licence.

    -- Eythain

  • by Carl ( 12719 ) on Sunday January 23, 2000 @03:20AM (#1345776) Homepage
    Richard Stallman is drafting a GNU Free Documentation License as can be read in the Debian Legal mailinglist archive:
    http://www.debia n.org/Lists-Archives/debian-legal-0001/msg00077.ht ml [debian.org].

    You might want to read the whole thread about Updating the OpenContent license which starts at:
    http://www.debia n.org/Lists-Archives/debian-legal-0001/msg00064.ht ml [debian.org].
  • This concept might also be of use for things like online RPG or LARP rules - as better mechanics/concepts come to mind, they can be integrated and included in the whole. Of course, RPG rules tend to branch a little more than software... :)
  • "Theft" of public domain is legaly mearly "conversion" to a commertal product and is perfictly legal.
    This allows a person to basicly take an existing public domain program or text remove all refrences to the original auther and clame it as his own. Having made that clame users of the original public domain version must prove it is public domain and not taken from the comertal version.
    Becouse the auther retains no rights he may not sue as his rights have not been violated.
    If the auther retains rights he may sue a converter. The conversion becomes theft and users rights to the original version are preversed.

    This is just from retainning righst... the GPL dictates what rights you do or do not have.. in short it's "You can give it away.. you can sell it.. you may NOT restrict others from doing the same"
    a book GPL should probably say something similer
  • by Eythain ( 120617 ) on Sunday January 23, 2000 @03:50AM (#1345780)
    Okay, okay, so I'm replying to my own piece.. At least I'm honest about it. Just some new thoughts come to mind while reading the OC licence... I'm not sure I like it.

    It does not give you the right to source. Now, most people could easily forget that this is an issue for document, but it will be difficult to update the information if you don't have access to the source. Ever tried ammending a postscript? Not easy unless you have the filename.tex source.

    It doesn't allow you to sell the OC. This is much stricter than GPL. This is something that takes care of itself through the Market with GPL, but here you get regulation. I won't mind a hardback sold at a profit. Old fashion printing and distribution needs the profit to make sense. Electronic copy& distribution is free, paper mill equivalents aren't.

    -- Eythain

  • by Mateorabi ( 108522 ) on Sunday January 23, 2000 @03:53AM (#1345781) Homepage
    If you like the terms of the GPL and want it to apply to text, just (not to be taken seriously):

    main(){
    /* { Body of text here } */
    }

    And then GPL the sucker :-)
  • This is silly. That would hold if GPL can only be used for C programs. A better suggestion would be:
    // This program is licenced under the GPL. See the included Copying.txt
    \title{MyBook}
    \author{MeMeMe!}
    \begin{document}
    \title
    \toc
    \section{Why this is a source}
    Blah!
    \end{document}

    Compile with latex

    -- Eythain
    P.S To see the source for my comment select "view source" on your browser.

  • to find information on the WWW. Now, its easy to find the basics on any particular topic. But try to find specifics, and be prepared to be frustrated. For instance, nanotech. We all know what it is, but how many of us know how to do it?Who has the technical knowledge to construct the tools you need? Who knows what to do with those tools if you had them? Information like that should be as common as grass. We should all know it. But try to find out such specific information, and you will eventually hit a brick wall. The science community as a whole should model after GNU's example. Think how far we could go if everyone had access to the hows of cutting edge technology? Just because I dont have a Doctorate in science does not mean I could not contribute valuable data/ideas/theories. All I am saying is that since the Open Source Movement is proving itself time and again to be the best way to achieve progress, perhaps we should be thinking about which other "nerd" projects could benefit from its practices. Don't think, "Oh that will never happen." If the GNU people had said that, we would all be forced to use M$. (I like using M$ for some things, and I love having the CHOICE) Think about it. Apply it everywhere you can. Information should be free. Lets all make it happen. One man can dig a hole, but 100,000 men can move a mountain. Open Source your whole world, not just your software. Then you can really make the world a better place.
  • The Open Source Writers Group [oswg.org] has some good information and resources on this topic. They held a BOF as ALS which was very informative.
  • Putting information under the GPL or something GPL-like would be a good thing in my opinion. I would imagine that it would need to be both under this license and in most cases have some authorative source however. Not to restrict it from being modified but to make sure that the modifications are sound. Everybody is free to modify the Linux kernel but the modifications don't necessarily get rolled back into the main kernel (but the GPL forces them to be available for doing so if the modified work is distributed)
    This is a good restriction, it keeps the kernel running fairly well. A similar concept can be used to keep incorrect information from being introduced to the canonical document.

    I'd be willing to contribute to such a document, I'm sure many others are. I might be able to contribute sane information to the GNU Guide to GPL ECAD Software but the information I contribute to the GNU Guide to Kernel Development would be pretty suspect.
  • Part of the problem is that search engines are dumb. They don't really know what you're looking for or the context. For instance I used Google to search for information on Sleep Paralysis. Google did its job well, it retrieved URL's about Sleep Paralysis and ranked them according to how many different sites linked to them. I figured the better texts would have more links, right?

    Well... that isn't exactly what happened. Almost all of the first links returned were about sleep paralysis and alien abduction and posession. A lot more people link to alien abduction information than information on sleep paralysis I guess.

    You can't really fault Google, as I said, it did it's job.

    This happens with other things to, you'll find a lot of references to the say sound under linux, but few references to see who is(are) the expert(s) on it.

