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GNU is Not Unix

GNU Free Documentation License 1.1 Out 49

Big Gaute writes "The final version of the GNU FDL (1.1) is now out. It contains a number of changes from version 1.0; for instance there is now a mechanism to make sure that the good name of an author is not used to endorse modified versions unless they so wish. " This comes shortly on the heels of the GNU FDL 1.0.
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GNU Free Documentation License 1.1 Out

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I don't want to start a flamewar... ( yeah, right), but we can call RMS a commie all day long, but he is very devoted to what he believes in (GNU, advocating open documentation, not accepting $$ for his FSF work, etc), and isn't concerned with stroking his own ego, like some hangers-on (* cough *ESR * cough *).

    I wouldn't call the BSD people selfish in any way; they're not interesetd in an agenda, they're interested in producing a product that people recognize as good and can use (IMO). "Hey, I wrote an TCP stack and MS recognizes it rulez, and is using it."

  • I actually quite liked the license. I think that it is a welcome addition to the growing array of documentation licenses. I can understand why it would be important to some parties (the FSF among them) to have a license that allowed subsequent authors to make changes to the documentation, and yet still allow for commercial sale of the resulting work. Technical documentation of Free Software isn't very useful if it cannot be updated when new features are added to the software. On the other hand, no author wants to have his good name associated with someone else's bad writing.

    It would appear to me (IANAL) that the FDL takes care of both of these issues while guaranteeing that it is still possible to actually publish the book. This is also a key concern. The FSF (and RedHat, Caldera, VA Linux, et al) want documentation that they can actually print up as manuals. They probably wouldn't even mind having other organizations "borrow" some of their work as long as they could also use the "improvements" and they could guarantee that any mistakes that might be introduced are accredited to their good name.

    The Linux Documentation Project has allowed publishers to publish their materials for years without them receiving any royalties. The FDL will simply codify what has already been happening in this type of project.

    On a more personal note, I have a piece of documentation that I have been itching to write for some time. I spend a small portion of my time teaching teenage children to program (in Python most recently). I have been meaning to take some of my experience and turn it into some sort of a manual. Since I am not a professional writer, nor am I the world's most gifted Python hacker it would be beneficial to to be able to accept "patches" from my more talented peers. That way I could do the majority of the grunt work of actually writing the manuscript and people that are interested in using the manuscript along with me could help me make it better than I could by myself. The FDL would assure me that the parts of the manuscript that I wanted to remain inviolate would, I could also guarantee that the front text and back text were legible and visible to anyone perusing the work no matter who published it.

    Of course, it is much easier for me to say something like this because it is not very likely that I could get a book published on my own. There is very little chance that a publishing company would be interested in what I have to say. So I have very little to lose under the FDL and quite a bit to gain (user input, help with proofreading and maintaining, reputation, etc.).

  • From the Preamble:

    We recommend this License principally for works whose purpose is instruction or reference.

    Not explicitly "software documentation", but the issue that this license is intended to solve is copyleft-style distribution of documentation for free software.

    The FSF has evaluated the Open Content License and the Open Publication License and do not recommend either without reservation.

  • ...should look into this as a way to preserve the "public" in "public-domain" works. There's too much proprietary "packaging" going on these days on the Internet with the objective of proprietizing works whose authors have been dead for a long time. Since the authours are really the ones who should have gotten credit and recompense for their works, anything we can do to thwart this greedy behavior should be done.

    ---------------
  • If the GNU FDL 1.0 was good enough for Chairman Mao and his Little Red Book, then it should be good enough for the rest of us. Why do we always feel like we need to keep up with all the changes that go on in the capitalist world? Stay the course, my comrades, our slow and steady GNU 5-year programs will win out in the end!

    Cheers,
    ZicoKnows@hotmail.com

  • Despite the fact that Microsoft Word documents are able to be read and modified on most desktop platforms (Linux/xBSD, Windows, Mac OS, OS/2), [...]

