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Re: [seul-sci] Licenses was [Fwd: Credit where credit is due]

>>>>> "R" == Robert Hopcroft <hopcroft@qwest.net> writes:

    R> Thank you for the information. I looked at the GNU web site.
    R> http://www.fsf.org/philosophy/license-list.html I noted that
    R> they view the Open Content License as Non-Free and the Open
    R> Publication License as potentially Non-Free. 

It all depends what you mean by "free" and the FDL can also be applied
in such a way that it simulates some of the "non-free" parts of the
OPL.  RMS once gave us (the opl mailing list) a run down on how OPL
could be made FDL-like through judicious cutting of the options, but
it is those options which make the license acceptable to publishers
and since free docs get tiny fractions of the print runs of less-free
docs, the OPL appears to have more 'ecological validity' in the world
of the printed word.

But let's have a reality check here:

_No_ "free" or "opensource" license has ever been tested in the
courts, _ever_. All arguments are speculation, much of it pure hot air
and armchair speculation by non-senior legal experts.  Not all, but a
lot.  Thus, the license you choose may sound good, but so does the
spiel of a hardware or a car salesman. No one _knows_ how much it buys
you in the face of the Supreme Court of _any_ nation.  Like choosing
your psychotherapist, you can comfortably choose your license with a
blindfold and a pin ;)

Also keep in mind the unix/msdos software world exists in a tiny
exclusivist and elitist bubble where author rights are respected as a
matter of polite community ethic, but in the "real" world, for example
the global pirate-ridden world of music or book publishing, the gaping
holes in all opensource/free licenses would buy you squat --- it will
be interesting to see if China will respect the GPL in its own version
of RedFlag Linux; after all, who here is going to sue Communist China?

    R> I also noted that they list "Licenses For Works Besides
    R> Software and Documentation". Under this heading is "The Design
    R> Science License This is a free and copyleft license meant for
    R> general data, not particularly for software.

I've had several discussions with the author of that license (I was
curious because of his use of Fuller's terminology) and I respect what
he wants to do, but, having been trained as an astronomer, I know that
reality is often an annoying constraint :)

    R> Note, though, that the GNU GPL can be used for general data
    R> which is not software, as long as one can determine what the
    R> definition of "source code" refers to in the particular
    R> case. 

It is at this point that a zen monk would hit us with a stick ;)

    R> My basic concern is that extensive work could be done only to
    R> have it undone by a poor choice of licensing. In particular I
    R> believe that postings are by default copyrighted to the
    R> poster. 

Here's another good point: Under the International copyright treaties
of 1980 or so, all western nations agree, in the absense of any
_certified_ copyright document to say otherwise, all duplications,
distribution and modification rights to "intellectual property" are
_strictly_ limited.  This simple ruling is most often overlooked in
the tiny sheltered polite bubble of software engineering: The Linux
Documentation Project, for example, is largely the illegal
reproduction and distribution of strictly copyright works.

"I'm sorry, is this a _Harlequin_ novel?  Dear me, you see, we lost
the opening pages when we moved to the new server" --- that just won't
wash if anyone cares to push it to trial.  Of course, what chance is
there of that?   Do we _know_ the content of all our docs wasn't
lifted from a textbook on network programming?  Who is checking?
I was working on one book project where a contributing author
lifted his _entire_ chapter from BSD man pages and expected to be
paid for it --- the publisher was not amused.  No, sir, we are all
friends here and friends wouldn't behave like that.

Before anyone rises to mail bomb me, let me be perfectly clear that
_I_ do not recognize _any_ claims to "intellectual property" and this
makes the whole concept of copyright ludicrous to me, like the middle
management and telephone sanitizers at the end of Douglas Adam's
Hitch-hiker's Guide stuffing their clothes with leaves because they've
declared it to be money.  It's the old story of proceeding logically
from an absurd assumption.

IMHO, if we owe fees for any document, the fees must go back to every
English teacher, novelist, bard and poet who ever lived and every
person who uttered or broadcast a word in the presence of the author.
We cannot pay Britney Spears without acknowledging the contribution
of both Bach and Pythagorus to the western musical scale.  Give me a
church who can legally let me assign all my copyrights over to God
himself (which, incidentally, was the approach of many great
scientists of yester-year, which may have had some sinister value to
it considering the ethics of their times ;)
    R> I have seen sugestions that they be collected into some
    R> sort of documentation. It appears to me that this could be in
    R> violation of the copyright. 

It is a game we cannot win, so our best path is to try not to be the
person who gets nailed.  Usenet itself is technically a copyright
violation and should be attacked as much as Napster, although my
citing of your email may be "fair use" --- under the rules for the
music publishing industry, though, if you were James Brown's lawyers,
you'd be suing my ass right now for "sampling" you ;)

I'm still furious at John Mellencamp for allowing his lawyers to shut
down the usenet/internet lyric archive. Ain't that America.

Copyright was invented in Ireland not to protect authors, but to
protect the profits of the _owners_ of a work, and that is a _very_
different story.  The first ruling fined a monk for copying a book of
psalms belonging to a wealthy man. At risk of sounding Marxist,
copyright is, to the core, a socio-economic class-struggle weapon of
legal oppression by which those who have the income from a property
get to use non-intellectual brute power to keep those without from
sharing in it.  It's Bucky Fuller's "little man on the horseback" in
Grunch of Giants. Copyright, any copyright, is anti-art, anti-science
and anti-culture.

That said, I choose the GPL for my own code because the acronym has
brand awareness; you don't need to explain it and it is clear for most
purposes within our tiny bubble.  Luckily I haven't had the brains to
write anything of use to any more than a few people.  For my writing
and my music, I choose the OPL because the expansion of the acronym
has word-sound-power that might make people aware of the property

My wife's OPL'd Earthday song was picked up all over the world, and
while we granted rights for anyone to twist it into a bawdy right-wing
anthem if they so wish (which is, after all, the spirit of the 'folk
tradition') to our knowledge, everyone sings it pretty much the way
she wrote it. Should someone someday violate our license, we won't
care, we'll just turn a cheek and move on, invent something else, go
on without it; I can barely afford my lawyer fees from the last wife ;)

Woodie Guthrie, himself a master of beating copyright lawyers to the
spoils of his work, penned an oft-omitted last verse to the song you
all know, This Land is Your Land:

        As I was walkin'
        I saw a sign
        And on that sign
        It said 'Private Property'
        But on the other side
        It didn't say nothin'
        _That_ side was made for you and me.

    R> I am interested in helping to get things accomplished but am
    R> very wary of the licensing implications.

I'd recommend you do what you feel in your heart is best, and if you
are worried about repercussions, do as all good authors on sensitive
subjects have done since the invention of the burnt stick: Publish
anonymously.  Remember that Rudyard Kipling would today be remembered
as _Sir_ Rudyard Kipling had he not been so open about penning the
great bar-room shanty "God Bless the Bastard King of England" and
Galileo might have died a free man had he grasped this.

Gary Lawrence Murphy <garym@linux.ca>: office voice/fax: 01 519 4222723
T(C)Inc Business Innovations through Open Source http://www.teledyn.com