    This is where something like Yahoo can work better where human beings categorize things by topic and sub topic etc. ad infinitum. It's not necessarily that the information is there, its just not assembled and categorized.
  • simple example:

    take the Cathedral and the Bazaar [tuxedo.org], do a code fork and replace all the text with the Circus Midget and the Fossilized Dinosaur Turd [bigsky.net].

  • http://www.opencontent.org [opencontent.org]

    The opencontent site can probably provide a good solution for people looking for a GPL-style liscense for written works. I don't know RMS's opinion on it, but it has a well-built site with lots of information.

    I think the GPL is icky when people attempt to apply it to written works; one deals with software and software terminology like "the source to this program," it becomes a messy kludge when people attempt to apply the GPL. Leaves many areas open for interpretation. I wouldn't trust my written works out there without an appropriately-worded license. (that is, if i had any "written works" to begin with ;)


  • By GPL'ing(or an equivalent) the written word, more problems pop up then in the OPen Source world.

    For one, I think it'd be REAL tough to get a publisher to print an Open Content licensed piece. Publishers generally work on volume - that's the nature of their business. If they've got something that can be freely copied and passed out legally, then a publisher probably won't wanna handle it.

    Two, it's a lot harder to team0work on a book. Most source code can be effectiveluy black-bpxed - input goes in, output goes out. What's in between doesn't matter a ton. However, with books, not only is the middle really the meat, but there are thousand of ways to say it. I could rewrite parts of books to be more technical, but if the book is going for a more laid back look, well.....

    Finally, thee's the option not to p[ublish at all. What about distributable CD-ROM's or something? That way, you could straddly the distance between OPen Content and Open Source.
  • OTOH, while IANAL, I believe that the courts have usually held that if something is in the public domain, then the author cannot be held liable for the information contained within (except for libel)


  • As a person starting to learn perl and getting started in scripts, there is one thing that drives me absolutely nuts. There are a lot of places that will point you to scripts. Counter scripts, log scripts, mail scripts, etc. with the source code available.

    Now someone please explain something to me. Why are there 400 different counter scripts? Is this really necessary? From what I can see you have a choice of SSI or non-SSI, a collection of data to log, and the choice of text, graphic numbers, or pure graphics to choose from.
    Navigation tools are worse. Far worse. And trying to figure out the difference between mail scripts makes me physicaly ill.

    As a Perl Newbie, if someone is going to put out an online Perl Manual, please, I'm begging you, include in your site the best 2 or 3 scripts for a certain function and encourage your community to focus on improving them rather than writing their own. There should be an SSI and a non-SSI version of each, simply because many free hosting firms do allow non-SSI scripts. (I know, lame... but if there is a good free hosting firm that allows SSI, I missed it.)

    -----
    Want to reply? Don't know HTML? No problem. [virtualsurreality.com]

  • The economics of book publishing add up to a very small percentage of the total book price going to the "author". So little, that that part of the overall cost of a book (editing, binding, distributing, etc.) is likely to make no difference to a publisher's deciding whether or not to publish. But, exclusivity might play a large role in deciding whether to go ahead and create the "brand name" of the title or author.

    So, how about a license that is free for electronic versions, but exclusive print rights would be auctioned off. Monies could go to various free/open software organizations. Lots of details to be worked out (rights to versioning, in print/out of print) etc.

    So long as the electronic version were available, the major "community" piece would be met. When I go buy books, I don't notice any significant difference in price between public domain works and copyrighted and I don't think we would in technical works either. Why not encourage publication with exclusivity, and skim off that tiny piece of the economic value of a book that ordinarily goes to authorship?

  • by dsplat ( 73054 ) on Sunday January 23, 2000 @05:35AM (#1345795)
    The issue has been cited with the existing Perl man pages that they have grown to an unmanagable size. The problem is that anyone can contribute material to them, but there is a genuine reluctance to cut anything written by another author. They are clearly huge and it is obviously hard for some newbiews to find a starting point. This issue is discussed at the Open Content web site [opencontent.org].

    This problem could be solved by finding individuals willing to act as the editors for particular sections. Make it clear to your contributors that their contributions will be proofread. They may not be accepted, or they may be reworded to make them more concise. Such a move will probably discourage some contributors, but it is probably the necessary balance to maintain a good book over time.

    By the way, the home of the Open Content License is here [opencontent.org].
  • You will kown you have a good book when you get it down to 100 pages.

    You will be idolized as a great author / editor when you get it down to 10 pages.
  • The problems with public domain that forced the creation of the GPL do not exist for natural-language documents.

    This is not true. Consider a person who releases a 100 page book on perl into the public domain. A second person can then add 50 pages to it, creating a new work which he then copyrights. If the original author then buys the book, scans it into the internet, and then releases to the public on her website, she can be sued by the second author!

    Of course, the reason that the GPL can't be used to keep this from happening, I'm not sure of...

    IANAL, blah blah blah

  • We at the Zope documentation project use Open Licenses to publish our docs. Just send ZDP an e-mail and they will reply to you with some ideas. Especially Martjin Faassen researched several different licenses.

    There is also a Open Writers Group (they are about 80 people) which offer to help Open Content License projects to write and review text. Unfortunately I forgot their contacts, but I am sure you can find them on the net.

    Much luck with your project!