    I disagree. I have a PC that has both Linux and Windows on it. Neither of these can modify Word documents. On the Windows side, I cannot even view the Word documents created with recent versions of Word, because I did not buy the latest version of the program. On the Linux side, I can view most documents but I do not have any good editor that can be used to modify the documents easily.

    So using Word as a file format would prevent some people from reading or modifying the documents unless they buy some proprietary software. I fully support the fact that Word should be considered as an "Opaque" file format.

    Well, if you can show me a program that is freely available on all platforms described above and that can view and edit all documents produced by Word 2000 without loosing any graphics, cross-references or other meta-information, then I could think twice about it...

  • New options for GNU software:

    man -pottymouth foo
    foo --f___inghelp
  • Documentation serves many purposes. Without it, even the orignal programmer will have trouble understanding what was going through his or her head six months after the code is written. Also, most people like to see their code in use, whether to promote the use of some important technology (cryptography comes to mind) or just to have the satisfaction of creating something people find useful. This isn't always altruistic: software with users who are informed and numerous will be easier to improve without the benefit of the original programmer, who will recieve the benefit of those improvements because of the GPL. Also, being known as the author of a widely used program makes a great resumé stuffer. These are benefits of free software that are reinforced by documentation.
  • GGAD by Havoc Pennington is a very nice online book dealing with the title (obviously). When you check it out of CVS [gnome.org] and upack it, it comes with the Open Publication License 0.4 and a little file that says:

    Don't commit to this module without asking me, Havoc Pennington . Thanks :-)

    The filename?

    README.REALLY.I.MEAN.IT

    Perhaps we should ask him whether this has helped in the fight against third-parties attempting to rewrite his prose :)

  • I wasn't aware that case had gone to court. Can you provide a link to more info?
  • Okay, it all seems clear to me now.

    The FSF should immediately endeavor to help the new public human genome effort by crafting the Open Spoorce gene license.

    Mojotoad

  • any later version

    I believe the exact wording is: ...Version 1.1 or any later version... The thing is, even if the FSF brings out a new version, your docs will still be available under the old license, as well as the new one.

    Of course, this line is out of the example paragraph that tells everyone how they can license their docs under the FDL. If you wanted to, you could use another boilerplate paragraph to do the same thing. Not that the FSF's GPL page and pretty much all of their programs (in the copyright notices) say the same thing. On the other hand, eg. the Linux kernel is licensed under the current version of the GPL only, for whoever knows what reason.

    Ok let me get this straight... I release a document under this license, and then if the FSF changes it in a way that I disagree with to the point I decide it is as evil as Microsoft, I can't leave it under the old version?

    Yes, you can. However, people can also choose to use it under the terms of the new version. Off course, the chances of the FSF ever changing one of their licenses to something even remotely non-free are slim to non-existent. Whether you like them or not, the FSF's ideals are very well-published, and it is also generally agreed upon that they can be trusted to stick to them.

    I'm stuck with my document being under a liscense I feel is morally wrong. I could go and release a new version under a license I do agree with, but all the old versions are under the license I don't like. Or would I be legally allowed to declare that my document is no longer under GFDL?

    No. If you've already released a version under the FDL, then you can't go back and change that. However, you can still release it under some other license. In fact you can, at any time and as often as you feel like it, release anything that you have copyright on under whatever license you feel like.

    How do I do that without screwing over all of the people who have benefited from it being a GFDL document?

    Just release it under some similar, free license. Or release it under the FDL again, but do not include the "or any later version" clause in your copyright statement.

  • The phrase reads "proprietary formats that can be read and edited only by proprietary word processors". You're telling us that Microsoft Word format may be readily edited and viewed by may free programs. In that case, it is no longer covered by this clause, and so your entire argument falls apart. I don't really think that you've read what was written carefully enough.

    Off course, it arguable whether Microsoft Word format is as widespread as you say. While some programs has more or less working support for certain subsets, I do not know of any that will not die horribly when faced with some of the more advanced features of the format.

