Draft: License policy for contributors

Adam Jackson ajax at nwnk.net
Wed Dec 3 12:08:33 PST 2008

On Tue, 2008-12-02 at 21:56 +0000, David Gerard wrote:
> 2008/12/2 Adam Jackson <ajax at nwnk.net>:
> > On Wed, 2008-12-03 at 06:28 +1100, Daniel Stone wrote:
> >> On Tue, Dec 02, 2008 at 01:48:31PM -0500, Adam Jackson wrote:
> >> > I don't know what our documentation licensing stance is.  MIT would keep
> >> > things simple, but I don't know if it's appropriate for docs.
> >> What're our options? GFDL is out as DFSG-incompatible.
> > Yeah, MIT does seem to be a good plan, at least for the non-spec
> > documentation.  Alan and Mikhail do mention CC-BY, which might be okay
> > for spec docs?  Would have to check.
> CC-by is a permissive licence for text. To what extent is it
> compatible with MIT, in which directions?
> c.f. the case of mixing MIT, BSD (in its many variations), similar
> permissive licenses ...
> How well understood are the implications of MIT as a licence for text?
> (c.f. GFDL, which makes less sense the closer you look at it.)
> This level of consideration is worthwhile as licences are a hideous
> nightmare and getting it right now is vastly superior to getting it
> not quite right now and needing to fix it later.

The FreeBSD documentation license seems to be a straightforward
translation of the MIT rights to apply to text:


It's more explicit than I think is directly appropriate for X, since
much of our documentation source is not DocBook.  But.

There's a tension here in that you'd like invariant sections so you can
say things like "the authoritative version of this doc is here" and
point back at the x.org versions, but that runs you right into
DFSG-non-free land.  I guess the question is what we'd lose by going
with an MIT policy (asserted copyright + liability waiver + free
modification).  I mean, if someone published a buggy version of the
protocol spec in a book, it's certainly much easier to address that
through publishing _more_ information (like errata on a web page) than
by legal injunction.  And it's not like there is serious competition out
there for the definition of the protocol.

The more I read CC-BY 3.0, the less I like it.  Section 4c seems to
imply that, if we released the protocol doc under CC-BY, you'd be
prohibited from including it in a book entitled "World's Greatest
Software Engineering Disasters", which I'm pretty sure counts as
non-DFSG (and also flatly inappropriate, since oh boy are we ever
engaged in pig-lipsticking here).

- ajax
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