    Stephan
  • It seems to me that what you want is a source of information that is dynamic. You state you want to make a book that other people can add to to keep it up-to-date. This is a good idea, but, maybe a "book" (you probably intend for this to be an online document) isn't the right format. It seems that a www site would be a perfect distribution method for the information you want to give away. Simply allow people to submit articles, updates, etc. such as Slashdot or many other news sites allow. You could have people (or yourself) organize the information that is recieved into a digest of sorts for people who are just now finding your site. And you could also have an updates section for people who frequently visit your site. This would also allow you to overview the additions to prevent totally offtopic ideas, or factually incorrect ideas from being included into your "book".
  • i think a written work, if edited by the community, would suffer. there are several aspects of the written word (and a good book, in particular) that numerous people working indepedently won't be able to capture

    • brevity - good books are short and to the point. if people add whatever they choose and redistribute, it might be a bad thing
    • linguistic flow - (maybe there is a better word for this?) everyone writes in a different style. if many different authors scatter snippits throughout the book, it could easily become hard to follow.
    • direction of the content - tutorials and texts generally start at the beginning and follow through material in a specific order. what happens when you start inserting material?

    that's off the top of my head. these three things lead me to believe that it might be best to allow people to redistribute the book without charge, but don't let them redistribute altered copies. you can handle revisions yourself, accept suggestions and comments (in return for being able to duplicate the document freely) and maintain control yourself.

    i don't think this is unreasonable. speaking personally, i am sure i'd rather read a good book by an intelligent author than slop written by a large community.

  • This License applies to any program or other work which contains a notice placed by the copyright holder saying it may be distributed under the terms of this General Public License.

    Seems to me that a book would fall under "other work".

    The source code for a work means the preferred form of the work for making modifications to it.

    Seems to me that the preferred form for making modifications to a book would be a text/word/html version (not a printed copy).

    Of course, we could create a modified GPL (the BPL?) to spell this all out, if it wasn't for the darn copyright on the GPL! (seriously, why isn't the GPL released under the GPL?)

  • That's funny, the crack about how word processor generated HTML is so ugly and crabby that, for purposes of this license, it is to be considered as opaque as a proprietary word processor data format. I presume RMS is referring to that weirdass gibberish, spiced with unportable "smart quotes" and the like, which Microsoft Word extrudes when you tell it to export to HTML. I guess it follows that one can't license the entries in the Obfuscated C contest under GPL, because even if you do get the source you have to go through such contortions to figure out how it works.

    Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Someone has already done what your doing, why don't you help him instead of repeating a lot of work:

    http://www.ebb.org/PickingUpPerl/

    I am surprised this wasn't mentioned before does anyone goto www.perl.com or www.cosource.com?

    Ben.
  • I haven't really looked too, too closely at the various licences mentioned here, but what is to prevent someone from taking an open source text and putting all sorts of garbage and wrong information on it, and then publishing it under the authors name? With source code, it's not that big a deal, since the program will either not compile, or something bad happens to your computer. But with information, it will just be like spreading a rumour. Believable but wrong information. Of coures with more people looking at the text, hopefully most of the mistakes will be caught, but there is no garuntee(sp?).

    Those are my thoughts from trying to think of a licence for a open-source Computer Science web textbook. Haven't written much of it, but the outline is kinda on my website.
  • I'm am (sic) currently creating a large tutorial for Perl to take the place of many books in print on this subject.

    Do you honestly think you can write one book that is better than as you say many?

    I would rather you spend your time and energy updating and improving the existing Perl documentation. For example, go to http://www.perl.com/pub/1999/11/sins.ht ml#8 [perl.com].

  • I could rewrite parts of books to be more technical, but if the book is going for a more laid back look, well.....


    This is interesting... is there a document format that would allow a user to scale the amount of information?

    Someone mentioned the number of Perl scripts used to make hit counters when 1 or 2 would suffice. Will we face "umb-teen billion" (a technical term) different help documents all of which are missing the information you're looking for?

    As a complete newbie to Linux, the thought of that scares me.

    Wiwi
    --
    "I trust in my abilities,
    but I want more then they offer"
  • The drawbacks to the Open Content license that you're pointing out seem to be all of the differences between the OC and the GPL. Think about it - doesn't give you a right to the source? (The GPL does) Doesn't allow you to sell at a profit? (The GPL does)

    Check out the earlier comments about how you could actually use the GPL, particularly if you're going to have some type of document "source" ala LaTeX.

  • Will we face "umb-teen billion" (a technical
    term) different help documents all of which are missing the information you're looking for?


    In a way, this already happens. For instance, right now I got a problem with my Samba browsing stuff. For some reason, I can't get it to show up on my local WINS server. Now, I can find tons and tons of info on how to set up browsing, but zero troubleshooting information. That information just isn't out there, at least that I can find.

    I've run into the same problem with various other things, too. As it is, I'm gonna probably write some docs of my own, just to cover the stuff that I had to figure out how to do.
  • The problem is that anyone can contribute material to them, but there is a genuine reluctance to cut anything written by another author.

    Can you offer a shred of evidence to support that claim? AFAIK, Tom C. doesn't hesitate to apply an editor's perogative to any documentation in the Perl core.

    The Perl manual pages are large because they cover a large topic. People who can read and appreciate manual pages like the Perl documentation just fine. Of course there is room for improvement, but it is hard. Try to rewrite one of the main pages yourself if you doubt that.