  • I've got two comments about this.

    First, I'm wondering if this is really needed. There are certainly cases of authors putting copyrighted material out there electronically, free for the copying. I know O'Reilly did this with on of their books. Bruce Sterling also did this with The Hacker Crackdown.

    How does this imply that the FDL is not needed? I think that this argument reduces to say that there are in fact people who are willing to publish docs under something FDL-ish. I'd say that if such cases did not exist, there would be no raison d'etre for the FDL at all.

    I think the FDL is good because, amongst other things, it is a good "boilerplate" license that allows you to do this sort of thing, one that has been proofread by lawyers to boot. If everyone were to come up with their own license, there is a fair bet that some well-meaning author would come up with a license looks superficially solid, but has no legal clout, or disallows something that the author really wanted to allow.

    The reason this concerns me is that if I were an author, I'd want to get a royalty for any copy of the work that gets sold for cash.

    Ah. Now, if you were a programmer, wouldn't you like to have get a royalty for every copy of your program that was sold for cash? But wait, that wouldn't be free software, would it? I think the arguments, in the case of software documention, are very similar.

    It doesn't seem right that a publishing company could publish the book and pay nothing. (see below.)

    Why not? If they charged an excessive amount of money, someone else could publish the same book and take away their market. It's called capitalism, and in this case (surprise!) it actually prevents you from getting screwed, funny as though it may seem.

    And given the two examples above, I don't think that selling a book to a publisher and getting royalies precludes free electronic distribution.

    Of course it doesn't. In other words, there is nothing that precludes you from selling a book to a publisher, and releasing it under the FDL.

    In other words, it seems to me to make sense to have a license that allowed free electronic distribution, but that required print distributors to come to an agreement with the authors regarding payment. (Obviously complicated if it has passed through many hands.)

    What's really so different about hardcopy and electronic distribution? Is it the fact that someone (the publisher) makes money out of the hardcopies? I think the laws of the market, competition in particular, would do their job and prevent any outrage.

    My second comment is that I suspect that the motivation to "FDL" a document won't be nearly as strong as the motivation to "GPL" a piece of software. One of the reasons I think that the GPL works is that most GPL'd software was written for the authors. They write something they need, perhaps throwing in things for people to ask as a favor. Regardless, they end up with something they can use themselves. In other words, their work has value to them after they've completed it. Documentation, on the other hand, is pretty much useless to the author (in most cases) after its completion. Presumably the author knows everything in the document and thus no longer needs the document.

    You've cited one reason why someone might GPL a program, but which does not apply to the FDL. I don't think it follows from there that there is no reason why anyone would use the FDL, and I don't think that this is the only reason people write free software either. Cases in point: gcc, glibc.

    And that's the thing. The motivation to write an FDL'd document may be altruism, or the desire for community approval, but it won't be self-interest. On the other hand, the motivation to write a GPL'd piece of software certainly can be self-interest. I write a program because I want the program, first and foremost.

    That's not to say that I'm opposed to other people using the FDL. If people want to, more power to them.

    So then the FDL does serve a purpose after all. I think it's good that people who want to write free docs have a solid license that allows them to do so, rather than just slapping a possibly legally invalid two-line notice on them. Don't you?

    But if I were going to write technical docs (which I have thought about doing) I'd want to retain copyright. I'd probably allow free unmodified distribution, but I'd want to have the ability to sell the work to a publisher as well. It doesn't seem that the FDL allows this, unless the publisher is real stupid.

    If I were to write software manuals (which I have thought about doing as well 8-)) I'd certainly want to retain copyright, or assign it to some trusted entity. I wouldn't want to write a non-free manual for a free program; personally I think that's rather ungrateful.

