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Subject: DOCBOOK-APPS: [Off Topic] Open Publishing License issues

This thread is a bit off topic, and if anyone is interested in these
issues, I invite them to sign on to the OPL mailing lists through

>>>>> "J" == John R Sheets <dusk@ravendusk.org> writes:

    J> As I understand it, Pearson is working on an open content book
    J> license too.  I imagine it should be out by the end of the
    J> year, if not sooner.  I'm not sure exactly how "free" it will
    J> be, but it's at least a step in the right direction.

My understanding is that the Pearson lawyers revised the existing
OPL (www.opencontent.org) to accommodate the New Riders books.  I am
also using this license on my Macmillan-sponsored Linux kernel book

How free is it?  It is a matter of religious conviction ;) IMHO, the
OPL is _exactly_ as free (in practice) as the FDL ... if you mark the
entire doc with invariant sections.  

How dare I say that? Because in the open source community, we respect
each other's property and that respect, although specifically absent
from the GNU FDL, the ownership of the copyrights and restrictions of
the OPL are implicit in our culture.  No one would ever take the GNU
Emacs manual and peddle it as their own, and no publisher would take
that manual away from the FSF without (a) asking permission and (b)
turning a donation back to the FSF.

The trouble is, publishers are not constrained to this close-knit
open source community.  They must deal with organized crime bootlegs,
SE Asian pirates and a host of others who have little respect for
community values, and so, under the OPL, you may distribute a work
electronically and make print copies for internal use, but you cannot
put an ISDN number on it and place it on the bookstore shelves without
prior permission.  

Similarly, within our community, no one would take a revisionist
approach to docs; if we modify anything, we tend to extend the
original with annotations, correct obvious errors and retain the slant
and flavour of the original document.  The OPL explicitly _requires_
all added material be clearly delimited as such, again, because
publishers must live in the real world outside of the nice and polite
open source community.

Does anyone remember the LinuxOne IPO?  Had RedHat released their IPO
under the OPL, LinuxOne would need to change their name to RedHat to
submit that paper ;)

There is one _potentially_ dangerous difference:  The Pearson
OPL specifically grants copyright to Pearson whereas a FDL
accommodates copyrights held by individual contributors.  In Linux,
this "community copyright" (which arose accidentally by Linus
neglecting to require patches to be transferred to his ownership)
assure that, even if Linus were to be turned to the Dark Side, he does
not have sufficient ownership rights to switch Linux to a proprietary
license.  He'd need the co-operation of hundreds of contributors.

With the OPL, if Pearson changes their mind, they have exclusive
rights to do so.  Now, keep in mind that the FSF _also_ requires
authors turn ownership over to them, and both do this for the same
reason: If the original author is unavailable to do a revision, the
agency can assign the task to anyone else without the author's

Here again, the Pearson OPL is mostly a formalizing of open source
culture. Since trade publications go obsolete in 12-18 months, there
is not much value in switching the license to become more restrictive,
but great value in switching authoring teams to ensure the life of the
publication through revisions.

Unfortunately, these two issues offend many people.  I have
encountered at least a dozen objections with the kernelbook project
where potentially excellent authors have declined participation over
these two restrictions, and have had one author agonize over it for
months, pulling out on the day his contract was due to be signed.

Gary Lawrence Murphy <garym@teledyn.com> TeleDynamics Communications Inc
Business Innovations Through Open Source Systems: http://www.teledyn.com
"Computers are useless.  They can only give you answers."(Pablo Picasso)

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