    The manual pages are not intended as a tutorial, though some of those are included with the documentation as well.


    Never underestimate the power of wishful thinking to filter what the eyes see and what the ears hear

  • I think the Open Content License [opencontent.org] has been shown to work quite well. Take, for example, Havoc Pennington's GTK+/Gnome Application Development [newriders.com], released from New Riders [newriders.com] earlier this year.

    Havoc has a page online [pair.com] with errata for the book, an online version [gnome.org] is available, and there's even a CVS version [gnome.org] available. That's the power of an open publication license - I think it's great.
    ----
  • How long till someone registers one of these?

    Wiwi
    --
    "I trust in my abilities,
    but I want more then they offer"
  • Junkbusters [junkbusters.com], an organization that helps you get rid of spam, junk mail, telemarketers, and the like, has a sample declaration [junkbusters.com] that you can send to direct marketing associations. It's under the GPL.

    Rights in this Declaration Copying, redistribution, modification and production of derived works of this Declaration are permitted only under the GNU General Public License [junkbusters.com] (GPL). The copyright of the expositional parts of this document is held by Junkbusters Corporation and is used here by permission under the GPL. This Declaration comes with no warranty. If clarification is needed refer first to the Guide to Interpretation of Declarations published by Junkbusters; for copies of that guide see www.junkbusters.com [junkbusters.com]. Copies of the GPL are available there or from the Free Software Foundation, 675 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.

    So, although some posters have said that the GPL is inappropriate for documents, at least one document out there is GPLed. It is a net-based thing, tho'.

  • Well, it is 'necessary', in a sense. The problem is that no matter what language you write in there will almost always be more than one way to do something. This is, after all, traditionally one of the basic tenets of Perl.

    I'm writing a perl script now and, even though it's not finished and it works, I already have 3 different versions that do the same job. Each one is smaller than the other and I change things as my ideas about how to solve the problem evolve. (Admittedly, I can't leave well enough alone most of the time and try to come up with a solution that uses the fewest lines of code. Luckily, there's no real deadline for this one :)

    There are no 'best 2 or 3 scripts' for any given job. This is always going to be subjective. As you learn more perl you'll find better ways to do things.

    The authors of such a book may include only two or three examples to save space but they may or may not be the 'best' ones.

    Check out the Perl Cookbook if you haven't already (though I wouldn't necessarily recommend it unless you've been doing perl for a while). Read the whole perl faq and get Freidl's (sic?) book on regular expressions. You'll be glad you did (it will help for more than just perl too).

  • One of the Web sites I check daily, Mac OS Rumors [mosr.com], releases their content under an Open Content License [mosr.com] and they have links to OpenContent.org [opencontent.org].


    MOSR is a great site; I've been reading it pretty much daily for about four years now, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone who's interested in what's going on with Apple and the Mac world. :-)

  • When the OPL was first announced on slashdot in 1998 [slashdot.org] it was a very strict license. It didn't even allow for modification of an OPL'ed work. David Wiley [mailto] responded to concerns that there wasn't much point to an "open" license that didn't allow for modification very quickly. David received lots of input from other parties both for and against modification rights in the OPL. He indicated to me in email that RMS was giving him some feedback and the OPL was more or less a knock off of the GPL with some stuff removed.

    It seems that some academics who had interest in creating an open license for content were strongly opposed to giving up modification rights. Their concern was that their professional integrity might be a stake. The license you see now if the compromise that was made and it seemed really good at the time. David Wiley got feedback from everyone interested and had the modification made in less than a day!

    When "flaws" were initially identified in the OPL the license's maintainer (David Wiley) sprang into action and found a solution that satisified everyone interested. Hopefully that any valid concerns raised here also find their way into a discussion about updating the OPL. But caution is merited in this. Are the people raising concerns here the same people who are releasing content under the OPL or are the complaints just philosphical? Does anyone who needs to or plans to release "open" content actually find the license to be faulty for their purposes?

    It is really encouraging to see that RMS is working on new license for documenation [debian.org]. It is worth pointing out that the OPL is not just for documentation and is designed to cover written/non-software works of many kinds. An "open documenation license" may in fact have different requirements than an "open content license." RMS, more than anyone else, is qualified to come up with a relevant new license.

  • I'm an architect/designer of tents/mobile structures [postle.net] and I've often wondered whether the designs could be released under the GPL. If not, why not?

    The full drawing set for a design resembles a source tree in lots of ways. What's a program if not a set of instructions for doing something?

  • You already have the text to the definitive Perl book available with every installation....try doing this:

    % perldoc perl

    and you can basically read the text of Programming Perl online.

  • Is there any service, similar to Freshmeat, but for content, where free content (Artistic, PD, OpenContent, etc) may be published? Such a service would be extreemly usefull.
    --The knowledge that you are an idiot, is what distinguishes you from one.
  • Because if it was, you'd have to read every GPL licence file you received for any changes that mighthave been made, as it is you can assume that as long as the version number is the same, the wording is the same.

    A GPL'd GPL could even be modified to be a completely closed source licence, which cold cause some confusion.