  • so does this mean that certain books will be able to be published and not need permission to be copied? (not copyrighted) what about plagarism? will our teachers be able to spot these new uncopyrighted works?
    Documents released under the FDL are certainly copyrighted, just like software released under the GNU GPL is. However, the license gives you the right to make modifications and release them, as long as you follow certain (liberal) conditions. That's the whole point, you know.
  • Does anybody else feel that all the programmers have become a bunch of lawyers? It just seems we spend more time today worrying about what code/documentation has what license that we spend actually designing and writing code.
    Unfortunately, yes. As far as free software is concerned, I think that this has happened because if you want to make sure that neither you nor anyone gets screwed, you are going to have to worry about it. Such is the world.
  • As a lawyer who also dabbles with writing code, I can tell you that law and software code are very similar. They both use a language known only by those familiar with the particular law/code. They both regulate how people/computer operate. They both have specific subsets where people specialize. So in reality, all coders are actually lawyers, just lawyers for a different kind of law.

    Rob Jones - A better attorney than programmer
  • any later version

    Ok let me get this straight... I release a document under this license, and then if the FSF changes it in a way that I disagree with to the point I decide it is as evil as Microsoft, I can't leave it under the old version? I'm stuck with my document being under a liscense I feel is morally wrong. I could go and release a new version under a license I do agree with, but all the old versions are under the license I don't like. Or would I be legally allowed to declare that my document is no longer under GFDL? How do I do that without screwing over all of the people who have benefited from it being a GFDL document?
  • What means hot grits some thing? I am living from norway next door to alice and I would like to know as I don't have a word book. I understand the part about pouring it in the pants..

    Also how is natalie portman connected into "grits" isn't she the actor in star wors the new movie from lucasfilm?

    I love that movie

  • Yes. Right now there is a case of some modder not releasing the source code to his Quake mod. I haven't kept up on the case, but John Carmack is really pissed.

    Just by looking over the GNU licenses, you can tell they were created by a pack of lawyers ;-)


    ----------

  • I'm not sure if its gone to court, but you should be able to find something about it at planetquake.com

    As a side note, the GPL rarely sees a court room, since usualy people kindly ask a violater to follow the terms; usualy the violater didn't realize the restrictions and happily follows them. But in this case, the modder wouldn't do it, so more action must be taken.


    ----------

  • I am a solid proponent of the GPL, Open Source Software and everything to do with the bazaar development community. I have to wonder though, is this getting kind of religious? I am happy to see a common public license to state that the documentation is free and nobody can make money on it; nice tool. My subconscious (which just recently smuggled a message to my conscious) tells me that the actual motivation for this may have been to discredit RedHatting of free software (Support Sellers Open Source business model). What will be the next license on the list? The GPL FSL (Free Support License)? I jest, but pose the idea as a hypothesis...(Support Sellers Open Source business model). What will be the next liscense on the list? The GPL FSL (Free Support Liscense)? I jest, but pose the idea as a hypothesus...

    -Effendi
  • so does this mean that certain books will be able to be published and not need permission to be copied? (not copyrighted)

    what about plagarism? will our teachers be able to spot these new uncopyrighted works?

  • oops . . . sorry

    meant to add that i saw where it said that the articles/books/etc would remain free so long as credit was given to the original author and so long as the original text was not changed . . . yadda yadda ya
  • Personnaly, I don't worry too much about licenses. I spent my times looking for news on slashdot and other sites instead of coding.
  • Did anyone download the thing while it was available for 24 hours? I want it if you got it. Please send it to me: salstress@somethingawful.com
  • I'm not sure I like this as much as I like the Open Content License. [opencontent.org] The FDL seems a lot more restrictive than the GPL or LGPL ever was. Then again, documentation is very different from software, so these added restrictions might well be necessary.

    It seems as though the FDL is geared specifically towards software documentation, whereas the OPL is more general-purpose. I wonder if this was intentional. Somehow I'm not certain that it was.
  • Date: Mon, 13 Mar 2000 09:47:25 -0700 (MST)
    From: Nathan Wallwork <xyzzy@ladb.unm.edu>
    To: gnu@gnu.org
    Subject: FDL, section 7, typo + question

    Section 7 of FDL 1.1 contains a typo:
    > an "aggregate", and this this License
    ^^^^^

    Also, I have a question about section 7, which perhaps should prompt a clarification of section 7.

