Draft: License policy for contributors

David Gerard dgerard at gmail.com
Wed Dec 3 13:09:50 PST 2008

2008/12/3 Adam Jackson <ajax at nwnk.net>:

> http://www.freebsd.org/copyright/freebsd-doc-license.html
> It's more explicit than I think is directly appropriate for X, since
> much of our documentation source is not DocBook.  But.

OK (probably). Any other licenses in the X.org tree that are worth
considering the qualities of in this regard? (Much as you probably
have considered the thousand and one BSD/MIT-like code licenses that
companies insist on handrolling.)

> 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.

X is mostly licensed under the MIT licence, which is about as open as
you can get without being public domain. X.org holds itself together
not by copyleft code, but by having a project that's worth
participating in the main tree of. So yeah, "use our stuff - please!"
is similarly appropriate for documentation.

Humble suggestion from someone who hasn't looked into it: Compile two
lists, one of all code licenses in the tree, one of all doc licenses
in the tree. Evaluate for free-as-in-take-our-stuff-please qualities.
Discuss on list.

> 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).

heh :-) It's intended for creative works, not documentation really.
You could add a provision "by the way, in our use these clauses don't
apply," which would be upwardly-compatible with CC-by.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer or particularly expert in these matters,
except having been deep in the wrangles over deep copyright nerding on
the Wikimedia/Wikipedia lists, particularly the Wikimedia Commons list
- which is where we try to work out what licenses and conditions allow
stuff to be free content over as much of the world as possible.

So I might be what counts as an expert in many of these contexts ;-)
You would probably believe how complicated this can get. (The
Wikimedia Foundation definition of "free content" is as defined at
http://freedomdefined.org/ , which just happens to have been written
by one of the WMF board members, now WMF staff. So that's useful.)

- d.

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