    Even very minor wording changes could prove problematic, like inserting "not" or "no" in just the right place.
  • These guys know all about free texts.

    http://www.gutenberg.org [gutenberg.org]

    Vik :v)
  • The GNU Free Documentation Licensesuggests that you, if your Manual contains complicated copde examples, should release those under GPL or some other free license, too. Further, it states that you may have some "invariant section", sections licensees are not allowed to modify. I suggest that it allows the author to provide a list of sections to which the GNU GPL applies.
    This is important, while if someone modifies one of the two copies (The one released under this license and the one released under the GNU GPL), the modifications does not automatically becomes availqable as a part of the other.
    And likewize, the GNU GPL should include the ability for the original author to release sections of a GPLed work under other licenses (Such as this license), perheaps listed by the FSF. For this idea, or request, I have an example. I am writing a compiler that compiles regular expressions into C-code. The generated C-program should not be GPLed, instaed, I want not to claim any rights to it. But as long as the string constants containing parts of that generated code, remains in the compiler, I want them to be covered by a very GPLish license.
    Oh, and this may be a non-problem, since the authors of gcc have (from what I know of), solved it in some way or another.
    --The knowledge that you are an idiot, is what distinguishes you from one.
  • Note that my book is actually under the Open Publication License (which is what your link points to). The Open Content License is different. However I think there is an effort in progress to merge the OPL and OCL.

    It's important to use the OPL without the optional clause that forbids modification of distributed works, by the way. Otherwise it is a non-free license.

  • Recently some people at my university have been talking about the possibility of designing a sort of evolving textbook. (This is totally in the "what if" stage, so nothing I say is official in any way.) The basic idea is that we would create an otherwise normal textbook, but there would also have a complete copy of the book on a web site. Users would be able to read the book there, and if they have questions, they could post them right in the text, with the actual text being the anchor point. Embedded discussions would evolve as users reply to one another. Because the subject matter for the book would be ODEs, we were investigating creating a set of open source tools for end-users to visualize and manipulate complex mathematical formulas. Anyway, this is something that we have been thinking about working on, and if anybody out there has input on the subject, let me know somehow.
  • Try phrasing your search a little better. My top 10 from google look like they'd be relevant. No mention of aliens in the ones I looked at.

    Search on +"sleep paralysis" [google.com]

    I'm not sure what the syntax is on google, this is what I'd use on altavista. It appears to be legal on google too.

  • The FSF does not use the GPL for books and documents, as it makes no sense. If you use the GPL for books, you put an unnecessary burden on publishers (they have to either include the "source code" -- the LaTeX or XML or whatever, as you say, with every copy, or they have to include a written offer to provide the source to every book buyer who asks for three years).

    And the GPL is just wrong for some things. The GPL itself is not under the GPL. If it were, anyone could change it!

    There are portions of books that the author will want to have included exactly. There are others where the book needs to be modifiable.

    But the problem has already been solved. See, for example, the copyright statement on the GCC manual or the Emacs manual:

    Copyright (C) 1988, 1989, 1992-1999, 2000 Free Software Foundation, Inc.

    Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this manual provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.

    Permission is granted to copy and distribute modified versions of this manual under the conditions for verbatim copying, provided also that the sections entitled ``GNU General Public License'' and ``Funding for Free Software'' are included exactly as in the original, and provided that the entire resulting derived work is distributed under the terms of a permission notice identical to this one.

    Permission is granted to copy and distribute translations of this manual into another language, under the above conditions for modified versions, except that the sections entitled ``GNU General Public License'' and ``Funding for Free Software'', and this permission notice, may be included in translations approved by the Free Software Foundation instead of in the original English.

    Notice that this license is much simpler than the GPL and accomplishes the desired purpose.

  • This wouldn't work, because:
    1. According to the GPL, You must cause the modified files to carry prominent notices stating that you changed the files and the date of any change.
    2. You couldn't call the new licence the GPL, due to trademark laws (if you could, someone could just as easily create a completely proprietary licence and call it the GPL anyway).
    Besides, the same argument could be made about releasing any software under the GPL. You'd have to check every single line of code for viruses and trojan horses, because someone might have added in an "rm -rf /" somewhere.
  • Can you offer a shred of evidence to support that claim? AFAIK, Tom C. doesn't hesitate to apply an editor's perogative to any documentation in the Perl core.

    Yeah, I couldn't remember exactly where I had read the comment when I originally posted, but I remembered that I had found it in the past couple of weeks through Slashdot. With a little searching I turned it up. It is in an article entitled The Sins of Perl Revisited [perl.com]. I'm not trying to complain about the great job that the authors of the Perl man pages have done. I keep a printed copy in my office, and just knowing where to look things up has branded me as the local Perl guru. I couldn't do that without good documentation.
  • The FSF does not use the GPL for books and documents, as it makes no sense. If you use the GPL for books, you put an unnecessary burden on publishers (they have to either include the "source code" -- the LaTeX or XML or whatever, as you say, with every copy, or they have to include a written offer to provide the source to every book buyer who asks for three years).

    I don't think this argument is valid. How is it more burdensome to distribute source than the formatted output? As with executable programs, you just provide a link to the source tarball right next to the link for the binaries. After all, you don't see most open source authors offering to send diskettes/tapes out. It appears to be enough just to make the source as easy to download as the binaries.

    If you're talking about printed books (and therefore making money out of their sale) and you feel you really *have* to supply machine-readable source then just burn a CD to put inside the cover and charge five bucks more. How hard is that?

    IMO if the document is to be deemed "open" then source *should* be available. If you'd spend weeks of nights doing copy editing and text markup then you'd probably think so too.