    Suppose I want to create an "aggregate" containing three works, one an independent work not covered by the FDL, and the other two both released under the FDL, but each of these three documents are roughly the same size, each about one third the total "aggregate".

    It would seem that section 7, as worded in version 1.1, would make this impossible because both FDL documents would require that I use thier Cover Text, and I cannot satisfy both requirements at the same time.

    Would it make sense to modify section 7 to change the requirement from one quarter to one half, or to say something like 'The requirement to use this document's Cover Text in an "aggregate" may be waived if the "aggregate" contains another FDL document which is larger than this one, and the "aggregate" uses a Cover Text from that document instead.' or 'If the "aggregate" contains multiple FDL documents that require the use of thier Cover Text, the author of the compilation may choose to use the Cover Text of any of the conflicting FDL documents. '?

  • "I release a document under this license, and then if the FSF changes it in a way that I disagree with to the point I decide it is as evil as Microsoft, I can't leave it under the old version? I'm stuck with my document being under a liscense I feel is morally wrong."

    You are allowed to release it under an exact version of GDL and only that version if you wish. You are allowed to release it under the GDL without specifying a version, then anyone can choose to use any version of the GDL published by FSF. Or you can release it under a particular version or any later version.

    It's a matter of what trust you wish to place in the FSF. If you worry they will do something you don't like, release it under a particular version of the GDL, and include a note in an invarient section giving information on where one might look for your perspectives of future versions of the GDL along with a copy of your document under future versions of GDL if you approve of the changes.

  • What someone could do with a public work is to package it up in a compilation or something, without letting their customers know that the work is also available in the public domain, then seek damages against anyone who makes copies of the compilation.

    Making a compilation and placing it under the GDL would make it clear to anyone who recieved that compilation that they have the right to distribute it further, while insuring that nobody repackages that compilation in such a way as to make that right non-obvious.

  • On the Windows side, I cannot even view the Word documents created with recent versions of Word, because I did not buy the latest version of the program. On the Linux side, I can view most documents but I do not have any good editor that can be used to modify the documents easily.

    WordPad can read and write Word 6.0 documents, and possibly WordPad in Windows 2000 can read later versions. Our company has a policy of saving documents in Word 6.0 format.

    On the Linux side, StarOffice can read Word files through Word 97, and is, at least in my case, able to open and modify 100% of them, although not all the formatting always comes in perfectly. WordPerfect 8 can read some Word files, but dies on others. AbiWord, which is open source, can read .RTF, I don't know if it necessarily can read .DOC files, but somehow I think it either can or will in a later release read Word 97 format.

    Does anyone know what files KOffice can read? I haven't yet been able to get a version to compile on my box, but I'm assuming I've got to be missing SOMETHING, because I can't seem to compile ANY KDE apps my machine. (I get a "Your system fails at linking a small KDE application" during AutoConfig (./configure). I have all the KDE and Qt libraries and includes installed, and they were all compiled on the same compiler (egcs 2.95) so I have no idea what's wrong...if anyone has a clue, drop me an e-mail. thanks :)

  • Opaque formats include PostScript, PDF, proprietary formats that can be read and edited only by proprietary word processors, SGML or XML for which the DTD and/or processing tools are not generally available, and the machine-generated HTML produced by some word processors for output purposes only.


    Despite the fact that Microsoft Word documents are able to be read and modified on most desktop platforms (Linux/xBSD, Windows, Mac OS, OS/2), these would be precluded from being referred to as "Transparent" versions by this clause. Also, what about .RTF, which is a Micros~1 proprietary format support by most word processors?