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • What sort of classification would this fall under? I don't think it could be clearly stated wether the document has value because of its expression (the text you write) or the behavior it encodes (the TeX markups). Maybe you just have to seperate the content from the encoding.



  • "According to the GPL, You must cause the modified files to carry prominent notices stating that you changed the files and the date of any change."

    Fair point, however you would still have to read the licence file, beyond merely ascertaining that it is the GPL and that you therefore know what the terms are, in order to see the "prominent" notices.

    "You couldn't call the new licence the GPL, due to trademark laws (if you could, someone could just as easily create a completely proprietary licence and call it the GPL anyway)."

    I'm not at all convinced that trademarks would be useful there, there would be the potential for a prosecution for fraud if the aim was to deliberately mislead, I guess, but the problem is more likely to arise from people innocently tinkering with the licence, being able to sue them or prosecute them once the problem comes to light is not much of a solution.

    "Besides, the same argument could be made about releasing any software under the GPL. You'd have to check every single line of code for viruses and trojan horses, because someone might have added in an "rm -rf /" somewhere."

    This can be a problem when using different version of the software, of course, but at least you can copy a single version as often as you like once you're happy with it. You can't just copy licence terms you're happy with from one product and use them for another :)
  • Now someone please explain something to me. Why are there 400 different counter scripts? Is this really necessary?


    Remember that many people write programs simply because it seems like a fun challenge. Although a web page counter may not seem like much of a challenge, it would be good practice for a newbie.

    And if you can't find a good one out of the 400 that are out there, you could always write your own!

  • There doesn't need to be a GPL for books or public documents because their contents are already free to use. All you have to do is properly cite your source. I don't think it is entirely necessary to have a GPL for this reason. Anything copyrighted is freedomain sooner or later anyway.

    This guy just needs some sort of feedback system, not a new license.
  • A better way to do it would be:- #include "preface.h" #include "contents.h" #include "chapter1.h" #include "biblography.h" #include "index.h" main(){ preface(); contents(); chapter_one(); .. .. biblography(); index(); } create source files thusly:- chapter1.h: void chapter_one(void); chapter1.c: void chapter_one(){ printf("Body Of Chapter One"); } and so on. create a makefile and then compile and pipe to a file. Job done. Then you can use cvs and other forms of source control. The above source is released under the GPL (see 'Copying' for details):) (Yes I do have too much time on my hands this evening!)
  • Sorry about the obfuscated code above!

    OOPS Must remember the formatting option below!

    Looks just like *nix source when I view it on my windoze box!

    It should have read:-

    A better way to do it would be:-

    #include "preface.h"
    #include "contents.h"
    #include "chapter1.h"
    #include "biblography.h"
    #include "index.h"

    main(){
    preface();
    contents();
    chapter_one();
    ..
    ..
    biblography();
    index();
    }

    create source files thusly:-

    chapter1.h:

    void chapter_one(void);

    chapter1.c:

    void chapter_one(){
    printf("Body Of Chapter One");
    }

    and so on.

    Create a makefile and then compile and pipe to a file. Job done. Then you can use cvs and other forms of source control.

    The above source is released under the GPL (see 'Copying' for details):) (Yes I do have too much time on my hands this evening!)
  • Here's a list of links to online books:

    Books On-line, Listed by Title [stanford.edu]

    Free Books from Samizdat Press [mines.edu]

    Free Online Books At The Free Well [icemall.com]

    Hard Sci-Fi Stories [aol.com]

    ITLibrary [itlibrary.com]

    Philip and Alex's Guide to Web Publishing [photo.net]

    PROJECT GUTENBERG - ETEXT LISTINGS [promo.net]

    The On-Line Books Page [cmu.edu]

    The page with these links is:
    http://members.axion.net/~enrique/book.html
    and if anyone would like to add links to that list, please email me at:
    perez_enrique@yahoo.com
  • Thank you! I've been wanting to lay the groundwork for a project of mine, revolving around the studio I'm building (the one in which I keep saying I'll record OSS-writing mp3-releasing hacker musicians for free, which I will)

    My problem is this: I have a VERY LARGE amount of technical innovation concentrated in the equipment of this studio. Some of it is as simple as circuit tweaks for the equipment (such as a set of modifications for my vintage Small Stone phase shifter, or the rebuilt mixer and soon-to-be-rebuilt analog daughter card of the LX20 ADAT), and some of it is considerably more elaborate, most of all the monitor speakers which involve processes that are outright patentable. In addition there's a vinyl record turntable design which my scientist father (who holds several patents himself, in infrared sensor instrumentation) feels is also patentable.

    I want to make all this available to OSS hardware hackers and audio geeks, but I don't want anyone to rip it all off my website and publish a book, basically. I don't mind people working with the ideas, even companies selling stuff based on them, but I don't want restrictions placed on 'em or to be eclipsed by a more well-funded operation that can move quicker and publish on a large scale to people who've never heard of me.

    I'm very enthusiastic about RMS's proposed license! I'd like to know when he has a final version worked out, and if my needs can help shape this I'd like to become involved. Basically, where the soul of free software lies in the code, and the key concept is keeping it flowing freely, the soul of writing is in attribution- and the problem is not in making it flow, but in keeping reference to those who created it. It's not _hard_ to keep writing flowing freely, the hard part is doing anything other than hosing the original 'developer' of the writing. The problem is that you _want_ J. Random Whoever to be able to shop a version of the work to a publisher, and let them print up a copy- but you also want to be able to specify that the cover has to say "This is a version of Book X, which is freely available for download on the Web at (foo.bar.baz.com)" so people know they are not forced to spend money for that person's modification of your work. But they still get to make the published version, if they feel a strong market exists for such a paper printed volume! So can you- or you can just web-publish and if anyone wants a paper version in stores they can go to the trouble of doing so.

    With all the hysteria over intellectual property these days, I have to wonder whether the future will be very different- with such wide access to ideas and data, it seems that information will be valueless- and only WHAT YOU DO WITH IT will have value. If somebody can print up a wonderfully well organised and illustrated version of a pile of great but unkempt ideas I put on the web- THEY SHOULD. I still get to have the ideas, but if there's a market for a cleaned up polished 'rendition' of those ideas, why shouldn't someone get a chance at selling this additional effort they put in?

    Typically, there's one caveat- watch out for the corporations, any such proposal needs to at least understand the potential for aggregate entities like corporations to steamroller anything in their path. However, the inequity of this mustn't stop individuals from trying to interact socially in a world of ideas and exchange them freely- because frankly, you still lose if you become paranoid and do nothing and hide every bright notion you have. It is simply impossible to coexist or compete with corporations- so the idea is to somewhat ignore them in such a way that, although you're arguably giving them the ability to steamroller you, you're also cooperating with other individuals in a mutually beneficial way.

    It looks like RMS's Free Documentation License could be an important part of this equation, and if he doesn't get it finished soon I may have to start using the draft ;)

  • Just make a simple program that you run that displays your book on perl :)
  • Hmm, of course you can still make money while still complying with the GPL. For instance, You can always charge for end-user tech support, and there is always that part of your resume that will state that you have worked in cooperation with others on a large scale project.

    There is also Condition 1 in the GPL (Version 2 June 1991) which states:-

    1. You may copy and distribute verbatim copies of the Program's source code as you recieve it, in any medium, provided that you conspicuously and appropriately publish on each copy an appropriate copyright notice and disclaimer of warranty; keep intact all the notices that refer to this license and to the absence of any warranty; and give any recipients of the Program a copy of this license along with the Program.

    You may charge a fee for the physical act of transferring a copy, and you may at your option offer warranty protection in exchange for a fee. (emphasis added)

    Also Ousterhout, by deriving proprietary extensions from the Tcl source tree (because that is what you do when you create an extension), it is automatically in breach of the GPL Condition 2b:-

    b) You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program or any part thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third parties under the terms of this License.

    BTW If you breach the licensing aggreement for proprietry software, then you should expect the owner (or their appointed agent) to 'savage you' so why can't the appointed agent to the free software movement do the same?

    Remember, for many free software is a great way to learn new techniques and apply them to your own projects. It is usually a "leisure activity" for most, and many people work highly paid jobs, on the cutting edge of the technology, and if it wasn't for the sharing of Ideas, then the computing world would be still back in the days of the abacus.

    The prime example of someone who produces GPL software and still earns a living is Linus Torvalds (who he you ask? :) ) who has been working at Transmeta Corp. [transmeta.com] for the last few years and whose product will change the face of computing again.

    I will leave you to draw your own conclusions, but personally if it wasn't for GPL Software and Free software, I wouldn't have learned as much as I have done, and I wouldn't have the job that I work now.

    www.gnu.org [gnu.org] Try reading the situations vacant to see that you can really make money by supporting GPL Software.

    If you break it down into business terms, GPL Software is a 'loss leader' where you sell as cheaply as possible (i.e. FREE) and Hit 'em for the after sales support.

    Hope that clears the air.

    Lollypop_man (I'ts just a handle, click user info above for my details, I'm no coward!)

    Quote:- If programmers are inherently lazy, then I must be the greatest programmer that ever lived!
  • If you are afraid that using a very unrestrictive liscense will result in people modifying and distributing versions that you don't like, just PGP sign the "official version." That way, you can allow people to modify and distribute versions of their own, only they won't be directly associated with you since they're not signed by you.

    As for the liscense you pick, thats up to you. Just don't be afraid to choose an extremely liberal liscense out of fear that you will completely loose control of the document. If your version is better than everyone else's, people will make sure to get the version you PGP-signed and not another. If a competing version eventually becomes better or more popular, so be it. That's the whole point anyway, right?

    -Noom
  • Why wouldn't you use CVS for a text-based
    project (except perhaps, for the reasons
    that you might not want to use CVS for
    anything...).

  • Mostly you can only GPL something that has source. Also it refers to everything as a 'program'. ;)
  • yeah, maybe Open Source could be seen as raping the community, because some people do not understand the difference between Open Source, and Free Software.

    Take the mozilla project for instance, where Netscape Inc. released the mozilla source tree and announced it as Open Source. There were many comparisons in the press, between the mozilla project and GPL Software, which really confused the issue. If you visit www.gnu.org [gnu.org] and have a look at the licencing models, they explain the differences between Open Source and GPL Software.

    In a nutshell Open Source != GPL Software, Open Source means open access to a specific source tree, whereas GPL Software means FREE (or bare minimum cost) access to the source AND the compiled binary. Basically Open Source software can still remain proprietary whereas GPL Software cannot EVER become proprietary.

    Hope that clears things up.

    Lollypop_man
  • Ok, this is only partially on-topic.