  • What in the world are you thinking! Public Domain works are owned by NOBODY! There is no way in Heck they can be proprietarized. If GreedyPublisherInc puts out a new edition of "Alice in Wonderland" and slaps a copyright on it, the original text STILL EXISTS. There is no way that GreedyPublisherInc can stop you, I or AltruisticPublisherLLC from issuing their own copies.

    Since there is absolutely no way anyone can remove public domain works from the public domain, I can only assume that your scheme is for the sole purpose to destroy commercial printings of uncopyrighted works. Because that would be the only result.

    Remember, public domain works are owned by NOBODY. If you succeed in putting them under a copyleftist license, you will have REMOVED them from the status of the unowned, and made Guttenberg the COPYRIGHT HOLDER! What are you thinking!
  • What someone could do with a public work is to package it up in a compilation or something, without letting their customers know that the work is also available in the public domain, then seek damages against anyone who makes copies of the compilation.

    If such a company sought damages they would be laughed out of court. Get real here! I could set up a photocopier in front of the Penguin offices and run off copies of "The Aeneid" all day long and there's nothing they could do to me.
  • Does anybody else feel that all the programmers have become a bunch of lawyers? It just seems we spend more time today worrying about what code/documentation has what license that we spend actually designing and writing code.

  • One of its suggested clauses is allowing distribution only where you dont need an ISSN or ISBN. This even allows small scale paper distribution to occur.

    Of course you can now use UCITA and sue people who lend a copy to a friend as well as requiring that you shred it when you have finished with it and keeping the right to go into their house and take it back if you want to

    Alan

  • I'm not sure I like this as much as I like the Open Content License. The FDL seems a lot more restrictive than the GPL or LGPL ever was. Then again, documentation is very different from software, so these added restrictions might well be necessary. It seems as though the FDL is geared specifically towards software documentation, whereas the OPL is more general-purpose. I wonder if this was intentional. Somehow I'm not certain that it was.
    More restrictive? The open content license does not allow you to sell copies of an OCL'ed book. That right is crucial, if, for instance, you have some free software that you've changed, and you would like to update the docs as well. You would never have companies like Red Hat if "free" software was distributed under that sort of license. The FDL does allow you to charge money. I think that this right is absolutely crucial for documentation that calls itself free. (Ironically, the FSF is often accused of being anti-commercial--I think that this sort of thing is proof that they are not rabbidly anti-capitalistic). The only restrictions in the FDL are ones that prevent you from chucking out the original author's name, omitting short philosophical sections (such as the gnu manifestion in the emacs manual, I suppose) and those that prevent you from claiming false endorsement. I think that's quite acceptable, really. Oh yes, and you have to distribute it in a format which actually makes it possible to make modifications without jumping through hoops.
  • Just think of the legal system as a big, poorly understood operating system, with all kinds of malicious processes with many different levels of access rights (usually associated with money :) - and the various licenses as attempts to protect the products from these malicious processes.

    I spent some time trying to convince my brother (who decided to become a lawyer - I did my best to save him!) that laws should be written in an unambiguous computer-like language, but apparently he has a touch of a politician in him 'cause he said he LIKED the ambiguities. *Sigh*
  • so does this mean that certain books will be able to be published and not need permission to be copied? (not copyrighted)

    That's not the way I read it - although I'm still digesting the information. The work remains copyrighted - what you do have under the license is the right to make copies of the complete work and to create derivative works, while abiding by certain restrictions. There are requirements when making larger copy runs (i.e. > 100 copies) of these documents - I can see these applying in large software development groups for example - where you must also ensure that Cover texts are correctly added and that the publisher(s) and titles is/are visible and legible. There are also other responsibilities when modifying the document - I assume this is to avoid mis-attribution and possible 'viral' slanders introduced into the document by malicious authors later down the line. The License basically ensures that the integrity of the document is not compromised by alteration and that all alterations are clearly demarcated.

    what about plagarism? will our teachers be able to spot these new uncopyrighted works?