    I work on a couple of projects involving both software and hardware:
    • OpenRemote [dhs.org] - A remote control with many very neat features. Analog control, IR and RF communications (the site isn't nearly finished as I'm in the process of relocating to another province, yuck).
    • OpenBIOS [openbios.org] - A BIOS that doesn't suck. I've designed development hardware here [dhs.org].

    The GPL is software specific, so I'm not sure what happens to hardware designs in GPLed projects.

    Is there a hardware specific GPL-like license for these designs? Both of these designs are somewhat commercially viable (OpenBIOS for embedded projects with low to mid production and OpenRemote for consumer applications).

    I would prefer it if my work could not be "embraced-and-extended." If a company modified a design, they would be obligated to release the details of the designs (schematics, microcode, etc).

    Like Woz, I wish schematics came with everything. There are schematics for my bass amp inside when it is opened. That's a good thing. Schematics are generally no longer available with computers (except many embedded computers).
  • 'Program' is defined under condition 0 of the GPL:-

    The "Program," below, refers to any such program or work, and a "Work based on the Program" means either the Program or any derivative work under copyright law...

    So that should cover pretty much anything from a piece of software, down to say a piece of farming machinery or a "vegetable extract based soft drink in a red can(tm)" :). Therefore Source Code implicitly means the design (for want of a better word) of the Program, be it the .c and .h files of a source tree, or the blueprints to a piece of tecnical machinery (they both contain the overall instructions to re-create the Program.

    Lollypop_man

  • Racist scum, Your as bad as the NAZIS.
  • Sorry Havoc. Got carried away making links, not paying attention to what they pointed to. Argh. Great book in any case. :)
    ----
  • I posted this previously but /. didn't seem to think the story was worth running... OpenContent is currently updating our license per this announcement [opencontent.org]. It definitely sounds as if you want something like the Open Publication License; if it isn't exactly what you want, come help us fix it so that it is.
    --------
    meta4
    dw2-dont-spam-me-@opencontent.org
    http://davidwiley.com/
  • Some chapters of Karl Fogel's book about CVS [red-bean.com], (the Concurrent Version System [sourcegear.com], the source code control system used by many a free software project) are available under the GPL [fsf.org].
  • Both the Bison manual and the make manual are released under the GPL. They both reproduce the GPL at the beginning of the document.

    Actually, software legislation is modeled after printed works (that's why they're usually copyrighted and not patented =-\ )...so the GPL should apply very well to books as well. ------- Hugonz

  • I've no idea why this project is being done. The current Perl documentation consists of about 1200+ pages of documentation. Except for the 10 files that make the "faq", all the documentation is released under the same conditions as Perl. That is, if you wish, under the GPL. So, the license cannot be a reason to start this project. Unless you want another license than either the GPL or the Artistic license.

    Or is it that you do not like the current documentation, and you think you can do better? But given that the current documentation is maintained by the same people developping perl, some of them authors of books like "Programming Perl" and "The Perl Cookbook", and including Larry Wall himself, and given the dubious quality of many Perl books, are you sure you are up to the task of creating something better?

    I agree the current documentation is far from perfect, but I think it's far more efficient to improve the current documentation than to write alternative documentation. As an added bonus, if you improve the current documentation, it'll be distributed with current and future versions of Perl, and kept up to date by the team maintaining Perl.

    -- Abigail

  • My thought is: A simple solution to the dilemma is to patent it, and let your patent documents be the explicit how-to. Then, as you have the rights to do whatever you want with the patent, release the knowledge. Then let your website (or etc.) lay the grounds of what is allowed.
  • Notice that this license is much simpler than the GPL and accomplishes the desired purpose.

    Yes, it is much simpler than the GPL, but it doesn't accomplish the desired purpose. You say that using the GPL would put an unneccessary burden on publishers to include the source code. But that is exactly the point! If you don't have the source code available to you, then modifying it is no easier than performing reverse engineering on any other program. Typesetting is not trivial. If you don't have the source code to work with, the right to modify is essentially useless, the barrier to do so is simply too high.

    -- Eythain

  • I guess it follows that one can't license the entries in the Obfuscated C contest under GPL, because even if you do get the source you have to go through such contortions to figure out how it works.

    In the case of IOCCC entries, a large amount of the "intellectual content" is the obfuscation. In other words, the obfuscation is an important part of the source that cannot be done without. In contrast, the gibberish nature of the HTML that Word generates is not part of the intellectual content of the document.

    --Joe
    --
  • While we weren't expecting embedded questions, the O'Reilly / Samba Team did expect lots of bug-fixes and smem substantial changes in Using Samba [oreilly.com].

    I'd be quite interested in your question process: it sound cool...

    --davecb

  • O'Reilly is happily publishing Open Source books, including the Linux manuals and Using Samba [oreilly.com], so there isn't a problem getting stuff printed.

    In fact, I strongly suspect that the combination of a traditional publisher, the open source licence it's published under [oreilly.com] and the active involvement of the Samba Team to swat bugs will produce a book that sells in greater quantity than a traditional "print and hope it's correct" publication.

    Besides, Samba will change over time, and the openness of the process will help us keep the book up to date.

    --dave c-b

  • I just saw from Amazon that Using Samba is selling quite well, thus justifying O'Reilly's risk in publishing it in Open Source.

    --davecb

"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." -- The Wizard Of Oz

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