    I wouldn't worry. To copy one person is plagiarism, to copy two is research. :-)

    Cheers

    Toby Haynes

  • by Croaker ( 10633 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2000 @07:10AM (#1203902)
    Well, speaking as an author, the primary thing you want to avoid is the very real threat that some bozo will attempt to "improve" your writing, and totally screw it up. This can be something as simple as using poor grammar and bad spelling, or something as nasty as being factually wrong on something Really Important.

    I had experience with this a long, long time ago. I published a manual for a piece of software. I didn't put any form of copyright on it (hey, I was innocent back then :). Some people took the document and modified it to fit their own hacked versions of the software (which was good, although I was a bit peeved that they didn't talk to me/send me the revisions). However, from then on, I got hassled by people about this or that being wrong in the manual, or got questions about how to use this or that local feature. None of which I could do anything about, since I didn't know about the revisions, and had no way of contacting whoever did.

    Now that's I'm a professional writer, I'd be very reluctant to put anything out there that I'd allow to be modified without a license like this. The last thing I need is for a potential employer to go take a look at an altered version of the document, notice the crap that someone dumped into it, and attribute it to me.

    Even then, I'd still be a bit leery of letting others hack my documents. I suppose that people
    who release code under the GPL might feel the same thing, though. They're letting "their baby" go out into the world to back used and abused by others. I haven't really seen people losing control of their creations, though, so probably my fears are overstated. I've been thinking of releasing some documents of mine someday. Perhaps I will use the Gnu license to do that. If nothing else, it saves me from having to spell out what you can and can't do with the document myself.
  • by hattig ( 47930 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2000 @05:51AM (#1203903) Journal
    Authors must have been a bit worried that their name could have been used on a document that had been modified with hundreds of swear words 'livening' up the text. :-)

    Although I rather like the idea of documentation saying "Click on the f-ing icon in the top left corner and then set the damned slider to whatever you f-ing like". "To f-ing shutdown the f-ing computer, f-ing click on the f-ing arse-named Start button". Would make man pages a lot more interesting as well.

  • by ucblockhead ( 63650 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2000 @06:54AM (#1203904) Homepage Journal
    I've got two comments about this.

    First, I'm wondering if this is really needed. There are certainly cases of authors putting copyrighted material out there electronically, free for the copying. I know O'Reilly did this with on of their books. Bruce Sterling also did this with The Hacker Crackdown.

    The reason this concerns me is that if I were an author, I'd want to get a royalty for any copy of the work that gets sold for cash. It doesn't seem right that a publishing company could publish the book and pay nothing. (see below.) And given the two examples above, I don't think that selling a book to a publisher and getting royalies precludes free electronic distribution.

    In other words, it seems to me to make sense to have a license that allowed free electronic distribution, but that required print distributors to come to an agreement with the authors regarding payment. (Obviously complicated if it has passed through many hands.)

    My second comment is that I suspect that the motivation to "FDL" a document won't be nearly as strong as the motivation to "GPL" a piece of software. One of the reasons I think that the GPL works is that most GPL'd software was written for the authors. They write something they need, perhaps throwing in things for people to ask as a favor. Regardless, they end up with something they can use themselves. In other words, their work has value to them after they've completed it. Documentation, on the other hand, is pretty much useless to the author (in most cases) after its completion. Presumably the author knows everything in the document and thus no longer needs the document.

    And that's the thing. The motivation to write an FDL'd document may be altruism, or the desire for community approval, but it won't be self-interest. On the other hand, the motivation to write a GPL'd piece of software certainly can be self-interest. I write a program because I want the program, first and foremost.

    That's not to say that I'm opposed to other people using the FDL. If people want to, more power to them. But if I were going to write technical docs (which I have thought about doing) I'd want to retain copyright. I'd probably allow free unmodified distribution, but I'd want to have the ability to sell the work to a publisher as well. It doesn't seem that the FDL allows this, unless the publisher is real stupid.

We don't know one millionth of one percent about anything.

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